Given the nature of my job, I find myself falling into one of my old deployment habits of buying TV series and then watching them when I get off work. Most shows are one hour long and perfect for decompressing at the end of a long day without the overly burdensome commitment of a two and a half hour movie. These are three shows that I recently started:
BREAKING BAD: I am a latecomer to this show which is currently filming its fifth and likely last season. I watched the first season and now I am wondering why I waited so long to get to it. The series is about a high school Chemistry teacher, intellectually brilliant to the point that he could have gone places but did not because he was too meek and ineffectual. He discovers that he has Cancer and probably only has at most two years to live so he takes stock of his life and decides to do the only sane thing left…he teams up with a former student and becomes a Crystal Meth dealer in order to leave his family with some money. Where many stories on TV are about bad people seeking redemption, this one is about a good guy heading downward. The series plays some of it for laughs with this straight-laced soft-spoken guy getting in over his head almost immediately but this show has the ability to turn on a dime in a heartbeat and hit you between the eyes with just how far off the path this guy is going. The world he has entered is a dark brutal world where horrific things happen and you cannot avoid it, control it or manage it and there is no way this guy’s story ends well. It is like watching a slow-motion train wreck and I am hooked, I am buying the second season tomorrow.
BOARDWALK EMPIRE: If I had to pick one time in American history to live in, I am not entirely sure I would not pick the 1920’s. It was where several strains of Americana collided in a breathlessly turbulent time. It was where the Bohemian debauchery of post WWI society collided with religious moral majority attempts to better society through Prohibition. It was where the patriarchal power elites of the time had to come to grips with the right of Women to vote. There were so many narratives and as often is the case in times such as these, there was violence and repression side by side with acts of kindness and charity. Whatever it was, it certainly wasn’t boring and besides, I really enjoy the aesthetic of the time. Boardwalk Empire perfectly captures this vibe for me with its tale of Boot-Legging, Politics and Crime in 1920’s Atlantic City. The acting in this show is amazing and much like its spiritual predecessor, ‘The Wire’, the best moments of the show are not the gunfights or the parties, it is the quiet moments where two characters merely talk. There is a scene where the Kingpin and his unwitting Mistress have a confrontation when she finally finds out the nature of what it is that he does for his money. They barely raise their voices but the tension and emotion is palpable and it makes for some of the most fascinating TV period.
WALKING DEAD: The first scene of this show is a Sheriff driving through post-apocalypse Georgia trying to find gas for his car. He comes across an abandoned gas station and when searching he is attacked by a zombie who could have not been 12 years old when she was turned. Her face is horribly disfigured but she is wearing a gown and her hair still has ribbons and bows in it. The Sheriff with anguish on his face watches her move towards him, pulls out his .44 pistol, and shoots her in the face at point blank range. This show is not easy to watch. You could never do what they do on one of the major networks because the camera does not pull away from the bad things. It forces you to watch as formerly civilized people turn feral, good people make poor decisions and others have to pay for them, people get eaten and other people have to kill horrifying creatures that are wearing the bodies of their former loved ones. I scoffed at the idea of a zombie show on TV could be good because I knew that it in order for it to be good, it had to be like the above or else it would be cheap and inauthentic. The Walking Dead had the courage to go there and like Breaking Bad, I am hooked on this show.