Home / General / <em>Breaking Bad</em> is the worst show in the history of television.*

Breaking Bad is the worst show in the history of television.*


I’ve just now finally caught up with Breaking Bad, which I just started watching last week.** Amazing how a show about meth has the same effect on its viewers as its subject does on its victims. But as I start to catch up on the years of episode breakdowns and critical analyses, I can’t help but be a little annoyed by the repeated claim about the show’s “realism.” Joe Kugelmass wrote about this vis-a-vis The Wire, and though I can’t seem to find the post, I want to give credit where it’s due, because I’m no Zakaria. Joe’s point, in brief, is that people always claim that The Wire is a realistic portrayal of the tangled mess of conflicting interests that is the great city of Baltimore, except that isn’t realistic in the least. Consider one of the infamous “Omar’s coming!” scenes: it’s a classic Western sequence whose sole post-modern twist is that it’s a shoot-out within a shoot-out. I’m not saying it’s not clever or well-executed, only that it’s highly stylized, i.e. not realistic and not attempting to be so.

Breaking Bad is equally unrealistic, except unlike The Wire, whose overarching narrative does actually embrace a realistic ethos, Breaking Bad is a thoroughly naturalist narrative. What do I mean by “naturalist”? Even I’m not entirely sure. But a decent (if stripped) working definition might be that a naturalist work is any in which a person’s character is determined by the restrictions of the social environment in which it operates. No matter what its author claims a naturalist narrative isn’t a realistic project: it’s a thought experiment that amounts to “If I place Person A into Environment B how will he or she react?” It may aim for realism but its logic is beholden only to itself. (Which is why naturalist novels often begin with a dentist winning a lottery ticket but end with a man handcuffed to a corpse in Death Valley.) Breaking Bad clearly fits into this tradition.

A high school chemistry teacher learns he has cancer. He can’t afford to pay for the treatment. What will he do? He’ll make meth. How will inserting a tidy high school teacher into the seedy world of meth production and dealing change this man’s character? The show’s spent five seasons answering that question, and the answer, as is always the case with naturalist narratives, is astoundingly unpleasant. If you win the lottery, you kill your wife before dying alone in the desert cuffed to a stranger. If you win the cancer lottery, you can’t afford treatment and estrange your wife such that she’s counting down the days until your cancer can mount a comeback. In short:

There is no good here. But there’s no realism either. Naturalist narratives are necessarily and aggressively pessimistic. When presented with a choice between a creating a disturbing tableau and presenting the likely consequences of a particular course of actions, naturalist narratives opt for:

Without giving away too much game, that’s an image of a man who’s just had half his brain blown into a cavity and he’s fixing his tie. Is he about to die? Of course he is. The life expectancy of people in his situation is dire beyond the telling. But it’s a powerful image of a man who risked everything with composure and is determined to die as subdued and dignified as he lived. Can a man actually take a pipe-bomb to the face and ablute himself? Of course not. Then why do people insist that Breaking Bad is a realistic portrayal of the perils of the methamphetamine trade? Because of scenes like what I’ll call “The Story of Jesse and the Beans.”

You’ll remember that I praised Louie for its commitment to the two shot. The two shot is one that has two people in the frame. (Can you guess what a three shot is?) The purpose of a two shot is create a connection between the characters through the process of accumulation. If you include two subjects in the same frame for an inordinate amount of screen-time the audience will consider them partnered regardless of whatever their actual relationship is. Playing against this instinct is why Bergman films create such discomfort.  The same logic appears in Breaking Bad, except the sequences aren’t nearly so staged as Bergman’s. A typical conversation on Breaking Bad isn’t a two shot. It looks like “Walter, what do you have to say?”

Breaking bad00002
And “Jesse, how do you feel about that?”

Breaking bad00005
Their psychological and sociological differences are accentuated by filming them in a series of perpetual shot and reverse shots. They don’t share the frame because they’re not friends and barely even co-workers. Which brings us to the scene in which Walter invites Jesse over for dinner with his wife. The sudden shift to the two and three shots is glaring because it’s painfully oblique to the status of their current relationships. So:

Breaking bad00022
“The Story of Jesse and the Beans” opens with a half-empty long shot. (Just compare it to a very similar scene in Kick-Ass.) All three half-occupy the bottom half of frame that’s fronted by an empty chair. Moreover, the dominant diegetic light source pulls our eyes up to the chandelier, which means that when we search the frame for meaning we’re incredibly aware of all the empty unlit space in the top half of the frame. These are three diminished people sharing a table with Elijah.

The composition of the shot further distances them: the white inner curtains flank Jesse and cut him off, compositionally speaking, from Skyler and Walter, who sit before the dark outer curtains. (I know: I need to figure out what curtains are called. Feel free to point me in the right direction.) The frame’s split in three and each of these characters occupies their own bit of the triptych. This isn’t a realistic shot. It’s a carefully staged psychological reflection of the character’s current relations to each other. This shot only seems realistic because it’s ostensibly conventional: we’re accustomed to watching families eat dinner together and that’s what we seem to have here. Only we don’t. There’s a tension between the compositional elements in the frame and the narrative being communicated through it, and that tension mirrors that being felt by the characters.

About which more in the next post, which will be arriving shortly.

*Clearly I’m kidding. I just covered too much ground to come up with a snappy title.

**And before you ask why it took me so long to watch a critically acclaimed show about an educator who his cancer from his wife, I’ve already been over that. Does this resemblance make me look tough?

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  • Do critics really write about Breaking Bad’s realism?

    It never even occurred to me to judge the show by the standard of realism.

    Oh, and you never tell us: what the hell is a “three-shot?” You just leave us hanging there, SEK.

    • SEK

      Do critics really write about Breaking Bad’s realism?

