It’s over, the final season of ‘Breaking Bad’, time to mourn the loss of another ground breaking drama. Along with this acknowledgment comes the debate of where this show fits in the Pantheon of great television series. ‘The Sopranos’ started it, well, HBO started it. They continued with ‘The Wire’, but then AMC got involved with ‘Mad Men’ and then ‘Breaking Bad.’ Half-hour comedies (or “dramedies”) such as ‘Sex In The City’ and ‘Californication’ have joined the party, but do not hold up to the Big 4. What does it take to make groundbreaking television? It starts with detailed character writing, an interesting and/or dangerous environment, and a storyline that either moves fast or unveils a mystery. Here is a deeper dive into the Big 4.
Chemistry teacher is diagnosed with cancer and starts cooking meth to provide for his family. So simple and yet so conflicting. The problem of course is that nothing is that simple and once you have one body, the second and subsequent bodies come much easier. The show focuses on Walter White and partner Jesse Pinkman as they cook, distribute, and protect their methamphetamine empire. Deceit, lies, and murder rule each of the first five seasons leading up the recent final season. If the purpose of the first five seasons was to show the transformation of Walter White to the devil, then the final season was to cast him in a full on horror film. No show has escalated as quickly and ensured there are no loose ends more than ‘Breaking Bad.’
Split into five seasons, each season covering another social area (drugs, seaport trafficking, government, schools, and media), the HBO show ‘The Wire’ was a critical favorite and continues to be downloaded and watched by new viewers each day. With Baltimore serving as a poverty stricken back drop the show went right to the heart of true problems, allowing the viewer to look in from both the “good side” (cops, teachers, etc…) and “evil side” (dealers, crooked politicians, etc…) as the stories unfolded. The characters were epic. Many of the most memorable, “Jimmy McNulty”, “Avon Barksdale”, “Omar Little”, and “Stringer Bell” started during the first season and carried through to the bitter end.
Set in the sixties, with the Vietnam War as a backdrop, ‘Mad Men’ is as much about a place in time as it is the main characters. The pitch: Advertising Executives from New York’s Madison Avenue conducting business behind closed doors, often with lots of bourbon and pie-in-the-sky ideas. Not too mention, the mysterious Don Draper, or should we say Dick Whitman? In addition to Draper as a strong, unknown lead, the supporting cast of characters (“Roger Sterling”, “Pete Campbell”, and “Peggy Olson”) all hold their own and are able to carry episodes versus just support, allowing the series to go in several directions at once, choosing to leave or pick back up story lines as needed.
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