Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Characters More Welcome Here Than At USA Network

What's up with the American Movie Classics channel these days? I had virtually written it off after they replaced the original host Bob Dorian (he was Robert Osbourne, before Robert Osbourne was cool) and then replaced any hope of watching actual classic movies on the channel.

Then "Hustle" came along. A stylish British crime dramedy, that played like a cross between the "Ocean's Eleven" remake and any stylish, British crime series. Giving work to Adrian (best "Bobby" in Sondheim's "Company". Ever.*) Lester, Marc Warren , the mighty Robert Vaughn, and, of course, the cockney guy who looks like an older, gone-to-seed Christopher Reeve, if Christopher Reeve were cockney, had red hair, had gone to seed and had lived.
I'm just sayin's all.

Then AMC kicked it up a scootch with the premiere of "Mad Men", one of the most difficult, great shows I've ever seen. I initially started watching it because I'll watch anything set in late fifties/early sixties-verse of Manhattan**, but quickly realized that this show was nothing more than a study of the struggle to maintain one's character in a world that doesn't have easy answers to difficult, hard-to-communicate questions. A show that seems to be about advertising during the transition from Eisenhower to Kennedy, but instead plunges you headlong into people trying to hold onto their souls.

It takes me a couple of weeks to work up the energy to watch this show. I'm never disappointed, but I'm always drained.

Worth watching if only to see a bunch of young unknowns work with the original "brash young man" Robert Morse.

This year finds AMC's new show "Breaking Bad" getting critical notice and with good reason- Bryan Cranston is on fi-yah in this show. Unfortunately this brought out too many "Who knew the father on 'Malcolm In the Middle' had this in him?" articles, when really, if you've seen him as Buzz Aldrin in "From The Earth To The Moon" or any of his other gazillion dramatic parts he's played you'd know that the real question would be "Who knew the bad guy on that episode of 'Airwolf' could play this wacky dad on 'Malcolm In The Middle'?"

Well, I knew. But that's me. Ask me how to balance a checkbook. That's a different story. "Breaking Bad" tells the story of a high school chemistry teacher who, when he receives a terminal diagnosis, turns to cooking up crystal meth in an RV to help his family survive his eventual death. These days, I'm not such a big fan of "edgy for edgy's sakes" shows and films. Maybe in my twenties, but not now.

This show wouldn't be of interest to me if it were only "high school teacher's descent into Hell", which is kind of how it's being advertised. In fact, it is a show that defies description. But one thing I can say about it is how hopeful? It seems to be? You kind of have to watch it to get what I'm talking about, but it seems that, while the characters in "Mad Men" remain lost in their struggles against the moral abyss, Cranston's "Walter White"*** seems like he's got a strong plan and purpose to his life, albeit flawed.

Really flawed. Kids, don't try this at home.

All of the above gives me hope for basic cable I haven't had in awhile. See here for my disappointment at USA Network (with the exceptions of "Monk" and "Burn Notice") and their laughable "characters welcome".

*controversial... I know. But watch this clip from the You Tube- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fUfX6BYm08o
**"Down With Love" anyone? No? Just me? Sigh. ... again?
*** With alliteration like that? Are you kidding me? If this were a comic book, he's be a super hero.


schinders said...

i don't know about breaking bad. i really liked the pilot, but it's been downhill from there for me. the pace is way to slow, especially for a show about crank.

your fiend, mr. jones said...

Thus the "drug show conundrum" is realized, i.e., the drug show is either too drug or too show.


Bob Andelman said...

You might enjoy this audio interview (and transcription) with Anna Gunn, co-star of “Breaking Bad” and “Deadwood.”

your fiend, mr. jones said...

Thanks Mr. Media. I enjoyed the interview as I hadn't bothered to look up in IMDB where I'd seen Anna Gunn before.

And she is as great "Breaking Bad" as she was as Mrs. Bullock on "Deadwood".