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is "breaking bad" breaking bad history?

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if you're friends with me on facebook, you probably know that i have an ongoing thing called "sunday
quiz time", where i just ask random questions to my friends and often get very interesting answers. it's a little more intermittent than it used to be, but i still love getting the responses, so i've been trying to keep it going.

if you live in north america and, i suspect, anywhere else in the world where you're exposed to american popular culture, you'll be aware that the amc show "breaking bad" is ending tonight.

i haven't watched it, ever, because i haven't yet succumbed to the twenty-first century and gotten a netflix account and amc isn't part of my cable package. i am curious to see the show, because i've heard it's a writer's fantasy, where cautious, constrained scripting and deliberate character development is king. it's the kind of thing that never happens in popular entertainment, because the last thing that that anyone who counts is interested in is writing. [if i'm wrong and you hate it, don't correct me. i'll find out on my own time, but for the moment i'd like to cling to the idea that good writing can still count for something.]

but despite my own ignorance of the show, i couldn't help being inundated by the talk about what's going to happen in the grand finale. so i chose the following as today's "sunday quiz time" question :

"what is the greatest t.v. show finale of all time?"



the clear winner- pretty much the only one to receive multiple votes, was "newhart".



there were, of course, many responses, but what struck me among the comedy classics and sci-fi/ fantasy favourites, there was one thing notably missing: dramas. in fact, the only one to make the list was "the sopranos" and any television fan will tell you that raising the series shocking final moments in conversation is way more controversial than talking religion or politics.



i have a strict "no dissing other people's choices" policy on "sunday quiz time", but i know for a fact that i have friends who fall into the "unfettered brilliance" and "utter bullshit" camps.

when you look at virtually every other dramatic series that has captured popular attention, particularly since television has [almost] eclipsed film as the destination for quality in "serious" entertainment, what you hear most often is that by the time it's reached the end of its run, the show had overstayed its welcome. ["dexter" ended last week, its producers knowing better than to try to go head-to-head with the "breaking bad" steamroller. how much discussion did you hear about that? i plan on forcing myself to watch the final season at some point, but it's not something i'm looking forward to. you can read more about that here.]

on the contrary, people are amped for the "breaking bad" finale, in a way that i've only seen once before for a dramatic series- "the sopranos". with writers ratcheting up the tension in recent weeks and two of the show's stars, bryan cranston and anna gunn, describing the ending as "apocalyptic" at last week's emmy awards, there's a distinct possibility that this could be the series that defies history and provides a satisfying conclusion for its die-hard fans. or perhaps it'll just go for something tortuous, as "the sopranos" did. [he died, people. he was killed and you're seeing it from his perspective.] [so you say -ed.]

what's even more interesting, to me at least, is that "breaking bad" seems poised to drive the final nail in the coffin of film as the medium of "serious" writers and producers. after all, the series [and no, i haven't seen it, but i know enough about it to make this statement] is really about the boundaries of morality, which is a pretty heavy subject to tackle. and it's the sort of thing that film studios, who increasingly need bigger and bigger returns to make their investment worthwhile, just can't afford to take on. a reporter on cnn this morning pointed out that michael j. fox's new sitcom got more viewer's than "breaking bad" last week, but you wouldn't know that from the frenzy that's happening on line. i have a feeling no one is going to be talking about episode two of "the michael j. fox show" tomorrow over the water cooler. and it's even less likely that anyone will be discussing any of the films that are about to be released as part of "oscar season".

that's right. in case you'd forgotten, the autumn is when all the pictures that are supposed to represent the year's greatest accomplishments are supposed to come out, but nothing, nothing has commanded the sort of rapt attention that the "breaking bad" finale has. because audiences are discovering that having a vehicle that gives you years to get to know characters and care about them and that allows tension to build over weeks and months has the potential to be so much more powerful than something that condenses the experience into a couple of hours.

so godspeed you, "breaking bad". i will get around to watching you soon, probably binging on an entire season at a time or something crazy like that. in the meantime, there's no pressure. i'm just thinking that you might reverse a fifty year-old tide of disappointment in bringing dramas to a close and eclipse the movie industry in quality if you do things right.

no big thing.

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