      They do. I’m just starting to dip my toes in the critical waters, but I’ve seen a number of articles that deal with its realistic portrayal of cancer-related depression, the hard choices faced by underinsured Americans, etc. I’m a little flabbergasted by it too. I think it has a lot to do with the AMC imprimatur, a bleed-over from the obsessiveness of Mad Men, but it’s still a little strange to watch otherwise intelligent critics praise a show for something it seems so doggedly not.

      • Medrawt

        Well, there appears to be a surprisingly large group of critics who thought Mad Men suddenly became really heavy-handed with its symbolism and such in the last season after previously having been a paean to the power of subtlety.

        That said, I think “realism” is more what people were saying in the first season and a half, when it was an oddly-observed black comedy that took seriously the sort of things you’re naming, before it starts being about other things.

        And *that* said, I think “realism” is sometimes used as a shorthand for “the writers seem to have carefully considered all the steps they’re taking, and do a good job of justifying with in-show evidence the choices they make in the writer’s room.”

        • SEK

          Well, there appears to be a surprisingly large group of critics who thought Mad Men suddenly became really heavy-handed with its symbolism and such in the last season after previously having been a paean to the power of subtlety.

          These critics may not be unrelated to the other ones. I really haven’t compiled a list at this point, I just started reading around critics I generally respect and was a little put-off by the talk of realism on the show. So, maybe this post is a lot of pointless throat-clearing …

          • teetop

            There are realistic things about the show: an article in the New Yorker recently by a journalist who did some research on the drug trade enumerated numerous details on which they were right or very close. But, yeah, the logic it operates on is the logic of the tragedy. Othello and Oedipus are obviously fictions taking place on a psychological plane, but because BB looks like our world, some people confuse that with realism. Mystic River was like that, a mythic tale put in a contemporary setting.

            • John

              Doesn’t naturalism traditionally involve doing lots of research and making sure that the stuff depicted is technically accurate? My understanding of Zola (garnered, admittedly, by never having gotten around to reading him) is that he was noted for meticulousness about that kind of thing.

              As I understand it, both from Scott’s post and from what vague prior knowledge I had of naturalism, the lack of realism in naturalism is more about its understanding of human psychology than about whether it gets technical details right.

              • SEK

                Doesn’t naturalism traditionally involve doing lots of research and making sure that the stuff depicted is technically accurate?

                That’s French naturalism, which is only tangentially related to American. (There’s no real tradition of naturalism in England. Feel free to provide your own punchline.) I should’ve specified that I’m talking about American naturalism, though.

            • Incontinentia Buttocks

              I think many people confuse an attention to detail with “realism.” The opposite of realism is not sloppiness.

            • Vince Gilligan talks in interviews about all the effort that the show runners go to to make sure all the little technical details are accurate. I think the confusion here is that different people are using the word “realistic” in different senses.

              • JRoth

                Exactly – it’s an artistic/literary term of art, but it also has a quotidian meaning that covers much more ground than the former. Perhaps capitalization would help matters – we can speak of architectures both modern and Modern, and while hoi polloi may not catch the distinction, at least anyone who bothers to write about the thing will have to pay attention to which one s/he means.

                I’m sure that at least some of the critics you’re referring to understand the difference between Realism and realism*, but if they’re not capitalizing either one, they tend to elide the distinction.

                * the opposite of small-r realism is probably “stylized” (not to be confused with stylish)

                • Hogan

                  Roman Jakobson breaks it down. Oh, Prague Linguistic Circle, how I love you.

      • Random

        I don’t know who these blind, deaf critics who have spent their entire lives in a small cage and only learned 200 words of English are. The show never makes any pretense to realism in any sense of the word about anything at any point ever. It is 100% about storytelling and characters and situations, that is crystal (sorry about the pun) clear from the first frame of the first scene of the first episode. They don’t even pretend to smoke meth realistically. Judging this show based on its lack of realism is like judging Bergman based on his lack of snappy one-liners.

      • Lindsay Beyerstein

        SPOILER ALERT through Season 5.

        You can have a realistic representation of cancer in a non-realist narrative. Some of the sciencey stunts are realistic in the sense that, under ideal conditions, it might be possible to commit suicide with an external defibrillator or weld your way out of flex cuffs with household wiring or use a fumigation business as cover for a highly sophisticated mobile meth lab. That doesn’t mean that these things usually happen in our world, let alone in rapid succession.

        Breaking Bad is very much a border melodrama. I mean that in a complimentary way. You’ve got stunning coincidences, feats of derring-do, larger than life villains, etc.

        • SEK

          I’m going self-plagiarize: Breaking Bad is practically Shakespearean with its plot machinations: if they take Walter down, his blameless brother-in-law, who’s falling off the structurally opposite rails, will go down with him! When I write “staged,” I don’t mean it as an insult, more in the sense that this logic belongs to the stage.

          Put differently: a play can only have X number of actors, and they can only have X number of sets, so a playwright’s required to make the king’s brother kill his mistress after his mistress sleeps with his son, because he can’t hire that many woman (or men to play women) to be in the play. It’s the power of constraints. To roll out that old chestnut about sonnet writers: writing within the constriction of a form leads to a more refined use of language because sonnet writers have to make the difficult decisions that a free-verse poet doesn’t.

          • Hogan

            People used to wonder about W. S. Gilbert’s obsession with fat middle-aged women, but as Wilfrid Sheed pointed out, what else are you going to do with your contract contralto?

    • In describing The Wire and Breaking Bad to my wife, as I was explaining why I thought she’d enjoy them, I compared them to a grand opera and a Goya miniature, respectively. She understood that part of my meaning was that neither was particular realistic but both carried an emotional punch.

      • SEK

        I’ll echo the comment below about The Wire, which is partly the product of actual reporting. There are scenes and dialogues drawn straight from Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets. Its intent is obviously more along the lines of a Dickensian morality tale, but it never violates the dictates of realism as profoundly as Breaking Bad does. It’s stylized, as I noted in the post, but it’s never bound to the dictates of its premise. (Maybe?)

