The synopsis (with NO SPOILERS):
A US chemistry teacher (Bryan Cranston, fom 'Malcolm in the Middle') discovers he has cancer, and has no way of paying the medical bills. One day it occurs to him that he could cover the needed expenses by making Crystal Meth - a drug which is in high demand on the streets. The series follows his adventures, and the ever-increasingly tangled web of lies that he weaves.
I've got to say how much I LOVED this series - season 1 is relatively short (7 episodes), but is filled with the kind of high-tension drama that made 'The Wire' so compelling. It's created by Vince Gilligan (the man behind 'The X-Files'* [*see comment]), and has the same quirky humour threaded all the way through - aided immensely by Cranston's witheringly caustic portrayal of a man who does not suffer fools gladly AT ALL, but ends up having to work with one.
As events unfurl, he is forced to keep bigger and bigger secrets from his wife and son...
I don't want to give the impression that this is primarily a comedy, because it isn't - it's a dark psychological drama with some great moments of equally dark humour - the cast are all exceptional, and the casting is spot-on. For example, Cranston's character has a son who has CP, so they cast RJ Mitte, an actor who actually has it in real life. This might seem a little worthy but when watching the series it works perfectly.
If you liked the grittiness of 'The Wire', the dark humour of 'The Sopranos' or the strange other-ness of 'The X-Files', I can recommend this to you WHOLEHEARTEDLY. Seriously - this is the best thing I've seen on TV for a long long time... and the good news is that series 2 is just as good, but 12 episodes long!
Take a chance - buy it - I promise you won't regret it.
on 30 April 2013
Breaking Bad is quite simply the greatest TV show ever made.
Beautifully shot, supremely acted, expertly written, each episode takes you on a rollercoaster of emotions that nothing on TV has ever taken you close to before.
Bryan Cranston was always the stand out actor in Malcolm In The Middle and here he proves himself to be one of the greatest actors of our time. As Walter White he becomes one of the most astounding characters ever seen on the small screen. The supporting cast are not just here to make up the numbers either ; Anna Gunn, Aaron Paul, Dean Norris, Betsy Brandt and RJ Mitte are all astonishing and deserve all the accolades that they receive though my own personal favourites are Bob Odenkirk (as lawyer Sol , rumours of a spin off show should be true ) and Jonathan Banks (as the hard man).
I own this series on DVD and everyone that I have lent it to has been hooked and not wanted to give it back.
This is a show that will tear you up inside one minute and have you crying with laughter the next, you will wince and you will cheer. Never before have sat at the end of an episode of a TV show and watched it again straight away.
You need this show on your TV. This show will change your life. You will not regret owning this boxset.
A recent article in Q magazine asked 'why is the greatest tv show in the world not on British TV?' ...... dont wait for it to appear BUY IT NOW
on 3 May 2012
American TV is seeing one of its richest periods ever. As mainstream Hollywood movies become increasingly about CGI and not character, television has become a retreat for some of the best talent the US has to offer. `Breaking Bad' Season 1 is one such example, an unapologetically adult show it centres on Walt, a Chemistry teacher with terminal cancer. Rather than lie back and die he decides to use his chemistry knowledge for unconventional means and sets out making crystal meth with a former students of his who has turned drug dealer.
With themes ranging from terminal illness to drug addiction, `Breaking Bad' sounds like a hard watch, but it isn't. This is due to a number of reasons. The writing is key; writer/creator Vince Gilligan has balanced the show brilliantly, the story unwinds slowly and he lets the characters breath. Rather than being miserable throughout, Gilligan has written plenty of amusing scenes as Walt realises that with death so near, there is not point being nice anymore.
The second stage to success is to make sure you have actors that justify the material. A `Malcolm in the Middle' alumnus does not immediately sound the right choice, but Bryan Cranston is magnificent carrying the show almost single handily. The rest of the cast cannot quite match him, but they do a decent job. With a powerhouse lead and brilliant writing, `Breaking Bad' is up with the likes of `Mad Men' as the best the US has to offer in recent years. Do yourself a favour and check out `Breaking Bad' Season 1.
on 11 July 2011
First off i've never written a customer review on amazon or any other site ever, normally the good stuff has largely positive reviews and the bad stuff largely negative, i.e its easy to make an informed decision. But with this series (and i mean in the uk) its been completely overlooked for some reason.
Ive seen all three seasons and without giving any spoliers suffice to say it just gets better amd better, everything is like one long huge film rather than having any 'filler' episodes but each one still remains unique, great writing and acting all around.
