I’ve been fortunate enough lately to be able to catch up on some TV shows of the last couple years I’ve missed in particular BREAKING BAD, FRINGE, and THE WALKING DEAD.
Is BREAKING BAD the greatest show ever broadcast as many reviewers have said? Well I don’t know about that but it is excellent. It’s amazingly well written, had characters that grow and reveal themselves bit by bit just like in real life. We also see that the actors have room to go off like soloists in music each getting their little (or big) moment to show us their interpretation of the character.
In particular , Bryan Cranston as Walter White the meth dealing cancer stricken chemistry instructor is not only one of the greatest characters in television history, it is one of the best realized roles by an actor in that medium. The way the role fills out so far (I am currently watching the beginning of the 2nd season episodes) is perfect and the dark path Walter White is headed down is a terrifying spectacle you cannot avert your eyes from.
FRINGE is like THE X FILES meets LOST. Like THE X FILES, we have a select group of FBI agents investigating unexplained phenomena and like LOST we have the esoteric metaphysical side story in this case parallel universes which have gradually become the dominant overriding main story. Unlike, THE X FILES, there are no “separate” stories. Allof the weird phenomenon is connected to the main story.
I have recently watched the first three seasons of FRINGE and while I think the character of the insane scientist Walter Bishop is superb also a very realized role by John Noble and very humorous too, The character of Peter Bishop I found sort of blah until the second season (he has gradually gotten more interesting which is probably the point as he is the linchpin of the story). The character of Olivia Dunham, Peter’s will though or won’t thoughlove interest and in many ways the dominant character I didn’t like at all. She was played as humorless professional who nonetheless is still weak enough to make numerous mistakes. The alternate Olvia, “Fauxlivia” from the parallel universe is very interesting though.
The stories got better over the first three seasons and each season was better than the one before it. The idea of parallel universes with different versions of ourselves is an interesting one and as this has gradually consumed the whole show, they’ve done good job expanding this mythology. It really is an engaging show.
THE WALKING DEAD started off promisingly. I’ve enjoyed the comic book by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore but the TV show has watered down the plot and extended the storyline not killing off characters at the time they died in the comic book or not killing them at all. They have also dragged out events to focus on human relationships and building up characters (who are not necessarily that interesting). This has had the effect of killing the drama of a zombie invasion and when an encounter with a zombie happens, it’s like water given to a thirty man. The good news is ,despite an increasingly boring uninteresting second season, the finale was terrific and introduced the TV version of one of the best characters of the comic book Michione as well as the prison the survivors hide in where much future action takes place. The dark side of the main character, Rick Grimes, has also started to appear. There’s word that the main villain of the best part of the comic’s run The Governor will be appearing in season 3 which I think is great news for the future of this show.
In the last couple of decades, there have appeared shows that had multi-story arcs and plotlines that zigzagged in and out throughout a season. Two examples of that were WISEGUY and THE SOPRANOS ….Neither show I particularly liked because while they had attempted the scale of something bigger, you never forgot they were TV.
Shows like BREAKING BAD and FRINGE (not to mention THE WALKING DEAD in its better moments) are like mini-movies grand in scale with big production values. That’s a good development that keeps television relevant and competitive in the do it yourself online era.