    • Robert Barrett

      With shows like Breaking bad, it’s no wonder our youth aspire to the worst society has to offer.

  • MAJeff

    I actually just started watching the first season of Breaking Bad this weekend. With this and Malcolm in the Middle, I’m convinced Bryan Cranston just looks for roles where he can run around in tightie-whities.

    • SEK

      The way he plays off Hal is beautiful. Suddenly he’ll turn on the bumbling charm and there’s Hal, sometimes even completely clothed, before our eyes. Then he’ll go and … wait, you said you were in the first season? You shouldn’t even be reading this post.

      • Halloween Jack

        I’ve tried to figure out if Hal and Walter could be the same person, and it’s just barely possible if Hal and Lois got married very young, MitM takes place in the decade before it aired (the first half of the aughts), and there’s a reason why Hal/Walter has never mentioned his first family (given the degree to which Walt is capable of compartmentalizing his life, it’s not impossible). AFAIK, Hal’s last name and his profession were never mentioned in MitM, that family had perpetual money problems too, and Malcolm could have gotten his brains directly from his dad.

        • mark f

          I didn’t finish Breaking Bad‘s fourth season until the new one had aired a couple of episodes (all caught up now!). I think it took me so long to start watching because I kept associating the imagery of Bryan Cranston in the desert with a crappy late Malcom in the Middle episode in which he was lost near a military base with the oldest son.

          • Friday Next

            I am still working my way through season 1, but I still cannot wrap my head around Cranston as anti-hero. But then I am an old school Anti-Dentite.

        • Caravelle

          You know, I was going to say something about the comparative parenting styles of Hal and Walt proves your theory wrong, but there was a strain of psychopathy running in that family wasn’t there? And it wasn’t limited to the kids and Lois.

          I was thinking of how for all his failings Hal was too good a father to, say, drink his own son under the table because he felt emasculated by a money laundering scam he himself involved the kid in… But now I can totally see that scene as a MitM episode. Except it would be hilarious instead of off-putting.
          (actually, now I want to see Breaking Bad with Walt, Jr. and Holly replaced by Malcolm, Reese and Dewey.)

  • Medrawt

    I can’t speak to the rhetoric of what “naturalism” is or isn’t narratively, but I think Breaking Bad, whether it was always meant to or not, has veered away from “what would happen if a chemistry teacher started cooking meth” and into a specific exploration of Walter White, who is clearly not supposed to be your everyman-high school teacher fallen on hard times, or even your garden-variety embittered and prideful cancerous high school teacher fallen on hard times. Walt is given so many chances to extricate himself from his circumstances and he always turns away – even by the standards of television anti-heroes of the past decade, he is almost uniquely prideful and bitter, the show has devoted some time (including last night) to exploring how he came to be so uniquely prideful and bitter, and the show’s attitude towards its protagonist clearly isn’t “if you dropped a chemistry teacher into the meth trade he’d turn into a vicious monster” but “Walter White at 50 was a vicious monster in waiting.” However compromised everyone else on the show (except Hank and the kids) is, Walt has turned into a figure perhaps uniquely despicable even by the standards of the company he keeps.

    • SEK

      The timing is what sells me on its naturalism: it’s not that things spiral out of control, it’s the pace at which they do. One day, you’re on farm plowing your wheat; a week later, you’re in the poor house trying to decide whether eating a dead child’s ear is morally defensible.

      • Incontinentia Buttocks

        Showrunner Vince Gilligan tends to describe BREAKING BAD as “a story about a man who transforms himself from Mr. Chips to Scarface.”

        But in fact, as you suggest SEK, what transforms Walter White isn’t so much a series of choices–though he certainly makes a long series of progressively bad choices–but the logic of naturalism.

        Or perhaps this is putting it incorrectly. Maybe it’s better to say: Walter White’s progressively dire choices make narrative sense to us because of the logic of naturalism.

        • Medrawt

          I know that’s what Gilligan runs around saying, but I think the show undercuts that somewhat, because Walter was never Mr. Chips, and on the few times we dip – either by flashback, or by him telling a story – into the past we find evidence of the self-destructive pride that’s been curdling inside him for decades.

          I do think it’s fair to say that absent some unlikely circumstances colliding, Walt would never have turned into the person he is now, but I think it’s also fair to say that there aren’t many people who would’ve been in Walt’s shoes and made his choices. What we’re seeing is an exceptional circumstance, which is what most stories are.

          • this week’s mention of the Grey Matter background supports that. He starts to talk about the bitterness of what he felt he was cheated out of, and then realizing he was revealing too much, he moves hurriedly on “but that doesn’t matter”.

          • The Mr. Chips thing is clearly false. Walt at the outset was not so much a goody-goody or optimist or do-gooder or nice person as much as he was a loser, and everything Gilligan and Cranston have ever said about the tangible details of filming Season 1 emphasizes this decisively. The show isn’t about a moral person turning immoral, it’s about someone recessive and weak and who has followed conventional authority (“a good citizen”) and what it would take for that person to become an overtly amoral agent of evil.

            • By the way, if you folks haven’t watched this, you probably should do so. A few hours of substantive interview with Gilligan, who comes off as a preposterously nice person for someone so brilliant.

            • Halloween Jack

              Right. Walt is an innately furious man, as is made clear in the first episode (dressing down the student in his class, then futilely trying to stand up to Bogdan to avoid the public humiliation of washing a car), but he’s also weak–probably the most cringeworthy part of the pilot isn’t the scolded student filming his teacher washing his car, but Walt’s birthday party being dominated by Hank and his DEA buddies.

              The most heavy-handed symbolism in the pilot is the contrast between Walt getting a handjob from an unabashedly distracted Skyler, but their sex right before the closing credits, which, it’s implied, hasn’t happened in a while. Walt loses his impotence… right after he’s killed his first man. That’s not the sign of a healthy psyche.

