DAVID BIANCULLI

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ERIC GOULD

Associate Editor

LINDA DONOVAN

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MIKE HUGHES

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Now What The Hell Am I Supposed to Watch??
October 2, 2013  | By Eric Gould  | 12 comments
 

In the afterglow of the Breaking Bad finale there is this nagging dark spot. Now, won’t everything seem, well, less than 'Bad'?

I don’t think I’m alone. The one consistent thought friends had on the DABB (Day After Breaking Bad) was, in effect, that everything would pale by comparison and frankly, nothing could match the thrill of the last three weeks as Breaking Bad broke towards its monumental ending.

"I have no idea what to watch next," said one irked co-worker. Another frazzled friend said she watched Homeland after and regretted it. "I felt like I spoiled the great buzz I had. I shouldn't have watched it," she said.

I might have been feeling the loss of the series more than the triumph of the episode--even as I was watching. Scrawled in my notes from the finale is, "feeling so sad this is the last show." And it’s all underlined.

"Felina," the final episode, was so good I had to watch it again Monday night, listening for bits of dialogue more carefully, and bits of art direction I was too rushed by deadline to write about – like the opening scene of Walt cloistered in the snow-covered car. As an unseen police car rolled by, its blue lights flashing, Walt  was entombed in a shell of blue ice – blue crystals, of course.

Or, the image in the final scene, with the overhead camera swiveling slowly as it zoomed out from an impossibly high crane mount above Walt's body, like his spirit ascending.

Was that fade away over the top in more ways than one? There has been criticism the final scene seemed too poetic for a character who was, after all, a lying, murdering drug pusher.  Walt wasn't redeemed, but Vince Gilligan and the Breaking Bad writers did give him opportunities to rewrite his obit.  When Walt patted Gretchen and Elliott Schwartz on the back, he said to them, "This is where you get to make it right." It’s as if Gilligan gave Walt that chance, too.

So, what do I do next?  I have problems. 

Because of the Saturday Night Live parody of Homeland last year, I can't watch the bratty daughter or the weepy-face Carrie very seriously anymore.

The Good Wife? Excellent direction, snappy pace, but the characters move around on a chess board with no real boundaries.  But it was the five-season boundary – the risk of every moment – that gave Breaking Bad its pulsing heart.

Boardwalk Empire? Not for me. It replaces the wit and ingenuity of Breaking Bad with grisly murders heaped on by the pound.

(And it's here where I have to admit skipping two season of The Walking Dead because it started to feel like a weekly chop-fest. I know, I know. My loss. I am going back to Season 3, to try that one again, being a David Morrissey fan.)

So that leaves me with anticipating the next seasons of House of Cards or Orange is the New Black. Those are great shows, especially OITNB, but binge watching is a lonely, isolated experience. There’s no communal excitement over a last episode. There is absolutely zero viewer camaraderie. The water-cooler experience is about how much you watched and when, not what you watched and felt...

So what to watch? Whatever it is, it won’t be like the show that I truly cared about and walked around thinking of almost every day during the last three weeks. I cannot remember a story quite having that effect on me, except in novel form.

That was the true accomplishment of Breaking Bad. It was one-of-a-kind -- absorbing us through its construction, its performance, its story and its artistic vision, as well as, or better than, any other long-form narrative has.

So, what the hell am I supposed to watch now?

 
 
 
 
 
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12 Comments
 
 
Jeff B
I agree with your thoughts on Netflix binge-watching as "a lonely, isolated experience." Given that, don't you think Netflix would be smart to release it's original shows one episode per week? This would: #1 Create that weekly "communal excitement" like good network shows. #2 It would drive their customers to their site at least once a week. Seems like a no-brainer marketing strategy for Netflix!
Oct 7, 2013   |  Reply
 
EG
I'm not sold on the Netflix model -- and I don't think Netflix is, either, since they do not release stats or 'ratings' on their series. Half the fun of a show like "Breaking Bad" is discussing what happened the previous week. OITNB was a fantastic show, likely a top 10 for 2013. But we hardly knew how to share it with readers without reigniting the spoiler debate. Look for an upcoming article on binge-watching... –EG
Oct 8, 2013
 
 
 
Vance
I felt the same "depression" after The Sopranos and Deadwood went dark. But then came Breaking Bad. Good things come to those who properly mourn and wait. ;-)

One bright side: the best tv writers will always have Breaking Bad as their new bar...it's bound to lead some of them to new heights, even if none ever quite reach BB's rarified atmosphere.
Oct 6, 2013   |  Reply
 
 
Ryan Dawson
If you're feeling a lull in quality programming you guys should all really check out the European produced Tom Fontana show Borgia, not to be confused with the soap opera Showtime version. Borgia is wildly good and criminally underappreciated (actually it's barely even known to exist in the US, although I did see TVWW mention it once). I am a gigantic fan since season one of BB, and I love all the classics like Sopranos, Deadwood, Justified, Rome, etc.