Comparing this to any other tv is a bit redundant its so original, the way its shot as well (in parts) is beautiful the dialouge is snappy and theres black humour (the best) throughout with a healthy dose of 'serious' moments too and it definitely makes you think.
More than anything though its just fun,classy tv and i think will appeal to allsorts. So buy it, watch it, love it (inevitably) and spread the word.
Hopefully they release the third season in the uk soon and this doesnt become something us brits overlook completely. Its better than most other programmes out there its just hard to find it on.
on 16 January 2010
Now let's get one thing straight; this is a television program NOT for the faint at heart. If you like your viewing saccherine, with easy answers and everything wrapped up and snapped back to the beginning by the end of the episode, Breaking Bad is not for you. The premise alone should be enough to tell you that; a cancer-striken father who is a chemistry teacher turns to illegal drug manufacture with a not-too-bright ex-student and struggles with his own mortality and morality along the way, doing his best to hide the new career choice from his pregnant wife, son with cerebal palsy, medic sister-in-law and law enforcer brother. Yes, this isn't light-weight material by any means.
I'm not a fan of these shows that rely on "inflated sense of tension" to pump up the viewer's adrenaline levels while covering for poor scripting; stuff like 24, Lost and Prison Break started out well-enough but quickly descended into this cheap shock tactic approach to keep the audience hooked. Once I saw through this I stopped watching them completely and have been seeking out quality American shows that are well-produced and equally well-written, and I am happy to say that Breaking Bad is one of these. Not since I saw Firefly (a very different kind of show) have I enjoyed a television program this much.
Bryan Cranston is perfectly cast as Walt, the man who has to make tough choices to provide for his family. He so perfectly becomes the character that it was not until later I realised he was previously cast as Hal in Malcolm In The Middle. His emotional range is staggering; with a few well-timed gestures or vocalisations he can convey several feelings at once, and when Walt is in pain it is completely believable. Walt is a man of few words, but chooses these words very carefully, so when he speaks everyone on-screen and in the audience are listening.
Cranston isn't just carrying passengers though; he's ably supported by Anna Gunn as his wife Skylar, who brings just the right amount of care and concern for her husband and baby as needed and RJ Mitte plays the son who has CP and gives a very accurate, non-condescending portrayal of the condition so different from the ham-handed "sympathy ploy" approach so overused by shows from the States. Dean Norris plays Walt's brother Hank, the all-American police officer who doesn't take any guff and flushes out drug dealers for a living and his quirky kleptomaniac wife Marie (the lightest character in this show, amusingly) is handled with panache by Betsy Brandt. Rounding out the main cast is Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman, every inch the nervy, paranoid and streetwise "cook" who becomes Walt's new partner and guide to the world of drug trafficing.
I could say so much about what makes this a compelling piece of film-making - it really does play like an extended movie at many points - but I'd be here for a long time. Tight, well-plotted scripts that make the unbelievable tangeable and don't waste a line while doing so. Superb, inventive direction and settings that perfectly fit the mood of the show, an interesting mixture of steadicam, handicam, point-of-view and via camcorders that appear to be captured by the cast themselves. Excellent choice of soundtrack; almost every episode ends with a classic song and the musical cues throughout really add to the atmosphere without becoming overpowering; witness the searing, high-pitched noises when we see through Walt's eyes as he is in pain or being given bad news for an example.
What is most remarkable is that the show never gives easy answers, never biases us towards the characters (we are given both sides of the debate and left to make our own choices, which respects the viewers intelligence) and always does things that you will not expect. There is not a single cliche to be found here, no way of knowing exactly how each person will react to the situations they are thrust into. These are complex, multi-faceted individuals with free will and their own motivations, who exist not as mere tools to advance the plot. The plot itself is always coherent and leaves very few loose ends. If you see an event or object framed, however subtley, you can bet it will come back later on. Maybe not in the same episode, but as part of the story arc. And last but not least is the incredibly pitch black humour that crops up every now and then, so dark it almost feels uncomfortable to laugh.
Overall this is an assured, professional piece of work that ranges from very good to downright stunning, with "Crazy Handful Of Nothin'" being the standout episode of the first season. If they can carry this program on for two or three more seasons and then end it without dragging past the logical closure point (and with Walt the way he is, this is crucial), it will be one of the greatest drama series of all time.
on 30 December 2009
I've never reviewed a series before, but I enjoyed this one so much that I've decided to review it. The plot's already been laid out in earlier reviews so I'll just say that if you like The Wire, The Sopranos, 24 and Dexter (all of which i think are TOP TOP quality series) then I think you'll really enjoy this. I think it's easily on a par.