              • Halloween Jack

                Grrr. Should be “and”, not “but” in the last para.

              • SEK

                Walt is an innately furious man, as is made clear in the first episode

                But there are many innately furious men, just not quite so many in the particular set of circumstances that Walter ends up in. Part of the point, at least with American naturalism, is to critique the system that creates an environment in which innately furious men become a problem instead of being, however sloppily, assimilated into the body social. Think Hurstwood in Sister Carrie: if they’d never gone to New York — and a whole host of other things that don’t need mentioning now — he’d never had fallen as far as he did.

            • Lindsay Beyerstein

              I wouldn’t say Walt was a loser. He was guy with a pretty good life who was bitter because he felt his intellect entitled him to so much more.

              • SEK

                I agree that, while white male entitlement certain factors in, I think it’s intellectual entitlement that drives him. And us, for that matter: most of the audience likely sympathizes with Walt because they, too, believe they’re unacknowledged geniuses. It reminds me of a student who — somewhat randomly, given that it was in a discussion of Joss Whedon’s dialogue — declared that if put his mind to it, he could concoct internal rhymes just as complex as Eminem’s, he just didn’t have the time. Similarly, I think many people watching Breaking Bad secretly believe that they’re being shown a potential life-path: they may not be chemistry teachers, but if they had been; and they don’t know how to run a meth empire, but if they had one, etc.

      • Full of Woe

        I can never decide if the fact that realism often involves scenarios as grisly and lurid as the most cracked-out Gothic novel bemuses me or makes me want to laugh. Both, I think.

  • Jason

    Super interesting. But I’m note sure about the naturalist thesis. Because I’m not sure Walt’s behavior and character are supposed to be wholly or even primarily “determined” by his cancer/meth circumstances. The show seems to me at bottom a character study, where the character is not determined by the circumstances of being a teacher making meth, but at most only intensified by them.

    Not just anyone would do what Walt would do, or be as he would be, in those circumstances. He’s a particular kind of asshole, and was long before the events of the first episode. The flashbacks and his reactions to friends and family in the early seasons establish this. For me, at any rate, the show is most interesting when thought of as an examination of a narcissistic control freak with masculinity issues ruining things for everyone around him. The meth context heightens the hijinks, but their source lies in a nature independent of that, one that we can recognize in men not in that context.

    • Jason

      Whoop, cross-posted with Medrawt who says a very similar thing.

      • Medrawt

        Right. I posted a bit about this at the AV Club earlier today, but Walt’s circumstances, basically, are that he was gifted with an astounding intellect and an entitled sense of what masculinity – in particular, a fear of weakness (his dying father) and disrespect – that he was fated to never live up to. The failure + his brain made him enormously bitter and prideful, and everything else follows from there. He found himself (put himself) in a situation where the only way to survive was to abandon his moral conventions and let his intellect have free rein (ricin! bombs!), and then he liked it.

    • Lindsay Beyerstein

      Agreed. Walt is a particular type of asshole who gets an unusual late-life opportunity to give all the worst aspects of his personality free reign. Hence the title, “Breaking Bad.”

      In Season 1, Jesse remarks that it’s unusual for someone to break bad at Walt’s age. This metaphor makes it sound like Walt was a particular kind of person who could have broken either way, depending on the circumstances. If he hadn’t gotten cancer, and therefore decided he no longer had to worry about the future, he would have remained a passive aggressive, nebbishy guy.

  • Richard

    I just started watching two weeks ago and am midway through the third season. Claims that it is naturalistic and realistic are silly.

    For one thing, how would any critic know anything about the meth business so as to make that judgment?

    For another, many of the scenes are very cinematic but obviously not realistic. I haven’t got to the Jesse and the Beans episode but the scene where the caballeros sin nombre go after Hank is totally fanciful (hit men try to attack DEA agent in parking lot of DEA headquarters and after ten minutes of car collisions and shootout, nobody from headquarters bothers coming out to the lot, hitman then throws away gun, calmly walk to car to retrieve axe and then calmly walks back to where Hank is with axe in hand).

    But, lack of realism notwithstanding, I’m addicted. And the acting by Walt and Jesse is great fun to watch

    • timb

      Minor quibble: Hank was attacked in the parking lot of a mall and people around him ran like hell when the shooting started.

      The obvious point departure from realism is the idea a professional killer would ever approach a man in a running car directly from behind

      • Richard

        Looking at it again, you’re right. It was a mall. But even then, it’s nonsense to believe the killer thought that no guards, cops, etc would come while he strolled to his car and back to Hank

        • Halloween Jack

          It wasn’t anywhere near ten minutes, either.

          • Richard

            Maybe not exactly but certainly several minutes. The first caballero gets crushed by the car a couple times, two innocent bystanders get shot at and then you have the gunfire between Hank and the second caballero and then the slow walk to get the axe. All in the crowded parking lot of a mall. No security arrives, no police arrive, no bystanders are seen arriving or even rushing around despite the car crashes and the gunfire. Very cinematic but not realistic at all in the sense of “this is what would happen in real life given these actions”

            • SEK

              And then there’s the extreme long/reestablishing shot that encompasses all the carnage … but there’s not even an off-screen siren to indicate that someone’s called 911. That boggled me for a bit, but I think it could be fruitfully argued that that was the point: in a city in which meth addiction is a problem, people run and hide first, check themselves and their compatriots for wounds, chat about how this is all the Democrat Party’s fault, then call the police.

        • Lindsay Beyerstein

          The main departure from realism was having drug dealers attempt a brazen, broad-daylight hit on a DEA agent on the U.S. soil.

          In Mexico, drug dealers gun down federal agents in cold blood all the time, but that doesn’t typically happen here. No drug cartel wants to declare all-out war on the DEA.

