January 7th, 2010

breaking bad

Breaking Bad

It's been insanely busy at work the last few days, so I'm feeling a bit punch-drunk at the moment.

I want to post about Breaking Bad now I have seen the whole of Season 2. The premise of Breaking Bad is that a mild-mannered chemistry teacher in Albuquerque is diagnosed with galloping cancer and sets up a clandestine crystal meth lab to fund chemotherapy and provide for his family. That makes it sound like a mildly quirky comedy drama, like Weeds (not that I've seen that). I nearly didn't watch it. But in fact it is more like the Coen Brothers than mainstream TV drama. It's very well written and acted.

I said last time I posted about BB that in scope it is smaller than Mad Men, Deadwood and of course The Wire. But now I am coming to feel it is potentially on the same level as all those shows. However, while they were so dramatically powerful that one less good season here or there didn't negate their value, I think BB needs to sustain a high quality to its planned fourth season, because of its narrower range. I have high hopes for season 3 - not due to be aired until March - but if they really muck it up, it might undermine the whole thing, because it is so focussed on one dynamic. If they get that wrong it's shot.

My guess, anyway, is that they will sustain it, and this is a slow burner which will eventually be more widely recognised and get a bigger audience on a main channel in the UK, and continue to win awards in the US.

It's difficult to post about a show that you really like but nobody else has seen. You don't want to be all "And then in episode 4, the doll in the background is ironically the same one his wife kissed for luck and... " Yawn.

So, there are three or four issues that BB has made me think about that I think might be interesting in general terms to people who haven't seen the show, so I think I'll post about them. They are realism and naturalism, comedy and the deus ex machina, closed and open information systems (a very Coen brothers theme), and sex/power dynamics. That's my plan anyway.
breaking bad

Realism and Naturalism

I was putting together some thoughts on realism and naturalism and I read a post on Everything is Nice by Martin on realism and naturalism in dialogue. So, that says a lot of it better and saves me the job.

The way I use the words (I'm not saying it's the only way), is that naturalism is when the dialogue or plot feels natural, and realism is where it might really be true. I think BB feels natural but it isn't realistic. Deadwood is the same I guess. The things that happen would not really happen, they are heightened and shaped, but they happen in a natural-feeling way. And to be honest real life often feels a bit like that to me.

When I posted a couple of weeks ago, before I'd finished watching season 2, I made a lot of predictions, and then I deleted them all before I posted. Now I'm sorry I did that, because my predictions were all wrong.

I said that I thought the main characters were protected, like the protagonists of an ancient comedy, from the worst. I used the phrase 'Deus Ex Machina' and predicted certain things would not happen. But in fact they happened, and the main writer in this interview for example, uses the phrase 'Lucifer ex Machina' to describe the final episode. Of course that's just as unrealistic as everything going right, but it can be just as uplifting.