Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul of 'Breaking Bad'
The end of 2009 become an epic orgy (and not of the sexy sort) of listing for me, between a Top 20 for last year and a Top 31 for The Aughts. During that process, readers weren't shy about informing me when I had gargantuan gaps in my television viewership.
Fortunately, I watch a lot of TV
and I usually have a pretty good explanation (in my head at least) for the things that I don't watch. Also, while I'm stubborn and entrenched as a person, I'm also committed to my craft, so if enough people insulted me (sometimes rudely, sometimes kindly), about a particular show, I've probably taken steps to rectify those failings.
I'm nearly finished with the fourth season of "The Shield," a show which didn't hold my attention as a week-to-week police procedural, but has proven absolutely compulsive viewing when watched on a nightly basis on DVD. I'll be prepared to write a full-length mea culpa in five or six weeks, as there's no doubt that "The Shield" belonged in my Top 31 (specific placement TBD after I finish the series).
If "The Shield" was the most pervasive "Why Did You Leave Off..." on the Best of the Decade front, "Breaking Bad" was the clear winner on the Best of 2009 front.
To be fair to me, it's not like I hadn't watched episodes of both "The Shield" and "Breaking Bad" and it's not like I was in some dark cave where I didn't know the admiration both shows were held in by many (most?) of my peers. The combination of personal preferences and time just sometimes make fools of us all (or just me).
Just as I can admit to error in the absence of "The Shield" on my Best of the Aughts list, I'll also cop to the reality that if I listed 20 superlative shows for 2009, the second season of "Breaking Bad" belonged there somewhere.
Honestly? I'm not as enamored of the series, as a whole, as some of my nearest and dearest comrades seem to be. I take issue with the occasionally clunky or meandering storytelling. But one thing I won't dispute is the sheer excellence of Bryan Cranston
's lead performance. Before plowing through both of the first two seasons, I had reservations about Cranston's recent domination of the Best Actor Emmy field. I don't have those concerns anymore. Even in a group of Hamms, Lauries, Halls and more, Cranston is, at worst a first among equals. And with Cranston and Aaron Paul, "Breaking Bad" has TV's best male one-two punch. The show also is capable of delivering the sort of ballsy audacity that you don't even get on HBO and Showtime these days, that only FX seems comfortable doing.
"Breaking Bad" returns to AMC
on Sunday (March 21) and the new episodes find the show veering somewhat from its core premise, but mining some of its richest human territory to date. As a result, the show returns with Cranston at his best and co-star Anna Gunn raising her performance to meet him.
Full review of the start of the "Breaking Bad" season, featuring only minor spoilers (for the third season, major spoilers for the second season), after the break...