  • It’s worth noting that the show is fond of using dinner table scenes in general and at the White table in particular, and often feature two+n shots, but that they usually bring something different to different situations.

    Fer instance I don’t think the particular combination of the empty chair, curtains, and chandelier have been used this way before, though they’ve certainly been used separately in earlier situations.

    Stuff like this is great but it makes more heavy-handed decisions, like giving Marie nothing but purple to wear and making purple the dominant color in every shot inside the Schrader household, more noticeable and irritating.

    And, in a tangential aside: what was with the right hand man in the Phoenix crew sporting the Walter White shaved head + thick red goatee look? On a practical level, has his physical description really spread that far in the Southwest meth production community? And what’s it doing on a more thematic level? Identifying Walter more clearly with the business/empire-building side of meth production? That seems kinda weak, but it’s the best I could come up with.

    • SEK

      Stuff like this is great but it makes more heavy-handed decisions, like giving Marie nothing but purple to wear and making purple the dominant color in every shot inside the Schrader household, more noticeable and irritating.

      That was the alternative post I’d sketched before I went with this one (and its partner, which I’ll post tomorrow): the purple. The Purple. I went with this staging 1) because it’s more minor, and making a big argument through a slight technical analysis is more convincing, and 2) because I can actually believe Marie would buy/steal a matching set of purple Kitchen Aid appliances, curtains, etc. That’s within the purview of her character.

      • Medrawt

        Don’t come and tell me Marie wouldn’t buy everything purple. Let me take you to my aunt’s house and show you ALL THE GODDAMN ANGELS, the mania for which makes Marie’s purple fetish look benign.

        • teetop

          It’s true! I know women who have pigs, strawberries, pandas, all something they collect. Her fetishizing purple totally makes sense.

          • mark f

            I once heard Garrison Keillor describing this sort of thing. My Google-fu is failing me, but here’s the gist:

            You get a knick-knack, let’s say it’s a cow. You either like it or don’t want to offend the relative who gave it to you, so you put it in your kitchen.

            Someone is over and notices your cow, and buys you another cow knick-knack. Now you have two.

            Now more people notice the cow theme you’ve got going on, and every time they need to buy you a gift or just happen across a cute cow thingy, you are presented a new one.

            By this point there is no escape: you are officially a person whom everybody knows likes cows. It’s just your thing.

            • JRoth

              The Onion captured this perfectly 15 (or so) years ago, with a story about a receptionist who accidentally says that she “loves” hippos (or whatever) when given such a knickknack, and she immediately realizes that she has now doomed herself to a lifetime of hippo gifts.

      • Josh

        making a big argument through a slight technical analysis is more convincing

        I think you’ve just expressed precisely what I find so frustrating about these posts of yours.

        • SEK

          I think you’ve just expressed precisely what I find so frustrating about these posts of yours.

          Anyone can demonstrate that the abundance of purple in a particular character’s kitchen is part of an anti-realist ethos, but it’s also easy to shoot down such arguments, as Medrawt and I did. Demonstrating that this ethos exists in the tiny moments, the ones that don’t scream “INTERPRET ME THIS WAY!” is far more compelling, because if an ethos is evident in something as simple as the staging of a dinner, that supports the larger argument that there’s something to the purple. At least, this is how my brain works. If yours doesn’t, you’re welcome to get your free Internets commentary elsewhere. (I don’t mean that in a hostile sense, just in a “that’s not how my brain works, and it’s not likely to change” sort of way.)

          • Josh

            Sorry, that came off as more hostile than I intended! I’d been trying to figure out why I react so strongly to your posts, and you articulated it exactly; that’s all I meant to say.

            • SEK

              No offense taken. I know I can sound a tad defensive at times, but that’s just because I get tired of deleting comments like “More of this shit?”

              • JRoth

                Oh, I just thought those never posted.

                • SEK

                  They’re usually left in the first hour or so after I post, when I’m still patrolling it for comments (and maybe revising it for stylistic tics or outright grammatical errors). I just kill them, as they’re all left by the same three or four people. Why they continue to leave them is beyond me, since they’re not really trolls and comment on my other posts, but I don’t know. Really. I just don’t understand some online behaviors.

      • ajay

        Obligatory Jenny Joseph:

        • Left_Wing_Fox

          My mother read that poem to me once. Since then, I have seen numerous gatherings of old ladies in purple tracksuits with red hats. =/

          • JRoth

            Yeah, I’d never heard of it before I saw a group of them going down the street. When I told my (better-read) wife about this sight, she rolled her eyes and told me what it was about.

            Of course who am I to talk? I’m always walking around with rolled trousers and an uneaten peach in hand.

    • Stuff like this is great but it makes more heavy-handed decisions, like giving Marie nothing but purple to wear and making purple the dominant color in every shot inside the Schrader household, more noticeable and irritating.

      It’s not necessarily unrealistic. I had a couple of college studios with a woman like that. Always some purple or lavender. Weird. Unless she was an exceedingly subtle performance artist.

      • Oh I ain’t raggin on it because it’s unrealistic. I’m raggin on it because in a show that rewards noticing the subtle details of visual aesthetics and shot composition it’s a little jarring to have purple shoved in your face every time Marie or her house is shown. Other characters have similar color schemes but it’s a lot more subtle. With Marie it’s every outfit and in the house it’s every shot.

        It’s like having the 1812 overture come on your ipod right after a quartet. Or some other strained metaphor.

        • Marie is a scary character in her own right. The shoplifitng subplot was barely explored, but it seems to me there’s a fair amount of weirdness there.

          You know, I was going to say that I thought Hank was the only kind of likable character, but then I thought about how he tended to bully others, especially his partner… even Skyler has turned bad, manipulating everybody to get the car wash. I know it is part of the show, but while I love the characters, I don’t think I’d LIKE any of them…

          …however, perhaps in a putative sixth season, they could introduce zombies. yeah, THAT would be cool.

