Cell at Eastern State

Cell at Eastern State

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Breaking Bad

I went up to Apple's Soho store last Friday to catch Vince Gilligan, the creator of the AMC hit Breaking Bad. It was well worth the trip. The show's two stars, Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul, also showed up, as did AMC president Charlie Collier (in the audience). There was a great turnout and the audience asked the questions I would have asked if I wasn't too shy in those situations.

Apple showed a great promo reel for the upcoming Season Three, and Gilligan, Cranston and Paul were fascinating. Probably the most interesting moment was when Bryan Cranston talked about the usually-tedious process of reading new scripts, and how blown away he was by Gilligan's pilot. He recited most of the first page from memory, which is a lesson in how to create something with impact that will grab your audience from the opening line. Breaking Bad tells the story of Walt White (Cranston), a high-school chemistry professor who learns that he's dying of lung cancer. With nothing to leave his family and unable even to afford treatment for his aggressive cancer, Walt turns to a former student, meth-dealing Jesse Pinkman (Paul) and convinces Jesse to let him cook a much purer meth than he can make himself.

The show grabbed me from the pilot and I haven't missed an episode. It's funny, violent, surprising and clever as hell (my favorite moment, when Walt is immortalized in a narcocorrido performed by Los Cuates de Sinaloa). It's also a fascinating meditation on loyalty, obligation and familial love.

And it's entirely character-driven, with a complexity and reality that I've never seen in a TV show. It's not just that the subject matter is disturbing and the tone gritty and real, it's that the characters actually change over time, and not just in good or predictable ways. As Walt grows in power and energy during the show, he also makes accomodations, both personal and moral, to his new status.

If you haven't seen it, rent it, watch it, and set your DVR to record it.


  1. This is a truely ground breaking show. I never miss it.

  2. Love that show. Sorry I couldn't make it up there with you. Events like that pull the curtain back on the process in a way you just can't get anywhere else.