Borgia has a different tone and feel to it, being produced in Europe albeit with a core of American talent, but I would easily place it within the ranks of the aforementioned classics. It is in many ways a more complex, rich tale than we American audiences are accustomed. There are two seasons on Netflix streaming and it is too epic and brilliant too ignore! Check it out!!
Oct 4, 2013   |  Reply
 
EG
We're with you on "Borgia" -- see David's discussion with writer/producer Tom Fontana here: http://www.tvworthwatching.com/post/TomFontana.aspx –EG
Oct 8, 2013
 
 
 
kdbp1213
as with most of the commenters, i'm looking forward to justified and the walking dead. thanks to tvww, i found pbs's last tango in halifax and fx's the bridge. bridge's season 1's finale is tonight. would like to see more of damian bichir on other shows. wish tnt kept southland. from this past spring, i enjoyed sanjay gupta's medical drama, monday mornings....................

followed nbc's revolution's season 1 and feel obligated to season 2. (sort of like getting hooked on lost.....) tried cbs's hostages and nbc's blacklist and they did nothing for me. not into abc's scandal, grey's anatomy, revenge, etc.

when fxx premiered in september, i found re-runs of sorkin's sportsnight. never watched it during abc's original run of it. caught a few episodes on fxx. good dry humour...................

watching parks/rec, big bang theory, and modern family, too.
Oct 3, 2013   |  Reply
 
 
Graham
A show in which the emotion is palpable, the writing spot on and the characters grow and change over time? I suppose you could restart Friday Night Lights...
Oct 3, 2013   |  Reply
 
 
Angela
I watched BB from day one. A truer fan I've never been. But, I was surprised that I actually enjoyed and didn't want the first episode of "Masters of Sex" to end. To let you know just how surprised I was, I had to check for the name of it before I made a comment here because I wasn't even totally sure what it was that I watched last night. All I know was that I felt a sense of relief when I was less than half way through the episode because it was *that* good.
Breaking Bad, Deadwood, BSG, The Wire, 6 Feet Under.... surely I've seen all of the great shows now? And no, I don't care for Boardwalk, or Walking Dead. Even James Spader, one of my all time favorites couldn't lure me in (the violence). So that also leaves SOA out. It lost me after season two. I tried to like it. ::sigh:: Thank goodness for Justified. When does it come back on?
Oct 2, 2013   |  Reply
 
 
joel
How often do you expect something like BB to come along? Comparable recent precedents are Deadwood, The Wire, The Sopranos, maybe Justified ... and I am running out of ideas. But be consoled. While you are looking for the next BB, you will encounter some joy: like another Sons of Anarchy, Boardwalk Empire, Good Wife, or Treme. Also, I hope you find lots of guilty pleasures that I am too ashamed to give examples of. OK, Revenge and Pretty Little Liars.
Oct 2, 2013   |  Reply
 
EG
I can't, of course. But as shrill as Stephen Colbert was on Monday night, my inner child rants the same. I suppose I'll have to wait until Mad Men and Louie return. Until then, I'm sulking. –EG
Oct 2, 2013
 
 
 
You aren't watching Justified? The last four episodes of the previous season were just as good as the last four of breaking bad.
Oct 2, 2013   |  Reply
 
EG
Yes, Justified has been first-rate. Of course. But the series lacks the narrative power of a characters metamorphosis as was done with Walter White. Just saying. However, it can easily be argued that the supporting cast of Justified outdid the group on Breaking Bad in many respects... –EG
Oct 2, 2013
 
 
 
Abbie
I'm actually thankful that Breaking Bad has made every other show pale in comparison. It's allowed me to easily trim my tv watching list, I've cut quite a few shows in the last few weeks by comparing and realizing what a waste of time they were. Even new shows TVWW has recommended just didn't compare..I'm down to The Daily Show, Colbert, The Good Wife (not as good but hard to give up), and PBS shows. More free time..except for all the time I spend reading Breaking Bad articles online!
Oct 2, 2013   |  Reply
 
Abbie
Thanks for the tip EG, I'll have to find that article on alternate songs. I spent last night on Tunefind where they list songs from each episode, then I purchased quite a few and made a 18 song breaking bad playlist - just what I need for a road trip I'm starting tomorrow.
Oct 2, 2013
 
 
EG
Abbie - We were just discussing the tonnage of material available out there. There's no end to discussion, and rightfully so. I found an article today that ran down the top 15 alternate songs that used "Blue" in their title that would have worked for the closing scene. Another started, "No more antiheroes, please." –EG
Oct 2, 2013
 
 
 
Linda
It will be ok, Eric. You just need some time and distance.

I recommend "The Blacklist" as a transitional watching experience. There's some violence, blood and bad guys so the change won't be such a shock to your system. James Spader is amazing, as usual, and the writing is full of twists and turns. Granted, only two episodes have aired so who knows if it can maintain its quality (though I have faith) but give it a try. Only when you're ready, though.
Oct 2, 2013   |  Reply
 
EG
Linda - Check out Stephen Colbert's panic in our link to his Comedy Central plan to keep Breaking Bad going. I'm as shrill as he is. –EG (http://www.tvworthwatching.com/BlogPostDetails.aspx?postId=5958)
Oct 2, 2013
 
 
 
Tim
MacGyver
Oct 2, 2013   |  Reply
 
EG
Didn't you mean MacGruber?? –EG
Oct 2, 2013
 
 
 
Mara
I know exactly what you mean! When I look through my calendar of tv (yes, I have one), I am faced with shows that I will happily watch, but none that I am compelled to watch and await anxiously all week. I gave up on The Walking Dead as you did (and for the same reason), but I don't think that delving back into that world is going to fill this void. I feel so lucky to have been on the ride that was Breaking Bad, but I fear that nothing will ever reach those heights again.
Oct 2, 2013   |  Reply
 
 
 
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