‘Breaking Bad’: Alternative medicine
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Dear AMC executives,
On behalf of creator Vince Gilligan, who keeps knocking on wood, and Bryan Cranston, who needs an outlet for his nakedness, and those of us who just can’t do Oprah on Sunday nights, we beg of you: Bring ‘Bad’ back.
Sunday was indeed a sad day for some of us in TV land, as we said goodbye to ‘The Wire’ and waved see-you-later, hopefully, to ‘Bad,’ which ended its seven-episode run in fine fashion. Sure, this wasn’t your usual season finale, what with the writers strike robbing us of two more intended episodes and a true cliffhanger of an ending, but it sure left us wanting more -– much, much more.
And Cranston is among us. ‘It’s been fantastic,’ he said of his initial run as Walter White, our cancer-stricken chemist-turned-meth cook. ‘The only thing actors have control over is being able to say yes or no to a project. If you’re an actor that can identify well-written material, then you’re in good shape.
‘I read ‘Malcolm in the Middle’ and thought, ‘Geez, it’s so well written. I don’t know what this dad guy is like, but let me take a shot at it.’ When I read the ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ script, I thought, ‘I’ve got to get into that. It’s fantastic.’
‘And I’m sure it would have been the same if I’d read the ‘Juno’ script. You know, you want to be a part of well-written material and I really didn’t know that I’d have another opportunity to do a TV series that I’m so proud of. Well, fates happened and this came down the pike and I thought, ‘Oh God, this is so good, so thorough.’ I threw my hat in there and now, here we are.
‘I can’t believe that we wouldn’t get picked up’ for a second season, Cranston added. ‘The network has already invested so much in it.’
See that, AMC? How can you say no to that? Or, rather, to Cranston, who to embody his character stayed out of the sun, put on some pounds, sported an unbecoming mustache and the ugliest set of green-beige clothes these eyes have ever seen, and then shaved off his hair.
You have to admit: He’s been a dandy, especially in this final episode when he truly embraced the fun of all things bad.
At the start, he got frisky with the wife in a very public place, his own school. ‘Where did that come from, and why was it so good?’ she asked him. ‘Because it was illegal,’ he deadpanned.
In the middle, he told the wife he was taking a weekend jaunt to a ‘Navajo sweat lodge,’ when in fact the only alternative medicine in which he took part was the cooking up of a new batch of meth –- this after a chemical heist by Walt and Jesse that was by far the show’s funniest sequence to date. If you didn’t giggle just a little bit as they slowly trudged across the screen with that barrel of methylamine -– just past the cop caught in the Porta-Pottie –- there is not a funny bone in your body.
And at the end, Walt sported the coolest of caps atop that bald head of his, replaced his eyeglasses with some dark shades and cemented a lucrative working relationship with the nuttiest drug dealer around. ‘Heisenberg,’ Walt sometimes calls himself now, surely referencing Werner Heisenberg, one of the most important physicists of the 20th century, who worked for the Nazi regime but was widely believed to have purposely thwarted a Nazi effort to build a nuclear bomb, fearing the consequences. Conversely, Walt is unafraid to blow things up -– we’ve now seen him torch the car engine of an annoying lawyer, blow the windows out of Tuco’s place and melt away the locked door handle of the chemical supply warehouse, all of this made possible by the wonders of science.
For those of us who’ve stayed on for the whole ride, this show hasn’t always been perfect, but it’s never been dull. And although we may chide the writers strike for preemptively cutting us off, perhaps we should also give it just a little bit of credit for drawing ‘Bad’ a little more interest from critics and viewers alike in this otherwise watered-down TV season –- hopefully enough so to get you execs to greenlight another go-around.
‘I hate to admit it, but it’s true,’ Gilligan said of the possible interest bump. ‘We live in a time where when a strike isn’t going on, we have 500 channels of TV and infinite websites and animated billboards. There’s eye candy everywhere you look, and it’s hard to break through the noise and get noticed when you have a new product.
‘So yeah, in the absence of new episodes of old favorite TV shows being produced, [the strike] probably has helped in getting us a little more attention than we otherwise would have. So it’s strange. It’s been the best of times and the worst of times –- not to crib from a better writer.’
Gilligan, it turns out, is on pins and needles these days. Though, come to think of it, he’s always on pins and needles; ‘Bad’ was in fact founded upon a fear he once shared with a fellow writer. About three years ago, in the wake of writing and producing episodes of ‘The X-Files,’ he got on the phone with Tom Schnauz, a college buddy and fellow ‘X-Files’ scribe.
‘We were joking about what we were going to do when it was all over, once the writing jobs dried up, and I joked about cooking crystal meth, driving around the Southwest in an RV with a meth lab in the back,’ Gilligan said. ‘I was just goofing around, but as I was talking to him, this character, Walter White, sprung into my head.’
And before too long, that character sprung into our lives –- wearing nothing but his underwear and a gas mask –- and mostly positive reviews followed. ‘It’s wonderful and it’s weird,’ Gilligan said several weeks back about the critical praise. ‘I’m like nervous all the time now. I’m more nervous than I would be if people were hating it, because then I’d just be plain bummed out.
‘I should just relax and enjoy it, I know, but I say ‘knock on wood’ a lot.’
So then, for all parties involved, what do you say, AMC? I think I speak for us all when I say that chemistry has never been so much fun.
P.S. The ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ reruns are much appreciated. Keep ‘em coming.