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AMC Follows "Mad Men" With Another Bold Series
January 18, 2008  | By David Bianculli
I suspect, when I describe AMC's new Breaking Bad series to you, the description alone won't make you eager to see it - because it didn't make meeager to see it. Having watched three episodes, though, all I can do is beg you to give the new series, premiering Sunday night at 10 p.m. ET, a chance.

breaking-bad-money.jpgHere's the bad news: the cold summary. Bryan Cranston, the henpecked husband from Malcolm in the Middle, stars as Walter White, a high-school chemistry teacher in the midst of what might be mistaken for a midlife crisis. He's turning 50, behind on the bills, his teen son has celebral palsy, and his wife is pregnant.

Except that this crisis isn't coming at midlife, because before too long, Walter is diagnosed as having inoperable lung cancer, and a prognosis of two years to live, at best. So what does he do? He sets out to put his chemistry knowledge to good use, and build a nest egg for his family, by starting a crystal meth lab.

Doesn't sound like your cup of tea, hallucinogenic or otherwise? Mine, either. But Vince Gilligan, the X-Files writer-producer who created this series, stacks the deck against Walter so heavily that even his plan to go bad goes wrong - and he ends up embroiled in a deadly confrontation with rival drug dealers.

It may all sound too much like Showtime's Weeds, but this Gilligan's island is an isolated pressure cooker of consequences. Gilligan paints Walter into an awful corner, then keeps adding more coats of paint. In the next two episodes, Walter's still dealing, not too well, with the ramifications of what he's tried to do... and, by the end, you really feel for the guy.

Breaking Bad is a lot funnier than I've made it sound, and a lot more entertaining that a thumbnail summary makes it sound. Like Walter in his makeshift meth lab, Gilligan is enough of an artist to be cooking up something special here. For those viewers who found AMC when it launched Mad Men last year, welcome to the second half of the one-two punch. With these two series and the Broken Trail miniseries, AMC is making its presence known quickly... and impressively.


1 Comment


Eileen said:

If "Breaking Bad" is half as good as "Mad Men", AMC's got a winner.

Actually, anything Bryan Cranston is in is better for his presence. He is surely one of the most under appreciated actors working today. Not only was he hilarious as Malcolm's dad, but he did some terrific turns on "King of Queens" as the next door neighbor, and on "Seinfeld" as the dentist who regifted Elaine's label maker.

Glad to see that AMC is getting into the series game. If they keep their standards as high as they did with "Mad Men" they will certainly be the network to watch.

Hope all is well, David. Happy to see that America's favorite TV critic has found his niche.

Comment posted on January 18, 2008 9:37 AM

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