Sunday, May 03, 2009

Breaking Great

Breaking Great: Most TV shows suffer in their sophomore season. The reason is that the first season is the result of plots and dialog bubbling around on scripts and in producers heads for years before they get the green light. By the time it gets to the screen it is thoroughly marinated and aged to excellence. Then season 2 deadlines are set and you have a few months to do it all over again. I think you could probably count the number of TV shows that actually improved significantly in their second season on one hand. Seinfeld comes to mind. Maybe some of the classic sitcoms -- Cheers, Taxi. But I don't remember any show kicking it up to a new level like Breaking Bad has so far. The characters have developed better shading, the plot web has gotten more tangled, and best of all, they are really taking some chances and the risks are paying off.

A couple of weeks ago the episode intro consisted of a Mexicali band singing a song that was essentially a recap of the plot of the season and foreshadowing the danger to come. Completely off the wall, but it worked. And they've introduced this farcical sleezebag lawyer named Saul Goodman, brilliantly portrayed by Bob Odenkirk, who could be either the salvation or the death our two ham-fisted, drug-dealing heroes. He has the potential for stealing the series outright.

Ballsy moves from a dramatic standpoint. It's great to see risks like that being taken, as opposed to pouring on the sex and violence for shock value which is what most shows do. If you haven't been following along, you may want to wait for the DVDs. Or spend time catching up on season one first. Killer stuff.