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    • Kelvin Wade

    • September 5, 2013 in Columnists

    Been bingeing on ‘Bad’

    With the new (and final) season of AMC’s “Breaking Bad” starting in August, I wanted to get in on the hubbub. I’d recently started watching “The Walking Dead” and got so hooked, I consider it one of my top favorite three series of all time.

    I wasn’t that impressed with “Breaking Bad” after the first two episodes. The show, about an overqualified high school chemistry teacher, Walter White (played brilliantly by Bryan Cranston), who is diagnosed with cancer and decides to start cooking methamphetamine to leave his family a nest egg, seemed too “out there” for me. I didn’t know whether it was a thriller, a drama, comedy or black comedy. As I continued to watch, the answer came: all of the above.

    I got hooked. In less than three weeks, I caught up through 4 1/2 seasons to the latest episode. Now, “Breaking Bad” occupies a spot in my top three series of all time with “The Sopranos” and “The Walking Dead.”

    Binge viewing is one of the 21st centuries greatest achievements for couch and mouse potatoes like me. Being able to continually watch a television series without commercial interruption anywhere is the ultimate in viewing freedom. Using my Netflix-enabled blu-ray player, I’d watch “Breaking Bad” in my living room and then continue watching in the bathroom on my iPad Mini. I’d watch late at night in bed on my regular iPad. I once watched in my car on my smartphone outside a Starbucks using their free WiFi.

    The beauty of watching season after season in a compressed amount of time is I understand everything that’s going on. My friend, who has been watching “Breaking Bad” for years, doesn’t easily recollect earlier plot points that took place three seasons ago. Watching the seasons back to back, the storytelling is clear and easily connected. Plus, I remember the excruciatingly long waits for the next season of “The Sopranos.” It’s great not having to experience that by watching it all at once.

    Binge-viewing popular shows that you may have missed allows you to get in on the conversation and understand pop culture references. There are not enough hours in a week to watch all of the quality television available, so everyone is going to miss out on good shows. Binge viewing affords a way to catch up.

    The problem with gorging on commercial-free continual television is that it makes it so hard to go back to watching commercial TV. I had to watch two “Breaking Bad” episodes streamed through my Uverse app straight from AMC. It was painful putting up with the advertisements of other AMC series, as well as ads for “Breaking Bad.” Why am I watching ads for “Breaking Bad” while watching “Breaking Bad?”

    Sure, one can binge on DVDs and I’ve done that with old TV series that I loved like “Good Times” and “What’s Happening.” Watching those old nostalgia-packed shows brings me back to my childhood when my whole family used to sit in the living room and watch TV together. Back then, television viewing was a communal thing. My dad would be sprawled on the floor, buffing our shoes for the next morning’s church service. My mom would be serving us pigs in a blanket or Vienna sausages and sardines while we watched “The Jeffersons,” “The Carol Burnett Show” or “Flip Wilson.”

    Today’s tablet and smartphone era makes viewing often a more solitary experience.

    At $7.99 a month, Netflix is a steal. My only worry is that it may become unsustainable. A generation of new viewers used to bypassing advertising will grow more and more hostile to commercial interruption. I grew up with commercials and I find myself pulling my hair out. What about those younger than me?

    Eventually, with ad revenue falling, viewing is going to become more expensive. Netflix won’t stay eight bucks a month forever. Cable companies already raise their rates frequently. And the fact is, if we expect quality writing, acting, cinematography, direction and decent production values in shows such as “Breaking Bad” and “The Walking Dead,” then we have to pay for it. People deserve to be compensated.

    But regardless what I have to pay, binge viewing is the way to go. Now I’m trying to figure out what to feast upon next. Mad Men? Lost? Dexter? I may never get any sleep again.

    • I am so freakin’ hooked on Breaking Bad. I got Netflix after my son showed me a couple episodes, ONLY because I wanted to catch up on Breaking Bad and it was cheaper than buying the DVDs. Also, I have the answer for you about the commercials: Get a DVR, record it, wait for 20 minutes before starting the show, fast forward through all the commercials. I DVR everything these days, even the evening news, because I can’t bear to watch the commercials.
      As for BB – the WRITING is what makes this show. It is seamless, quirky and brilliant. And the actors bring it to life. It is PERFECTION in a TV show. And yes, as far-fetched as anything since the X-Files! I think that’s why it’s bearable to watch a show with a topic of dealing/making drugs. On some level, in the back of your mind, you know it’s not possible. So, it becomes a fantasy, and an exercise in exploring the darker corners of the human psyche.
      And… I predict that the show will end badly for everyone. AND… If Water White wakes up and says, “WOW, I just had the craziest dream” and life goes on as normal, I will shoot my television.

        • Kelvin

        • September 5, 2013 at 2:07 pm
        • Reply

        I do DVR everything. I even DVR football sometimes so I can watch a three hour game in less then an hour. What happened was Netflix only has the first half of season 5. So I had to watch a couple episodes on the AMC website, not the channel. And it’s loaded with ads. I bought one episode for $1.99 and DVRed the last two episodes so I’m all caught up.

        The writing is delicious. I agree that I think it ends badly for all involved. I feel bad for Walter Jr. The rest of the characters are speeding off the rails.

    • Just did this with Homeland. I loved catching up all at once. But will not do any shows that I am behind by more than 2 seasons. Way too much overload for me.

      • davidlacy

      • September 5, 2013 at 8:59 am
      • Reply

      Agreed. Also, next up? Dexter. My all-time favorite.

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