          • Yeah, the show’s great in providing mixes of traits and flaws in its characters that are all different.

            Skylar’s passive-aggressive, greedy and manipulative but is still willing to put her life on the line to do the right thing, to some extent. Marie has some weird psychological stuff going on that was only hinted at but gives a shit about people. Hank’s heart is in the right place but he’s a dick and was a huge dick during rehab. Mike is a psychopath but is a professional and has his own internal code. Jesse’s kind of the same way but is more emotional and cares more about relationships. Emo McGee actually acts like a teenager, which is hard to pull off.

            Really the “best”/most moral/likeable characters on the show are Badger and Skinny Pete. But they’re the most peripheral, too. Maybe Badger at some point got high and, fed up with that pizza place for not cutting the pizza, shot up the store, and that’s why they went clean. We just don’t know.

            I think Medrawt above was right in saying Walter is uniquely monstrous/twisted/bad among the show’s characters. By now almost all of his good character traits have been leached away or turned toward selfish or destructive ends. But the reasons for and evolution of that monstrosity are still fairly complex.

            • Really the “best”/most moral/likeable characters on the show are Badger and Skinny Pete.

              I was thinking the same thing. The scene in the music store, with Badger banging away on a stupid double-neck guitar while Skinny Pete was playing impressive classical keyboard was HILARIOUS.

            • Lindsay Beyerstein

              Skyler’s not so bad. She was kind of a nothing-burger until she learned the truth about Walt’s secret life.

              After that, her character really blossomed. She proved to be a much better natural criminal than Walt, as evidenced by her handling of Benneke’s tax evasion. The fiasco over his accident wasn’t her fault, but she felt appropriately remorseful about it.

              I wouldn’t say Skyler’s greedy. She’s laundering Walt’s money because she doesn’t want her husband to go to jail. We never see Skyler spend extravagantly on herself. It’s Walt who can’t resist the trappings of wealth.

              Now that she’s trapped in an abusive marriage, she’s got serious emotional problems, but she really loves her kids and wants to do what’s best for them.

              • dan

                This is a pretty charitable reading of Skylar’s character. I suppose that, in one way, spending three quarters of a million dollars to protect your ex-lover from the IRS is not “spend[ing] extravagantly on herself”, but on the other hand, it’s also made clear that Skylar was doing that at least in part to protect herself from investigation by the IRS.

                And Skylar may want to do what’s best for her kids, but she doesn’t in fact do what’s best for her kids. She’s had plenty of chances to leave, to say nothing of access to more than enough money to finance that flight, and she’s made no attempt to do so.

                • Lindsay Beyerstein

                  Yeah, paying Ted’s taxes was the least self-indulgent way Skyler could have spent the money. She didn’t even like the guy anymore. She only did it to keep herself and Walt out of the cross-hairs of the IRS.

                  Vince Gilligan has gone to a lot of trouble to establish why Skyler can’t just take some money and run off with the kids. For one thing, Walt, Jr. is a stubborn teenager who’s not about to leave his beloved father willingly. Skyler wouldn’t abandon him.

                  If Skyler flees without exposing Walt, she’ll look like a crazy woman. Walt could even call the cops and get the kids back.

                  At one point, Skyler threatens to frame Walt as a wife-beater, but she buckles when he points out that she’d have to tell Jr. that his father’s an abuser, and she’s not willing to do that.

                  Skyler doesn’t want to turn Walt in because she doesn’t want the kids (or Hank and Marie) to know what Walt does for a living. Also, she’s implicated in the money laundering side of the business, so she could go to jail, too–though maybe for a reduced sentence if she testifies against Walt.

                  Either way, she’s going to be hard pressed to support her kids. As a bookkeeper, she knows that the car wash and all their assets will be seized if Walt gets caught.

                  So, her plan to exile the kids and wait for the cancer to come back and kill Walt seems like the best of a lot of bad options.

              • I agree Skylar’s awesome. In her way she’s as badass as Walt or Mike. And she’s become the most sympathetic character on the show, since she’s dealing with an incredibly fucked-up situation in a selfless way.

                The knocks against Skylar are that she was pretty judgmental and suspicious of Walt in the beginning, and didn’t really communicate with him about it, for no real reason. (Well, none that are in the show; who knows what their marriage was like before the show started.)

                And she’s not greedy or prideful to Walt’s extent, but it’s still there. It’s pretty explicit that she doesn’t go to the cops or run with the kids because she’s enticed by the money; her lawyer advises such and she rationalizes, and soon after there are a few shots of her gazing longingly at a duffel bag full of cash and Walt talking about the security for the kids the money will bring. Plus she spends a lot of season 4 being all “why don’t you go to the police” to Walt and kinda rationalizing not going herself. She’s not spending ostentatiously but she’s made it pretty clear it’s because she’s worried about the IRS noticing.

                But I agree most of this stuff is her reacting to a bad situation. “Blossoming” is a good way of putting her evolution in the later seasons, and not only in standing up to Walt and being more sympathetic. That airhead routine she pulled in front of the IRS was badass, as well as the trick to get the carwash. Behind every successful man is a smart woman, or however that goes.

                • Lindsay Beyerstein

                  Skyler’s interview with the IRS investigator is one of my favorite scenes in BB so far.

                  I wouldn’t say Skyler’s greedy. To me, greed connotes wanting much more than your share. When Skyler gets involved with Walt’s scheme, her family’s in genuine financial crisis.
                  Her husband is dying, her job security is questionable and her earning power is nil, and she’s looking at how she’s going to support a baby and a disabled son. So, the money is very appealing to her, but I wouldn’t say that in itself makes her greedy.

                  I mean, nobody thinks Walt’s greedy when he first gets the idea of cooking meth to provide for his family. Why is Skyler greedy for seizing that lifeline.

