Tag Archives: Breaking Bad

Goodbye (TV) Summer

Not that I had any free time to watch all of it.

Summer used to be the dead zone for television, but basic cable has been kicking the networks’ asses for a while thanks to their willingness to go against the grain. Sure, people spend more time outdoors in the summer, but watching at ones own schedule has been a choice since the earliest VCR. With digital television, I don’t think I ever watch a program in its actual time slot; I’ll even start a show late just to zip through the endless commercials. (Don’t worry, advertisers, your product placement is hard to miss…)

So the summer ends and the flurry of new shows are being dangled in front of us like a basket of cant-miss gems…even though we know most of them will suck out loud. And if there is something truly ground-breaking, it will likely get cancelled. Gotta keep those inbred families and their reality shows numbing the minds of America.

So a fond farewell to some favorites:

  • The Closer, winding down towards the series end although the rumored spin-off Major Crimes sounds great.
  • Breaking Bad, which just gets better every year even when you think it can’t possibly raise the bar.
  • Rescue Me, Denis Leary’s often-brilliant series that did for firemen what M*A*S*H did for war vets
  • Friday Night Lights, a class exit for a class act (although you Direct TV subscribers had a jump on me)
  • Louie, which finally let the brilliance of Louis CK shine through to a bigger audience.

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Breaking Bad is Back!

Hallelujah!

One of the most intense shows I’ve ever seen is back and loaded for bear. To celebrate I’m going to watch a season three marathon just to freshly plug those plot nuances in my cranium. I don’t want to miss a thing, because the show respects its viewers by layering a thick and suspenseful plot from episode to episode and season to season.

Video: Season Four Extended Trailer

It’s as dark a show as I’ve ever seen, yet is filled with heart. Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul lead a tremendous cast; Cranston’s award-winning performance as the complex Walter White is not to be missed.

Catch up on episode facts here.

The official website.

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Emmy Time!

And you thought Justice was blind?

Wow – looks like Emmy might have gotten a few things right for a change.

With Breaking Bad being out of the mix this year, does that open Best Actor? Will the old guard hold court or will the new shows start knocking off the dinosaurs? Will long running but Emmy-less favorites who are leaving shows get the sentimental vote as recognition for previous oversights?

HBO pulled in a whopping 104 nominations. The next most was CBS with 50.

Basic cable is in the house! Do they have a chance?

Here is the list of nominees. Tomorrow’s TGIF will look at the worthy nominees and the glaring omissions.

Snark attack!

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The Praise Is Fully Justified

What an ending!

Like I expected anything less from an episode called “Bloody Harlan“? I won’t spoil it for you, don’t worry – sit and savor it for yourself. Matter of fact, go back to the first episode of this second season and watch it all again just in case the well-placed seeds escaped your grasp the first time around. Because what’s popping up out of the ground as this arc closes is as interesting as who is getting planted in it.

I think we all agree that Timothy Olyphant is badass, and in Raylan Givens he has achieved what many actors never do – the perfect match of performer and character that we can only feebly call the role of a lifetime. But even I wasn’t sure where they could take Justified after the first season; frankly I was thrilled just to see that it was renewed. But I’m struggling for the words to describe how exponentially better this season has been. Whatever the opposite of a sophomore slump is called would be a good start.

Video: Season Two promo

I couldn’t even tell you where to start with the supporting cast, from the amazing Walton Goggins as the unpredictable Boyd Crowder, Nick Searcy as the supportive yet skeptical boss, or Natalie Zea and Joelle Carter as the strong but damaged women trying to keep Givens and Crowder from jumping the rails. And in smaller and guest roles, actors like Raymond J. Barry, William Ragsdale and Jere Burns shine like beacons. But everything in Season Two begins and ends with the Bennetts, a dry-land hillbilly crew that would make the river-edge pikers in Deliverance squeal like a pig.

Joseph Lyle Taylor, Jeremy Davies and Brad William Henke are incredible as this show’s version of Dumb and Dumber (and Dumbest) although there’s rancid evil and twisted Mommy issues percolating underneath those hillbilly hats. Davies has always played characters as an amalgamation of tics and quirks (Lost and Saving Private Ryan being two prime examples), but Dickie is soaked in them. And while young Kaitlyn Dever might seem to be playing a page from the script of Winter’s Bone, she stands toe-to-toe with this group, a tribute to her skills and the quality of the writing. Really – how can you go wrong with Elmore Leonard in the mix?

But as Mags Bennett, the matriarch of this twisted little holler, Margo Martindale is off the charts. Sinister yet sensitive, moral and amoral, protective and ruthless, her complex portrayal is mesmerizing. I don’t hold my breath expecting actors on FX shows to get their due when awards are passed out – Goggins would have a mantle full by now if they did – but anything short of a Best Actress trophy would be…well, unjustified.

There are a lot of great dramas on television that deserve your attention like Breaking Bad and Mad Men. But after a season that was absolutely Shakespearian, there is no doubt that Justified is the best show on television, game, set and match.

The official website.

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Lights Out!

It appears that FX has done it again.

Lights Out is a 13-episode story about Patrick “Lights Out” Leary, a former heavyweight champ who retired five years before but still has the itch. Not the itch an Evander Holyfield feels, a twitch in a man who doesn’t know when to quit, but a guy who walked away from it all after a controversial split decision stalled his career. His corner, including his trainer father, urged him to back off in the final round and win on points instead of going for the knockout. His med student wife, stitching him up in the dressing room after one too many beatings, tells him to make a choice between the ring and the family.  

He followed his family’s advice on both counts, but the decisions haunt him daily. Outwardly he tries to play the happily retired guy, cooking breakfast for his daughters and helping out at the gym, and you can see that he has talked himself into accepting this. But his world starts to crash – finances are not what they seem, his family lives far beyond their means, and by the time he realizes that the slope is slippery, it’s too late. No longer the champ, suffering the slight but initial effects of brain damage, he’s a square peg outside the ring. And the offers he’s getting to generate a little cash are anything but above-board. (Yes, he lives in Bayonne, New Jersey…)

Lights is played by Holt McCallany, whose very name infers toughness. One article compared his performance to the first time you saw James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano or Jon Hamm as Don Draper. A bit early for canonization, but I don’t think even the most ebullient is trying to place this show on a mantle alongside The Sopranos or Mad Men. Rather they are correctly noting that the lead actor has that instant charisma and natural charm; a presence that exudes mystery, power and secrets. Even if he might not literally be a good guy, you are (ahem) in his corner from the first scene. Like the aforementioned famous actors, McCallany has been banging around for a while, but seemingly has stumbled into the role of a lifetime. He is pitch-perfect as the man lost outside his comfort zone; juggling debt, health issues, self-doubt and the undesirable elements that circle that world.

I have rarely seen as many online ads for a new TV show as I have for Lights Out this week; perhaps FX is trying to make up for the disastrous campaign for Terriers. That show – almost universally recognized as excellent – had to build from almost nothing thanks to the symbolic but misleading promos.

I’ve only seen the pilot episode – I’m not the “A-list” guy who gets an advance 5-pack from the network – but it’s clearly way deeper than “a boxing series”. If it stays this good, you can file it alongside Justified, Breaking Bad and Sons of Anarchy as another edgy, daring television show made for adults. Adults who are approached as intelligent viewers who can follow the threads and nuances of the characters and the plot. I hope enough viewers return the favor and step up to the challenge.

Or you can always Live To Dance.

Episode Guide at TV.COM

Official website at FX watch the excellent backstory video

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