Monday, February 6, 2012

Happy 101st Birthday, Mr. President

Ronald Reagan, the nation's 40th president, would be 101 years old today:

Watching Something Other Than The Super Bowl

                                                            photo credit: .criga. via photopin cc                                            
Last night's Super Bowl apparently got huge ratings, but unlike most Americans, we were watching something else: episodes of the TV series Breaking Bad on Netflix streaming.

We're late to the party since the series premiered in 2008, but the episodes are addicting--if that's okay to say for an edgy show about drug dealers.

Situational ethics gone wild, Breaking Bad has to be one of the best shows that has come along in a long time. The subject matter is not for everyone, but the writing, directing, acting, cinematography, editing, etc., are all first rate.

Bryan Cranston, the crazy dentist from Seinfeld (see below), plays Walter White, a straight-laced high school chemistry teacher in Albuquerque, New Mexico, who jumps into meth manufacturing to create a nest egg for his family after he's gone. (The White character has lung cancer and also has a son with cerebral palsy). With one horrendous and dangerous escapade after another, the show is intense, but it also contains some very dark humor.

The actors, starting with Cranston as the show's top meth chef anti-hero, do a wonderful job, and the dialogue and the generally unpredictable plotting gives the characters a fuller dimension. This includes White's relationship with his wife (who he must constantly lie to to keep his meth moonlighting under wraps) played by Anna Gunn, and his contentious quasi-father-son relationship with his meth-lab partner Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul). The sleazy criminal defense lawyer/money launderer played by Bob Odenkirk is another great character.

Perhaps one of the most interesting dynamics is supplied by White's brother-in-law, Hank Schrader (Dean Norris) who just happens to be a DEA agent. The Schrader character comes across as an oaf, but he is also a solid, loyal friend as well as a crafty law enforcement operative (whose investigations, at least through the end of season two, have yet to make the connection between meth kingpin "Heisenberg" and a member of his own family).

Here's what some Netflix members posted about the series:
  • "The writing is fabulous, so ingenous, the characters so deeply drawn, I find myself facinated, repulsed, you name it."
  • "Excellent character development with constant plot twists. Leaves you in suspense after every episode."
  • "Entertaining, shocking, suspenseful, heart warming, scary, thought provoking."
  • "intelligent, artistic, white-knuckled intensity, with a little dark humor mixed in to boot."
Viewer advisory: You have to watch the show from the start; it's not the kind of series that you can pick up in the middle. But remember; it's easy to get "hooked."