Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Insert Ironic Use of 'Bad' Here

--Heath Ledger. Damn.

I don’t really have a lot to say, but it feels like I should say something. It’s sad when somebody dies young like that, but sometimes you sort of feel like you could see it coming. It doesn’t make it less sad, but it feels almost inevitable. I’m obviously not going to mention names, because that’s just ghoulish. Regardless, he wasn’t one of those guys. He was a talented guy, and it’s just a tragedy.

(My favorite Heath Ledger movie: “The Brothers Grimm”. At least until “The Dark Knight” comes out.)

--Remember how I said AMC was the new HBO? If it pleases the court, I’d like to present Exhibit B, Breaking Bad.

Bryan Cranston plays Walter White, a high school chemistry teacher who’s diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer just after his 50th birthday. Walter turns to selling crystal meth to give his family (including his pregnant wife and his teenage son with cerebral palsy) financial stability, and it’s fantastic.

Right off, people are going to compare it to Weeds. The tone is substantially different, though. Also, Bad provides the character with an acceptable and interesting motivation, which was my main problem with Weeds. I can’t sympathize with a character who’s jeopardizing her family by selling pot instead of getting a job, but I’m interested in a dying man who wants to provide for his family.

Cranston is terrific. I wasn’t a big fan of Malcolm in the Middle, but I always loved his performance. And we all remember him as Tim Watley, the dentist, on Seinfeld. So many of his sitcom performances have been funny, but with this real air of menace just beneath the surface. I think he’s really going to knock people out with his work here.

There are some bold choices here, beyond the obvious. I mean, Walter killed two people in the first episode. In self defense, but still… Breaking Bad isn’t going to try and convince us he’s a saint, which is another refreshing change from Weeds. And I’m not sure, but I can’t think of another primetime series that’s featured a character with cerebral palsy before. I don’t know if the actor actually suffers from it, or if it’s just a really good performance. Either way, they’re avoiding the easy road of making him a little angel who represents all that is positive. He’s not a bad kid, by any means, but he’s got a little bit of an obnoxious streak. It was interesting to see his interactions with his parents, which is rarely something I say about young people on TV.

I’ll have more in a couple of weeks, I’m sure. Sundays at 10 on AMC. You should be watching it. Trust AMC, folks.

Actually, I’m kind of wondering if this was originally pitched to HBO. Like Mad Men, the quality is right there with HBO’s Golden Era. But in this particular case, the first episode was sixty minutes without commercial interruptions, which is in line with HBO. I also noted a few censored f-bombs and some blurred-out breasts. It may well have been an artistic choice, and there’s really nothing else he could have said in the car wash. I just have to wonder if the intent was to sell it to HBO all along. If so, HBO blew it. Again. It’s what they do these days.

--I’ve got some “Cloverfield” talk over on spunkybean, and Don’s all up in the American Idol grill. Check it out and join the cool kids.


colleen said...

brothers grimm was actually worthwhile? or was that sarcasm

EJ said...

I actually like "Brothers Grimm". I'm not saying it's great or anything, but I like the energy. Terry Gilliam always provides entertaining visual spectacle. Heath and Matt Damon seem to get just how seriously to take the movie, too. My favorite part is how the storytelling becomes increasingly unhinged, and by the end it's like some little kid is making up the increasingly complicated mythology. "And then they had to move the coffins to stop her, but it didn't work because the mirror was cracked, and then..."

It's underrated fun, I tell you!

Don said...

I wonder how big of a raise was given to the guy at AMC who sat in a programming meeting one day and said, "I read a script for a great show called 'Mad Men' and I think we should pick it up. HBO turned it down, but we need to do something bold because old spaghetti westerns aren't cuttin' it."

I'm picturing guys resembling the cast of Coccoon laughing uproariously at this idea but, on this day, in a moment of weakness, they said, "all right, hot shot. Go for it."

"Original programming on AMC," laughed the Coccoon cast as they walked out of the meeting.

The rest is history.

EJ said...

"Look, kid. I know you're new here, but let me spell it out for you. It's 'American Movie Classics'. Movie, you snot-nosed little punk."