Thursday, March 25, 2010

You didn't think this blog was just going to be about sports, right?

There's so much other awesome TV to discuss.  Plus, sporting events are almost exclusively played at night so that leaves the rest of the day for us to find something to do with ourselves.  And for "the exclusive 9.7%" (if you have a better nickname for this, I'm all ears), there's no such thing as being bored.

With that said, I'm going to make a plea.

There are two shows I'm going to ask you to watch.  And if you don't have the time to watch them, then I'm going to ask you to indulge me in my love for them.  But really, I want you to make time to watch these shows.  Because a) time is a gift and b) because I want to post reviews of each episode of these shows after they air.  I will probably post thoughts about some other shows too (like How To Make It In America and The Pacific and maybe shows like The Wire and West Wing as I plow through those series, but I don't want to bore those who watched these shows years ago).  But these two in particular are kicking off new seasons and are even more entertaining than watching a choir of elderly people singing rap songs.

These shows are:

1. Breaking Bad (Sundays at 10 PM on AMC)

I don't understand why this show can't yet get a consistent following as it begins season 3.  Sure, the plot on its surface doesn't strike a chord with many Americans--it revolves around a chemistry teacher who finds out he has lung cancer and so, in order to provide for his family, starts to deal crystal meth with one of his former students--but the show is infinitely more complex than that.

You see the protagonist, Walter White, find meaning in his life through being a big-shot in the drug world.  All the while, Walt becomes entangled in his web of lies--to his wife, to his brother-in-law who is a DEA agent and to his son who has bells palsy.  He enters the drug game in order to support his wife and son but then finds that the drugs are in fact alienating him from his family.  But as a self-identified overly qualified high school chemistry teacher, Walt is not keen to give up drug dealing, the only thing in his life that has brought him power and stature.  It is a fascinating portrait of a man who is struggling to both stay alive and feel alive.

And if you can handle Jessie Spano getting so excited from caffeine pills, you can handle the drug use in this show.  It's a must watch.

2. Friday Night Lights (Fridays at 8PM on NBC, premieres 4/30)

Let me start by acknowledging the chief complaint I hear thrown around about this show--"it's nothing more than a high school soap opera centered around football in Texas."  To which I respond, so?  Granted, I have become acquainted with daytime television during my unemployment stint and realize that soaps like "As the World Turns" and "Days of our Lives" are just plain awful.  But that's why they fall into the category of "bad soap operas."  Just as there are good movies and bad movies, so too are there good soap operas and bad soap operas.

Here are a few reasons to watch this good soap opera:

1. This person ------->

2. People I know who went to high school in Texas, and I know at least two, say that this is a strikingly accurate portrayal of what life there is like.

3. Do you like tenuous high school romances that result in uber-incestuous relationships?  Check.  Do you like tear-jerking motivational speeches like this one?  Check.  Do you like racism?  Well, not actually being racist but shows that pack racial overtones into 42 minute episodes without the overt, bash-you-over-the-head style of the movie "Crash"?  Well, FNL has that.

4. It's a show that revolves around football but isn't about football.  Huh?  Allow me to elaborate.  Or better yet, allow Nancy Franklin of The New Yorker to elaborate.

"I took a wait-and-not-see approach to 'Friday Night Lights' last year," Franklin wrote in 2007, "until an unlikely friend recommended it—a young filmmaker who had grown up in Manhattan in a literary and theatrical milieu and had no interest in sports. We were in the Museum of Natural History when we had this conversation, and when she told me that she and her husband were “addicted” to the show, even the animals in the dioramas were so stunned that they froze in their tracks. The following week, I watched an episode, and went from ignorance to bliss."

Friday Night Lights is a voyage into the heartland of Texas.  Football is the passion of nearly everyone in Dillon, Texas and we as viewers are not sure whether to feel sorry that they don't have more or envious that they can be fulfilled with so little.  Football acts as the medium through which the characters in this show live.  Without football, what is life?  I suppose you could make the parallel between what football does to Dillon in FNL and what the drugs do to Walt in Breaking Bad, but I fear that these parallels alone would be doing both shows an injustice.  They are a commentary on the world we live in--maybe not always our own backyard--but it is our world nonetheless.

So give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free and your soap operas about the aforementioned.  If they are anything like Breaking Bad or FNL, I'll watch them all.  And you should too.


  1. When are you guys going to man up and watch Top Gear?

  2. I second the above. Also, Breaking Bad has a MASSIVE Irish following...which I thought was odd, but then, my friends here watch far more tv than my friends at home, that might have something to with it.

  3. Your friends in Ireland watch more TV than all of us, even with me bringing the average waaay up? And even with all of Patrick's porn videos?

  4. It's quite possible, yes. Keep in mind that a) BA is unemployed b) Baz works in a bar, so is completely nocturnal c) most of the people who hang out here fall into one of the two previous categories. The TV is on ALL THE TIME, and that doesn't account for individual porn-watching habits, which I'm sure they all have.

  5. I'm a fan of the first reason to watch FNL. Good stuff.

  6. Nancy Franklin--wicked good at elaborating