How “Breaking Bad” Ate My Soul: Why I can’t decide if it’s “good” TV

My two followers may have noticed that I have been conspicuously absent from my post on the Catchy Blog. That has been for two reasons: The first is that, though I have had lots of blogging ideas, I’ve just been super busy with work, school, and family. The second is that I started watching breaking bad on Netflix, and it consumed every minute of my limited free time. If I had any time that I could call mine, it was devoted to Walter White.

This Show... Can't... Look... AWAY!!!!

This Show… Can’t… Look… AWAY!!!!

Breaking Bad is such a train wreck. I don’t mean that the show is bad, but the lives of the characters are just insane. It’s awful to watch, yet you just can’t look away. I realize this is old news to those folks who followed the show as it aired, but I don’t have cable, so I’m not so lucky! (Who watches TV with commercials anymore anyway)

If you are one of the 5 people who doesn’t know the premise of Breaking Bad, here’s the nutshell: A high school chemistry teacher gets cancer, decides to cook methamphetamine to pay the bills, and as a result he literally and figuratively destroys the lives of every person he comes into close contact with over the course of 5 seasons. Sound like something you want to watch? Of course not. Yet I, like many others, couldn’t stop once I started.

As I watched Walter’s life spiral deeper out of control, and as he dug himself deeper into a state of abysmal horror, you couldn’t help but feel bad for him… That is, until he got a lucky break here or there. The most aggravating part of that show is that you can’t help but cheer for the main characters. But each character, at some point in the show, receives one or more opportunities to take an out; They can make a choice that means they can stop now and avoid the inevitable negative consequences of their actions (and you and the characters both know that those consequences are just around the corner). In every case, the character makes the wrong decision, andthe decomposition of the characters continues at an alarming rate. It’s almost as if the writers said “How can we frustrate and depress our viewers more than we did last week!?” And they succeed. Boy do they succeed.

At some point you feel sorry for each of these characters during the show. Most of the time, though, you just want to punch them in the face...

At some point you feel sorry for each of these characters during the show. Most of the time, though, you just want to punch them in the face…

Unlike many TV shows, breaking bad had a fairly satisfying ending. At least, as satisfying as it can be given the nature of the program. But there were so many points during the show where I couldn’t help but ask “Why do I care about any of these characters? Why do I want any of these characters to succeed? What is the point.” And yet I couldn’t stop. And that is how Breaking bad slowly ate my soul.

Which Is why I can’t decide if I actually think it is good TV. I don’t mean “good” as in well scripted, directed, acted, etc. It certainly is that. But is it good as in, should any of us be watching this? It is surprisingly real. So real, that I think they could’ve changed the title to a number of ideas and it would have made as much sense. I’ve thought of a few alternate titles, such as these:

“How the Consequences ones Actions Affect Others.”

“The crazy things people do for drugs”

“Throwing Your Lot in With the Wrong People.”

“Being Stupidly Stubborn”

“Getting Away With it Doesn’t Mean Avoiding Consequences”

“Selfish and Stupid”

I realize none of these “titles” are nearly catchy enough, and they make the show sound like an absurd infomercialrather than a TV show. But, though this is an obvious fiction, I find myself thinking “You know, if I wanted to discourage my kids from doing drugs some day, or involving themselves with those crowds in any way, I might just sit them down and make them watch this.” Again, because the show feels so real (even the parts that are absurd *SPOILER* such as the air traffic controller who directs two planes to fly into each other… Somehow I think that wouldn’t be possible *SPOILER*), it hit home for me just how far-reaching ones actions are. In watching Breaking Bad it consistently throws into sharp contrast how much a persons decisions ripple outward, and how devastating their actionscan be. So in that way, I have to say that Breaking Bad IS “good” TV, in that, whether intentional by the writers or not, there is a solemn lessonto be learned from watching it.

It took two sessions of this at times when the family was out of town, but the show got itself watched!

It took two sessions of this at times when the family was out of town, but the show got itself watched!

Don’t worry. I don’t plan on showing the show to my kids. You don’t have to send in Child Protective Services. But after finishing the show, it causes me to pause and think about the implications of its message, and the themes that permeate its episodes. In that way, I guess Breaking Bad didn’t really eat my soul… It just chewed it up and spit it out.

 

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