Finally breaking bad

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, May 7, 2014 9:43 PM

Meet Kevin and Lorin Michel, a couple of pranksters who are as fiercely devoted to each other and their lives together as they are to being homebodies. They both work at home. Days go by when the only reason they leave is to walk the dog or themselves. So the introduction of a SmartTV into their lives along with a high speed internet connection to stream Hulu and Netflix has made them very happy, shiny people.

Netflix in particular has become one of their closest friends because it allows them to do things like binge-watch some of the television shows they’ve missed in the past, shows that are highly acclaimed, in many cases award-winning, and are now available to stream. And since there is painfully little worth watching on regular television these days save for The Good Wife and The Blacklist, and probably the reboot of 24, though they haven’t yet seen that, and since they get very tired of watching reruns of Law & Order: SVU and have given up on NCIS since Cote de Pablo left, they have found solace elsewhere.

It is on Netflix where they have met Claire and Frank Underwood of House of Cards, Stella Gibson on The Fall, and Kurt Wallander on Wallander. They have all become good friends. Into this mix has finally come Walter White, the high school chemistry teacher who uses his skills to cook a mean batch of meth and is thus, Breaking Bad.

Jiminy Crickets and then some.

Justin, the couple’s erstwhile seafaring son, is the owner of the Netflix account but he is allowed to have several people piggyback on. One is Justin’s good friend Wallaby, a buddy from the University of Arizona; the other is “mom & dad.” Since the son is currently on the Sun and has precious little internet access and since streaming is forbidden on the ship anyway, he is not using his account. Not sure if Wallaby is. But mom and dad have been enjoying the hell out of it. The mom part of the equation has made a mental note to thank said seafaring son when they see him on the Sun next Tuesday.

So Walter. Whoa.

There was nothing on Sunday night and since the couple doesn’t ever get the chance to watch The Good Wife during its regularly scheduled time and instead watches it OnDemand on Tuesday, they decided to fire up Netflix. One of the recommended shows for them, based on some of what they’ve watched in the past, was Breaking Bad. It has also been recommended by good friends Roy and Bobbi and just about anyone else who has ever watched it. But when the show was on during its actual televised run, the couple didn’t want to jump in not knowing how it started. Part of the reason was that R & B had tried to do that and said it was horrible. “You really have to start from the beginning to know what’s going on.”

So start from the beginning they did. Now a scant four episodes in, they are completely hooked. This morning on their bike ride, another occasional foray out of the house, Kevin was unusually quiet which usually indicates there is something fairly major on his mind. The couple pulled to a stop at the place on the path where they always stop to suck down some water and take a brief break before journeying back in the same direction. It’s near a dog park. Dozens of dogs of all sizes were racing around, chasing balls and each other. One little guy came over to the fence, near where the couple was standing, straddling their bikes. He watched them for a second or two, then barked as if to say if you don’t have dogs you’re not welcome.

Finally Kevin spoke: “What do you supposed happened to Crazy Eight?”

“Well, he’s dead. Walt killed him in the basement with the bike lock, remember?”

“Yes, but what happened to his BODY?”

This is why they will continue to watch, to find out how Walt disposed of Crazy Eight, since the drug dealer is on the DEA’s radar, as is his cousin, but they know what happened to him. He was dissolved. Of course, the DEA doesn’t know that.

The show is nasty, un-redemptive and absolutely brilliant. They are finally Breaking Bad. Just in time for some good summertime bingeing. Four episodes down, 58 to go. They’re already addicted, and celebrating such extraordinary storytelling. Plus they need to find out about Crazy Eight, and Walt’s health, and if Skylar will stick with him, and about Jesse’s kid brother who’s breaking a little bad, too. Jiminy. 

