How Breaking Bad And Netflix Ruined Me For All The Other TV Shows
It happened again last week. I’d been flicking through the ol’ EPG to see what was coming up in the hours ahead for my “big night in” (read: slumping in front of the TV hating everything) when I saw the third episode of BBC drama “Wolf Hall” was due on shortly. I’d watched the first two episodes of Mark Rylance looking like a shifty whippet with a terminal illness and had been mildly intrigued. “Maybe this’ll turn out to be like House of Cards but in olden times — House of Bards!” I chuckled to myself, desperately alone.
And hey it was actually alright and stuff. There was a lot of nodding and side glances and very little sex — something that every TV critic thought was great. “Hurray — it’s a period drama without any drama!” they all rejoiced. “Just what we wanted!” “They didn’t show Damian Lewis until the end of the first episode — how clever!” This was clever, because Damian Lewis, as a Face We Can Recognise, was the only reason most of the plebs tuned in to “Wolf Hall” in the first place, and by keeping his appearance until the very end of the show, it meant that they had to just sit and watch the whole thing and that made the show look popular. This in turn meant that the commissioners could all high five each other before their quinoa stuffed goose dinner the night after and that meant that basically Britain was great and we should all stay put for another few years, at least until global warming makes Denmark a bit hotter and then we can go there instead.
But unfortunately none of this matters, because when I saw that the third episode would be on that night at 9pm, I felt the familiar twinges of complete apathy wash over me. Since the end of “Breaking Bad” nearly two years ago this has been a recurring issue, one that I feel powerless to end. It happened with the recent Sky drama “Fortitude”. It happened with “Broadchurch”. It happened, I’m ashamed to say dear reader(s), with “Game of Thrones”. Whether after the first episode or a few programmes in, the result has always been the same. Somewhere along the line, I’d get that apathetic wave again, wouldn't care if I missed the whole damn season, and never watch another episode.
I’d like to think in part this is because I’m just too much of a genius for these shows to maintain my attention, but we all know that that’s a laughable suggestion. Instead, as much as “Breaking Bad” was one of the highlights of my television watching life, it also kind of ruined me. Having come to the blue crystal meth party late (not a problem I’d imagine in real crystal meth parties — they’re pretty tardy time keepers) I had four whole seasons of Heisenberg to binge on. And HOW I binged. I was like ice mad Tuco shouting “Tight tight tight!” and just smacking up another episode into the queue list, snorting it up madly through my Netflix stream.
Which means that now that I’m back to watching these pitiful non-drug-lord-bloodbath shows once a week rather than as soon as possible, I just can’t be bothered. I’ve started so many TV dramas without finishing, I’m beginning to hear an increasingly enraged Jeremy Paxman bellowing “Come on! Come on!” in my head.
Sometimes I’ve managed to persevere and almost believe that I’m getting better. “The Returned”, Channel 4’s eerie dead children French buy in was superb. BBC’s “The Missing” was just about manageable due to their episode structure of “Nothing happens…nothing happens…LAST MINUTE MASSIVE TWIST MUST WATCH NEXT EPISODE”. When Arrested Development’s Season 4 came out all in one go I celebrated the only way I knew how — by holding an AD Season 4 Marathon party, where we ended up watching every single episode of the new season back to back until midnight, made our own frozen bananas and slowly felt more and more sorry for the guy in the room who had never seen “Arrested Development” before and didn’t know what the hell was going on. Now, finally, I might have some respite as Vince Gilligan’s next outing after his seminal show has arrived— “Better Call Saul”.
I’ve already watched the first episode, and apart from one or two slight comedic mistimings and obvious stylistic borrowings from its big bad brother, it seems to be in good shape. And although Netflix have decided against releasing the episodes all in one go, I still feel confident that I’ll be watching this one through to the end.
Last year writer Nick Hornby discussed how if readers weren’t into highbrow or difficult books, they shouldn’t force themselves to read them through to the bitter end. I feel the same should be said with TV dramas. Whilst readily available episodes make it much easier to get into a series, sometimes I want to get over my horrible guilt of abandoning yet another high octane Golden Globe fest and holler like a particularly distressed Carrie Matthison “It was your fault that this didn’t work — not mine!” Then walk away, feeling pleased with myself and like, for once, I’d made the right choice.