I have started working my way though these seasons on DVD's and am staggered by the quality of writing.

It's easy for me (especially in a milieu of LA/Valley film bugs) not to take TV seriously, especially when they keep giving awards to The Office and Curb Enthusiasm, but you have to realize that many TV writers and show runners are as good as anybody alive.

"Breaking Bad" caught me totally by surprise.  The acting, the writing, even the mimimalist filming and cutting...wow.   I keep ordering scripts to read over, seeing how they can get crackup dark humor, gripping personal emotion, gut-clenching more ambiguity, and "white space" of filming all into one hour.

But what really awes me is how you never know what's going to happen.  It's always a total shock when they break a move, and they do it a half-dozen times an hour.  And believe me, I'm not often taken by surprise from plots on screen.  I've watched these with "the gang", a bunch of writers (and worse) who generally predict every beat in a show, and we all just fall over regularly watching this thing.  The seem to delight in digging themselves into a hole, then suddenly warping out of it through magic.

Another thing I just love, which must find favor around this forum, is the way they skid around on the whole issue of crime.  Here's the straightarrow high school teacher smoking illegal Cuban cigars with his bro in law, who's a DEA agent lecturing on evil drugs, and whose wife just got nailed for shoplifting jewelry.  

And through it all we've got his complex, pregnant wife, paralyzed son, and side-slipping sis-in-law going through a whole subset of real-life emotions and problems.  Just amazing.

The first episode opens with a pair of pants blowing in the desert wind.  By the end you know why and it's a twisted, hilarious, appalling trip.

Meanwhile, out in California there's another suburban citizen turning to drug dealing in "Weeds".  This doesn't have the stark, brutal, insidious power of "Breaking Bad", but it's one of the damnedest comedies I've ever seen.  The two main characters are a mis-matched pair of women friends that vie for my affection and laughs, often simultaneously.  And again, you get taken by surprise a lot.  And some of it is just plain wacky, but not so self-consciously so that it bugs you.  It's not a "situation comedy".  You can't have that in a situation where a box of soft-drinks falls out of a plane and plunges into a suburban bedroom, provide sprays of cola (and a string of secondary gags) just as the blonde walks in and announces she has cancer.  (Cancer, by the way, is what drove the "Breaking Bad" guy to crime, but here it;s more of a situation)

So they have damage for the realtors to tsk at.  Not as situational as the ceiling damage in "Breaking Bad", which is caused when a drug dealer whose body they were dissolving with acid in the bath tub, suddenly eats it way through the tub and floor to douse the hallway with what the slacker as describes as "human raspberry slurpy",  but still.

I hate spoilers, so take my word for it if you haven't seen these things... go the hell out and get the seasons and watch them.

If you have, I'd love to see a discussion on this crime/normality concept and the level and influence of TV writing on crime literature.  

Don't tell me you weren't influenced to some degree by "The Shield"  or "Deadwood" or "The Sopranos"

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Just started watching Breading Bad (I'm about halfway through the second season) and I'm now hooked. It's not quite The Wire, but then what is? At first I thought it was too dark and depressing - I actually ditched it half way through the first episode a while back - but once the dark humour and the plot kicks in properly there was no looking back. It's a great character piece and while I can occasionally see where it's going a lot of the plot twists do came out of nowhere (but are still logical and make sense). And like The Wire is has some interesting things to say on the 'war' on crime.

I've not seen Weeds but I'll put it on The List.

I only wish that we were producing such good drama here in the UK - though there's a mini-series on at the moment, Inside Men, about the robbery of a cash storage facility, which is pretty good and addresses similar issues.

Well, I was certainly inspired by The Sopranos, it was great ro see family situations and day-to-day stuff turned into drama as opposed to the "one last big job" movie event.

The other shows not so much. I like Breaking Bad but I couldn't get past the first season of Weeds. Her life is too good, her house is too big, she has a housekeeper - how much dope is she moving? How much is she charging? Then, she went ot her supplier - who would be a level hier on the food chain but it's a poor family in south central? The money was all wrong. But I do like the cast (and maybe later seasons got better, I don't know).

But all those shows take their influence from books. The tone of The Sopranos owes a great deal to Elmore Leonard's treatment of mobsters. Hell, my own Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere has a grow-op run by a woman.

Does it have Crazy Horse?

Great title.

I see what you're saying about the money. but it hadn't really trouble me. Which means it works, right?  I never read the show as anything approaching realism, just fun.  Like, I don't know,  The Music Man spending weeks in a town just to con them into buying some band instruments.

There was a scene with a prowling cougar that really lit me up, but realism wise it was ridiculous.  (A real cougar, not one of those PTA cows.)

Well then, it might as well be The Office ;)

LOL

Except the whole thing about it being funny and having cool actors.

Wonder if this is a chick thing?  I hadn't thought about it before, but the two leads are really engaging, and not just comedically.  There's hugely more emotional depth and complexity.  The relationship between the blonde and children just slays me.  As well as her delicate hovering around self-awareness of what she really is.

I don't see a single male character of any real depth or substance.  The black guy at the ghetto mama's house is closest, but he's living in a matriarchy.  The only man in the thing I'd like to hang out with is dead.

Well, male characters on TV is a whole discussion on its own, especially in anything with humour.

Like I said, I gave up on Weeds earlier than I gave up on The Office but I didn't find one had particulary more emotional depth than the other, just different ways of presenting the characters.

And why did the black guy live in the ghetto? Why didn't he have the Range Rover if he was the wholesaler? I doubt the show was trying to make any kind of statement, I'm pretty sure this is just Hollywood not being very connected, we see it all the time, characters on TV and in the movies have no sense of money at all. But that is one thing that does seperate shows like The Wire and The Sopranos and Breaking Bad from the rest of the pack.

 

I'm not so sure of that, actually.  Sometimes I get the impression that a lot of dealers live more like those folks than like Scarface. 

You think that mama is going to move on up like the Jeffersons?  Leave her church choir?

There's an interesting chapter in "Freakonomics" called, if I recall it right,  "If Dope Dealers Make So Much Money, Why Do They Live With Their Parents?"

(BTW, in his shoes, I'd drive the ghettomobile instead of the Rover, too.  Not get jacked up for "driving while uppity" a couple of times a day)

But one thing I think is interested, and hard to deny for both shows, is the way they move crime into the burbs.  Like maybe it's not something fenced off, but something whose capacity reaches across a lot of our perceived barriers and categories.

well, crime, at least drug crimes, goes where the money is. But drugs are a kind of pyramid scam, or a real 1% industry, not many people rise up the ranks - especially in one generation. Tony Soprano inherited a lot of his business from his father, afterall. Its pretty much run like Amway - a lot of people join up hoping to make a lot of money but very few do. And very, very few for any length of time. Oh sure, your local dealer if he isn't too ambitious and is happy with his customer base can stay in business for quite a while.

There should be more shows with this stuff on TV ;).

 

 

I'm working on it.

But do those fools listen to me?  Or even give me a meeting?

The last (and only) TV show I wrote for was cancelled by CBS after three episodes. When it happened I thought I would stick to novels and never have anything to do with TV again, but it's like a drug...

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