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live out loud

Afraid of the scenes

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, October 23, 2013 9:16 PM

As good as television has become in certain aspects, on certain channels, it is also equally bad in many respects. That’s why when we have a show that we love, we cling to it, sometimes irrationally, for too long. We did it with The X-Files, which, let’s face it was a mere shadow of itself in seasons 8 and 9, sans Mulder and the Mulder/Scully chemistry. We did it with Gilmore Girls after Amy Sherman Palladino left after season 5. We kept hoping for the magic to return. We did it with The West Wing after Aaron Sorkin had a meltdown and left his chaotically brilliant show after season 5. The West Wing, though, actually redeemed itself well by becoming about the next campaign for president after the beloved Jed Bartlet would depart to fly home to New Hampshire. It didn’t hurt that the redemption was capped with Jimmy Smits, a personal favorite since LA Law.

So when we find a good show, we savor it like a fine wine, sipping from its delectable dialogue and allowing it to swirl around in our mouths for a while. We wait anxiously every week for a good show. It becomes close to appointment TV, which is what The West Wing and The X-Files were for years. There could be no distractions during appointment TV. If the phone rang, too bad. We simply basked in the warm, gooey – sometimes literally in the case of The X-Files – wonder of great characters speaking great dialogue in believable plots. OK. Not The X-Files. But that show was never about believability. It was about the truth.

These days, appointment TV has dwindled to three, two of which still blow our hair back weekly; one of which is limping along and we’re still in the “it’s going to be OK” phase, hoping it will pull its plot-addled head out of its butt and get back on track. I watching you Homeland.

One of the two is the über-violent, sadistically vile and incredibly rapturous motorcycle scorcher, Sons of Anarchy. There is often no one who is even remotely likable in the cast. They kill randomly. They treat each other badly. They rage against authority even as they push a gun-running trade and pornography, only one of which is illegal. We can’t take our eyes off of it. Now in its 6th and penultimate season, it has become a show that we await anxiously. Is it September yet?

This season started off with a bit too much of a bang. For a show this exquisitely violent and blood soaked, the first episode was nearly over the top. I found myself wondering if we could even continue to watch it. While violence is what the show is all about, it took it to a place that was so abhorrent I worried they had finally gone too far. Being the loyal fans we are, though, we decided to at least watch the next episodes to give it a fair shot. They have come roaring back. The Shakespeare meme – it very loosely mirrors Hamlet – is on full display and I just know that Tara, as the stand in for Ophelia, is going to die and it’s going to unleash Jax in ways we’ve never before seen. Also, it too has Jimmy Smits.

And this is the guy who shot a woman in the head just last night and then ordered his “brothas” to clean it up while he went outside for a smoke. Because smoking inside is frowned upon.

Our other appointment TV is the simply exquisite The Good Wife. We’ve been watching it since its debut. Always good, this season it has veered into goosebump territory. It’s smart, intelligent, the plots make sense, the acting is amazing, the cast superb. We watched this week’s last night because Sunday nights get weird here, with time and football, and Homeland, so we watch Alicia and company On-Demand on Tuesday night.

At the end of this week’s episode, when the newly married Diane leaves Alicia’s office, stops in the hall, a look of realization washing over her face (dog bless Christine Baranski) and stands staring at Will, who is in his own office, meeting with a potential new colleague, Kevin and I were on the edge of our seats. Will and Diane have been in the process of dissolving their partnership and thus their firm of Lockhart/Gardner but as Will absorbed the look and immediately dismissed his colleague, the connection they have shared and continue to share was electric. He knew she knew something that she needed to tell him, animosity be damned. And she did.

Cut to black.

Cut to Kevin and I: Holy crap, batman.

Julianna Margulies’ voice came on and casually asked us to “stay tuned for scenes from our next episode.” Casually, like it couldn’t be a very big deal.

Kevin: “I can’t watch. I don’t want to see the scenes.” He was like a little kid putting his head under the pillow to escape the monsters in the room, only in this case, the monsters were the amazing talents responsible for this show. We were literally afraid of the scenes, afraid to know what was going to happen. At least until we watch it next Tuesday.

That’s good stuff. That’s the best kind of television there is, one that celebrates the audience’s intelligence even as that audience hides in the closet, quivering with anticipation.

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live out loud

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