Saturday, August 10, 2013
The Golden Age of Television is Now: the Return of Breaking Bad, the Walking Dead, and Homeland
I'm excited about three of my favorite television shows coming back with new episodes, proving that excellent writing and acting can make a show awesome, even if you have zero interest in the subject matter. Such is the case with all three of these shows; insanely great writing made me obsessively love them. Which is why this is the golden age of television; a good series is far superior to most new movies. A truly great series has no peer in entertainment.
Breaking Bad: When I watched the first episode of Breaking Bad, my initial thought was that I had no interest in watching a show about a chemistry teacher making crystal meth. During episode two I started to get it, by episode three I was hooked. Now I can't wait for the final eight episodes to start tomorrow. This week I've been re-watching the first eight episodes of the fifth and final season, which just became available for streaming at Netflix.
As I learned during the latest season of Game of Thrones, shows operating at this level have a lot more to offer than you can absorb in one viewing. With Breaking Bad, once you already know the story, re-watching an episode allows you to really appreciate the elegant writing, the artful dialog, the superb acting, and the impressive cinematography.
Watching on Netflix is better than watching the original broadcast because there are no commercials. Breaking Bad makes excellent use of the surround capability of the soundtrack. If you watched "The Fly" episode in 5.1, you heard the fly buzz around your viewing room in three dimensions. And (spoiler alert), the sound of the train in the train robbery episode has to heard on a good 5.1 sound system to be believed. The final eight episodes of Breaking Bad begin August 11th on AMC.
The Walking Dead: I avoided Zombie movies my whole life because I just wasn't interested. Until recently when a friend brought over the Zombieland movie on DVD. Surprisingly, the script was smart and funny, the cast was excellent, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Now that I had been sufficiently softened on the concept of zombies, I was ready to dip a toe (figuratively) into the Walking Dead.
To say that I was blown away right from the first episode would be an understatement. Three seasons in, I can tell you that the writing, the cast and the characters are about a hundred times better than you'd ever imagine if you don't watch the show. The genius of the Walking Dead is that while the zombies play a major role in it, the show is not specifically about zombies.
It's really about a bunch of compelling characters who come together attempting to survive in an impossible world after a zombie apocalypse. The constant danger that the zombies represent magnifies the human emotions in every interaction to the point that the drama is intense and the story is gripping. That's why the Walking Dead draws 11 million viewers and beats all the major networks in it's Sunday night time slot. The fourth season of the Walking Dead begins October 13th on AMC.
Homeland: I let two seasons of Homeland go by without being tempted to try it, even a little. I could not imagine how a show about Middle Eastern terrorists could possibly be entertaining. I generally avoid all media every year on 9/11 because the events of that day were horrific and I remember it all too well thank you very much, without being inundated every year with endless anniversary events and coverage.
So last year the praise for Homeland reached such a fever pitch that when Showtime offered up a free week, I had to see what the fuss was about. I got immediately obsessed with Homeland; the drama and the story were so riveting that I couldn't stop watching, often devouring two episodes per night, sometimes three.
When the free week was over I subscribed to Showtime to keep watching (also for Dexter and Shameless); they do know what they're doing with that free week promotion. Homeland is so excellent that I was never happier to have my preconceptions exploded (so to speak), just like with the Walking Dead and Breaking Bad. Season three of Homeland begins September 29th on Showtime.
Bonus Video: Breaking Bad - Say My Name. Spoiler alert - do not watch if you haven't seen the first eight episodes of season five.