Breaking Bad is not, as you may have suspected, the prequel series to Broken Badges.
(Oh, okay, while I expect that my readers are more likely than most to recall that short-lived cop show, I doubt any of you actually thought that. But I felt like typing it anyway.)
What Breaking Bad is is a new original series on AMC, the first on the heels of their creative triumph of Mad Men. It is as invested in its style as that show… although the style invested in is not nearly so attractive. This is the tale of a man leading a life of quiet desperation, when an accumulation of circumstances leads him to live louder. With his finances crumbling and death coming at him even faster than anticipated, meek high school chemistry teacher Walter White enters the crystal meth business.
This is a comedy at heart, but it’s a dark heart indeed. White, played by Malcolm in the Middle dad Bryan Cranston, keeps a quiet burn going and gains nobility in taking control, even if he’s taking control of a low route to destruction.
This year, there’s a lot of thought of stripping stuff from cable channels and using it to fill network prime time slots left empty by the writers’ strike. Even with the willingness to take the dark evil of Dexter, I cannot see any network willing to usurp this series. It’s just too dark for the mass audience, too much tawdry (and not in a fun sexy way), too much Bryan Cranston in his underwear in a meth lab to make it with the big audience. But I hope the audience for it will find it, and I expect to watch it for a while.