It was maybe a year ago that my sister started noodging me to watch the TV series Breaking Bad. (AMC, 2008-2013). “It’s like great literature”, quothed she. You will probably understand when I say that I, an inverterate reader and chronic TV hater, did not take her advice right away. But I couldn’t get out of my mind that my sister, like myself, is a great reader …
Finally, I gave in. I didn’t exactly binge-watch in the full fanatic sense of staying up all night, but took in an episode every couple of evenings. I was soon sucked in, and after viewing all five seasons, concluded that Breaking Bad was beautifully crafted, and more meaningful and important than almost everything else I had encountered on television, that was made for this medium.
After allowing myself some time to come down from my Breaking Bad “high”, I heeded the posting of a Facebook friend whom I trust on such matters, and started watching the series The Wire (HBO, 2002-2008). The Wire is also excellent. In its probing into the interworkings of various segments of our society — cops, criminals, the justice system, workers, politicians, journalists — it could legitimately lay claim to being television’s “Great American Novel”
The most recent series I’ve watched is Deadwood (also HBO, 2004-2006). This is the story — based on fact — of an 1870’s mining town (or as the residents call it, a “camp”) that goes from lawlessness, to at least an attempt at order when it is annexed by Dakota Territory. This is a “Western”, but in its rawness probably unlike any other Western you’ve ever seen. Though not quite in the class of the first two series I watched, this show is certainly worth at least a look.
My sister also clued me in to a book that discusses these and other TV series, starting with Oz (the first HBO series, 1997-2003) and running through Breaking Bad. This is Alan Sepinwall’s The Revolution Was Televised: The Cops, Crooks, Slingers and Slayers Who Changed TV Drama Forever (2012). I am looking forward to using this book to point me to more series to watch. (Hating spoilers, however, I will wait till after being done with a particular show, to read about it.) Here’s the Table of Contents from Sepinwall’s book:
Prologue Let’s be careful out there… The shows that paved the way
Chapter 1 What we were, don’t matter… Oz blazes a trail
Chapter 2 All due respect… The Sopranos changes everything
Chapter 3 All the pieces matter… The Wire as the Great American Novel for television
Chapter 4 A lie agreed upon… The profane poetry of Deadwood
Chapter 5 I’m a different kind of cop… The Shield takes anti-heroism to the limit
Chapter 6 Do you want to know a secret?… The perfect storm of Lost
Chapter 7 She saved the world. A lot… Buffy the Vampire Slayer gives teen angst some fangs
Chapter 8 Tell me where the bomb is!… 24 goes to war on terror, boredom
Chapter 9 So say we all… The thinking man’s sci-fi of Battlestar Galactica
Chapter 10 Clear eyes, full hearts… Friday Night Lights goes deep
Chapter 11 It’s a time machine… AMC gets into the game with Mad Men
Chapter 12 I am the one who knocks!… Breaking Bad gives the recession the villain it deserves
Epilogue Don’t stop believing… The lasting legacy of the revolution
Where are they now?