C'mon Hollywood: Don't lose "the cook" after Breaking Bad
In the coming weeks and months you’re going to be inundated with commentary about AMC’s Breaking Bad. There will be article upon article (much like this one) attempting to praise, pan, examine, and pay tribute to Vince Gilligan’s epic show about a good man who “broke bad.” For a show as unconventional, distinct, and suspenseful, it’s my hope that Hollywood will try to replicate its bravery rather than its formula, continuing this newfound tradition of delivering kick ass programming that kicks the shit out of conventional Hollywood films. In short, this is the “don’t f*ck it up” article.
The journey of Breaking Bad as a TV show can be linked to the same journey that Walter White took to become Heisenberg. He started small, cooking in an RV in the desert, working his way up and building word of mouth with a superior product; the illustrious 96 percent pure (or better) blue meth. Likewise, the show started small, a gamble, that didn’t look like it would pay off until people began to notice. Word of mouth spread quickly, and suddenly Breaking Bad was the best “high” on TV and fans waited anxiously for their next fix from week to week (unless they binged on Netflix or DVD).
We’ve gone through a phenomenal revolution with television in the last ten years, with many great shows matching or surpassing the content we’ve come to expect in feature films. It truly has been (and continues to be) the golden age of television and fortunately there are new shows popping up regularly that continue that trend. However, I think Breaking Bad is going to leave an empty void that many will clamor to fill. We’re going to need a new pusher and hopefully they won’t supply a knock off of the “blue stuff” if you will; way less potent and without that familiar color.
The beauty of Breaking Bad speaks for itself. Multi-layered, character driven (and then some!), suspenseful as all hell, and every bit as addictive as the drug it revolves around (minus the meth mouth!). That’s a hell of an accomplishment any way you cut it. And, it’s rare, even by today’s standards. The thing that separates Breaking Bad from the rest of the pack is that there is a definitive, gradual journey of the main characters, rather than a slow drag that suddenly shifts in the final throngs of the last season. We’ve watched Walter White, played brilliantly in career-defining brilliance by Bryan Cranston, go from mild mannered schoolteacher to diabolical drug lord with the slow, gradual momentum of changing seasons. It’s been a marvel to see unfold.
We followed this character, burying his secrets (including bodies and cash) with lies, deceit, and malice, while trying to convince everyone that it was for nothing more than family, something that many of us can relate to. By tapping into the humanity of this villain in the making, we are challenged. We are given a choice. Do we like this man or loathe him? Do we want him to win or lose? Usually, the answer is clear and obvious. For something like, say, Justified on FX, we want Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) to win each and every time. There’s no real conflict there (unless you’re playing devil’s advocate). With Walter White there’s heavy, burdensome conflict and that’s what makes the show so damn irresistible, frustrating, and weighing on your mind long after you finish watching. It’s a formula the every show should be attempting to emulate.
There are other shows toying with this paradigm; Sons of Anarchy on FX follows an outlaw motorcycle club filled with villains, as did the recently wrapped Dexter on Showtime, HBO’s Sopranos, and many more. We kind of love the villain, because the villain is simply more interesting. The villain has made a choice, one way or another, to be bad (or at least not squeaky clean good), usually for “goodness” sake (but usually for greed’s sake). Flawed characters are at the heart of every great protagonist (hero or villain), because they echo the human condition. We can relate. We can empathize. We can sympathize. We can judge, even if we shouldn’t. For me, these types of qualities make me it a hell of a lot easier to justify binge watching 40 plus hours of a show. It needs to make the Earth move a little.
Which brings me to my point. Don’t lose the cook, Hollywood. Don’t give us a rehash or try to capture something that isn’t there once the doors close on ol’ Walt and Pinkman (we’re already getting more Saul, so don’t push it). For once, the machine is well oiled and there’s a steady stream of “product” coming out. We’re getting a “high” that shows there’s more to our entertainment than cheap thrills, bad acting, hackneyed plotting, and dispensable characters. You broke bad, Hollywood, and you did good this time out. Now, don’t sour it by losing momentum on the next great thing or by trying to remake, reboot, or recapture the legacy that was Heisenberg. We don’t want another show like Breaking Bad. We want another show that’s as good as Breaking Bad. Time to find a new recipe and get back in the kitchen.
|Extra Tidbit:||What existing property, comic, novel, series, etc. do you think has the potential to be the next great show? I would personally love to see Jason Aaron's DC Vertigo comic Scalped go to series. If you've never heard of it, I couldn't recommend it more. One of the best adult comic series ever made.|