                  Walt eventually becomes greedy, as evidenced by his temper tantrum after the first Vamonos Pest meth cook, and his refusal to take the $5 million buyout and go on with his life.

                • I mean that’s reasonable, but . . .

                  Doesn’t ratting Walt out to the DEA in exchange for witness protection solve the financial worries? It’s not like owning the car wash but they’d have housing, medical care, job training, etc. I think there’s a stipend for basic living expenses too.

                  And it’s not like she has no earning power. She’s talented enough at accounting to cook Ted’s books. Is she credentialed/experienced enough to get a job to support the kids right now? Probably not. But is she talented enough to go back to school to get certified or whatever while Hank and Marie help out? Probably.

                  That’s the other thing: waaaaaay back early in the first season Hank just casually drops a “y’know we’ll take care of your family no matter what happens” line of reassurance on Walt. Whether Hank was just being kind and what’s really feasible we don’t really know. But to the extent it wasn’t just smoke and that really is a viable option it dents Skylar’s moral rectitude a fair amount.

                  The original stressed decision to not rat on Walt and to assist a bit in the money laundering is comparable to Walt’s original goal of doing like ten drug deals before he dies so that his family won’t have to worry, sure. And I’m a little unclear on how much money they have at any given point in time. But didn’t they pay +$800,000 cash for the carwash? Which is more than Walt originally thought he needed to set his surviving family up nicely?

                  And in any event, at the point where Skylar is unloading hundreds of thousands of dollars from a pop cart in their car wash and she’s still rationalizing not going to the police, she’s compromised herself pretty thoroughly.

                  So is “turning down several unattractive but viable and moral options to provide for her kids in order to take the immoral path of least resistance that also offers giant piles of cash” greedy? I guess not if the definition of greedy is “wanting much more than your share”, which is a reasonable definition. But it’s still a blot on her character. It’s still doing immoral things for money she doesn’t really need. (Of course as far as Breaking Bad characters go, she’s still fairly righteous.)

          • Halloween Jack

            The thing with Hank is that he was given a redemptive character arc; one of the numerous head-fakes that Gilligan threw into the series was that Hank was the jerkass alpha male and it was kind of fun to watch Walt getting away with stuff right under his nose, but since his disabling, he’s become the Cop That Just Won’t Give Up.

            • Isn’t he CTJWGU from the beginning, though? In the face of bureaucratic opposition he identifies the blue meth as something new, that it’s being distributed everywhere, that it’s coming from a central location, and that it’s being manufactured within the US in conjunction with a cartel all way before he gets laid up.

              • Halloween Jack

                He does his job from day one, but his real tenacity comes after he develops PTSD following the Tortuga incident, gets kicked out for beating up Jesse, and is permanently (and apparently painfully) disabled.

                • There is probably an increase in tenacity, you’re right. That scene of him hobbling into the office to present his Fring theory, getting shot down, and still refusing to let it die does seem like it’s the start of a new level of obsession he hasn’t gotten out of yet.

                  This reminds me of the blogs AMC has for some of the characters, and Hank’s posts from his period of convalescence are pretty funny and in-character.

                  But then [Marie] says she never saw the blog as something that was supposed to be funny. Thanks, Sweetie. She always saw it as, you know, “therapeutic,” which sounds so much like me. I’m widely known to be a guy who regularly participates in bullshit hippie encounter groups or whatever the hell it is those freaks do when they’re not listening to some dipshit play the same guitar chord for four hours straight.

                  Apparently, I’ve become “too isolated,” and the perfect solution is to start blogging again. To “connect” with “friends” and “open up” about my “feelings”. Because nothing says well-adjusted quite like telling a group of faceless strangers how big a shit you took that morning. Not quite sure how “therapeutic” that’ll be.

  • gregary

    I’m a fan of both shows (“The Wire” and “Breaking Bad”), and I must say that equating their degrees of realism is quite the stretch. Between David Simon and Ed Burns, you get years of actual experience, which unquestionably influences the show’s characters and general message (namely, the failure of institutions). Of course, if you want pure realism, then you’d need to tune into shows like “The Corner” (the book’s even better) wherein people like Brother Mouzone and Omar Little do not exist.

  • Hogan

    (I know: I need to figure out what curtains are called. Feel free to point me in the right direction.)

    The outer, opaque curtains are called curtains or drapes. The inner translucent curtains are called sheers. Happy to help.

    What do I mean by “naturalist”? Even I’m not entirely sure.

    Hah! Grad school flashback! But not one of the ten worst I’ve ever had.

    Asa I understand it, “realistic” in its most rigorous sense means “depressing.” “Naturalistic” means “depressing with suicidal ideation.” I mean, I love The Wire, and I love Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but cops and dealers and teenagers ddon’t talk like that. “Creating an impression of reality” isn’t a style; it’s a floating set of subjects and conventions. (Seriously; in film terms, B&W was considered more realistic than color for a good long time after color became available, even though, hey, check it out, the world is color.)

    • Hogan

      Wow. A lot happened since I started writing that comment.

    • Caravelle

      Asa I understand it, “realistic” in its most rigorous sense means “depressing.” “Naturalistic” means “depressing with suicidal ideation.”

      Love. This. I wish I could think of a context in which I could quote this but I rarely have a chance to discuss naturalism.

    • ajay

      I love The Wire, and I love Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but cops and dealers and teenagers don’t talk like that.

      I’m going to be dubious about that, because quite a bit of the dialogue in The Wire was lifted straight from the reported conversations of real-life Baltimore detectives, as reported in the non-fiction book Homicide, and a lot of the rest was written by a former real-life Baltimore detective, viz. Ed Burns.

    • SEK

      The outer, opaque curtains are called curtains or drapes. The inner translucent curtains are called sheers.

      This is what I get for having spent my life in apartments with vertical blinds. Thanks!