2009? I watched one episode of this. Then got my kids (all of them old enough, don't worry) to watch it. And I tell you folks, nothing that year came close to this series, and we are all unreconstructed Doctor Who fans from the old school (whatever that means) and we were all totally in thrall to this amazing series.
Who is Brian Cranston? Don't know, but he deserves each and every award that he has received, been nominated for, and if there aren't any he hasn't got and you think he should have, for goodness sake get creative and INVENT one. Same goes for whathisface Gilligan and everyone else.
Where one earth do I start?
Maybe it's the deconstruction and disassembly of the American Dream.
Walter, a gifted chemistry teacher, one day wakes up and finds out that his persistent cough is lung cancer. That would be bad enough, but his circumstances are such that he is far more terrified about the future than any normal person would be given his diagnosis. The story is basically what he is prepared to do to try to make a future for his wife, his teenage son and his baby (who is about to arrive).
So far so good. But what a merry dance we are led into. We are tempted to believe that Walt really is very unfortunate, but as the series progresses, and believe me, it does so in fine style, we start to see faint but unmistakable inconsistencies in this apparent series of facts; we see (for instance) that his son is actually very intelligent, far from being helpless, he's a one of the series' strongest characters, and so it goes on - what really IS driving Walt?
What is REALLY going on?
I'll let you find out.
I don't know where to begin with the enormous questions that the series raises. I remember my old drama teacher telling us that the purpose of drama was to knock you on the head and make you think, make you laugh, to assault you and not let you get up for at least a while. What is the source of Walt's dissolution? Is it the nature of what America has turned into? Who are his real friends? Why does he feel poor? What is the American Dream? Who pays for it? And what is it's eventual disposition?
Whatever the answers, you will not be disappointed with this sucker, that, I promise. I want to meet this guy Walt some day, even if it is the last thing I ever do.
Very, very powerful and often very funny too.
on 27 October 2013
The first season of Breaking Bad is what they call a slow burner. It won't be to everyone's taste and you may well be left wondering what all the fuss is about. But it lays the foundations for all that's to come, and develops the characters and plot lines that give the series the depth and pull that leave you totally ensnared in all that happens to Walter White, his family and friends. You might well sit through this whole box set and wonder at the end, "Is that it?" But later, you also might find yourself seeking out Season Two because of a niggle in the back of your mind that you can't quite put your finger on, and you figure that just watching one or two more episodes might put your mind at rest. Which is how an addiction starts.
on 13 November 2010
No wonder Bryan Cranston got 3 Emmys for his leading role in this excellent series. Can't fault it. Well acted, funny, dark, ground breaking and well directed. Love it.
on 20 February 2014
I've just watched the 62nd and final episode of Breaking Bad and here, without any major spoilers, is why you should begin the same breathtaking journey.
The series is an action-drama that centres on Walter White. He's a 50-year-old respected chemistry teacher, just about keeping his family afloat with the aid of a second job at a car wash, who one day is given a diagnosis of terminal cancer. With a wife, son (who has cerebral palsy) and soon-to-be-born baby to care for, not to mention his considerable medical expenses, he needs money - and fast.
Walt takes the fateful step of combining his perfectionist chemical know-how with one of his more street-savvy former students, Jesse Pinkman, to 'cook' and supply the highest quality crystal meth that their area has seen. He discovers that once on this path, although there are many detours, it's very difficult to go back. Walt's relationships with his family and friends (including his DEA agent brother-in-law) are suddenly beset with problems, and he frequently relies on resourcefulness, ingenuity and serendipity to both keep his illicit activities from them and play the criminal fraternity at its own game.
So why does the series enjoy so much acclaim? It comes down to a brilliant original idea from Vince Gilligan, working closely with a talented writing team who, over the course of five seasons, hammer out every single plot point and use all the narrative devices in the book to tell an utterly compelling story of one man's embarkation on a hazardous voyage. Not just that, it has the magical combination of a first-rate ensemble cast (Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul play Walt and Jesse respectively), innovative hand-held camerawork (beautiful timelapse establishing shots; out of kilter POV moments) and excellent characterisation.
Because Sony was taking a tentative punt on the series and it coincided with a writers' strike, the episodes in the first batch are few in number (just seven). However, each of the next three seasons comprises thirteen instalments and season five is split into two runs of eight apiece. The low episode count for season one works to its advantage as it allows plenty of time to set the scene and introduce characters while still telling a blackly comedic tale, which leads directly into the series proper, if you like.
This is a programme you'll want to stick with. It continually raises the stakes as it goes on and, come the final episodes, you'll be bingeing on it. Breaking Bad is, quite simply, one of the finest examples of television art. There are many British shows that could learn from it.