  • el donaldo

    Breaking Bad is a farce (by which I mean it belongs to the genre of farce) – or at least when it’s at its best. There’s always been a pretty productive tension with its naturalist elements, but the episodes don’t tend to succeed then they present themselves as realistic explorations of what it might mean to be a meth manufacturer/kingpin.

  • Matthew

    You really took that to the logical extreme and ran with it eh?

    • SEK

      Depends on what you mean by “it.” Are we having nesting problems again?

  • Bloix

    When I was a grad student, I was assigned to TA a course called “Images of the Pacific War.” The students watched WWII movies and write about them (as I knew nothing about WWII or movies I was the perfect TA). The Japanese movies we watched were all post-war films and they were all about the cruelty, stupidity and arrogance of the Japanese military. And all my students would write essays about how “realistic” they were. But they weren’t “realistic,” they were as morality-driven and didactic as any triumphalist American war movie, but in reverse.

    So yes, as Hogan says, “realistic” means depressing. People suffering, unhappy endings.

    • Hogan

      Jay MacInerney at his best:

      The girl with the shaved head has a scar tattooed on her scalp. It looks like a long, sutured gash. You tell her it is very realistic. She takes this as a compliment and thanks you. You meant as opposed to romantic.

  • James E. Powell

    My favorite use the term “realistic” as a applied to films and TV shows is when people used it to describe the dinosaurs in “Jurassic Park.”

    Realism can’t be taken literally. If films or shows were as real as our lives they would also be as boring as our lives would be to watch.

  • dan

    You know what I like about the shot of the three at the table? That it has the fourth chair, and the chairs are placed evenly around the table. That’s a degree of realism sadly lacking from most movies and tv shows, it seems, all of which place groups of people around tables in ways that nobody in real life should sit, just to avoid having someone’s back to the table.

    Other than that, this season in particular has been more absurd than realistic. Still good, I just find a lot of the plot developments unbelievable (like last night, when a state court judge issued an injunction without notice prohibiting the DEA from following a suspect. What?). But kudos for placing both chairs and people around a table evenly.

    • Anonymous

      That it has the fourth chair, and the chairs are placed evenly around the table.

      This. Every episode of All in the Family gnawed at me for just this reason.

    • Anon21

      Technically, Saul only filed for a TRO, no judge has granted it. I don’t now why this would cause the DEA to hold up for a minute, let alone 24 hours.

      • dan

        I did go back and look at the two scenes and the language used is a lot more ambiguous than I had thought at first, but Saul does suggest in the follow-up scene with Mike that the TRO will be overturned within a day — a paraphrase, not a quote — so I’ll stick with my interpretation. Of course, if he’s only threatening to ask for a TRO, or has only filed the paperwork, even less reason for the DEA to back off, as they are overheard saying they would, although I do think there’s a possibility Hank is aware of the bug and intended to be overheard saying what Mike and Saul want to hear.

    • ajay

      all of which place groups of people around tables in ways that nobody in real life should sit, just to avoid having someone’s back to the camera.

      Which always annoyed me about Leonardo’s Last Supper.
      Was there a huge picture window or something that everyone wanted to be able to look out of?
      Were they eating at High Table in an Oxford college?
      Holding a televised panel discussion? (“Mr Iscariot, you have two minutes for your rebuttal.”)

      • Halloween Jack

        Are you serious? I’ve never taken an art history course and even I know that Leonardo wanted to get the apostles’ expressions right after Jesus said, “One of you is going to betray me.” Kind of tough to get that out of the back of someone’s head, even for a Renaissance master.

        • ajay

          If I put the point back up on the stand here, maybe you can take another shot at not missing it.

      • Halloween Jack

        Also, WRT realism, unless you have some pretty deep knowledge of how first-century Judean men celebrating Passover with each other rather than their families would have been seated, I’m not sure what basis you’re assessing the scene’s realism on. Maybe there was a nice view from that angle; having no idea of what the layout was of the house that it was held in (or, if you want to get right down to it, whether or not it really happened), it’s anyone’s guess.

      • dan

        Not to mention the way Mel Brooks is standing behind Jesus with an exaggerated smile, that really takes away from the majesty of The Last Supper. Of course, not knowing how Jews celebrates Passover back around the time of Jesus, maybe they all had Mel Brooks as the waiter standing in the background.

  • Random

    I have never for one second thought that Breaking Bad was trying to sell me “realism” instead of “narrative” and have no idea who these people are that would claim that. The screenplays, tension, and characters are vastly better than Mad Men.

  • urizon

    Thank you for reminding me how much I despise McTeague.

    • Dave

      Amen. American literary naturalism is about the worst body of work ever to cross the threshold of historical relevance (and that just barely). Smh.

      • SEK

        American literary naturalism is about the worst body of work ever to cross the threshold of historical relevance (and that just barely).

        For the better part of three decades it was the dominant literary mode in the what was becoming the most dominant country in the world. I think that rates above “just barely.” I’m not saying it’s of high quality, just that it’s preposterous to claim that it’s historically irrelevant. Sitting Presidents used to read publically chastise naturalist luminaries.

        • Dave

          Well, when the U.S. actually did become the most dominant country in the world, the world had long moved on from Naturalism. LOL if you think any given Naturalist holds a candle to any given Modernist.

          • Hogan

            James Jones and James T. Farrell were still at it in the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s.

            • SEK

              There’s that Richard Wright fellow too, and his Uncle Tom’s Children (1938) may well be the pinnacle of naturalist prose.

    • I think McTeague is great. So there.

      • SEK

        One of my advisors defined naturalism as “novels you didn’t mind reading but never want to read again.” I can swing with that.

  • Anon21

    Honestly, I do not think there is any significant strand of criticism that asserts Breaking Bad’s realism. Put up a link or concede it’s a strawman, SEK.

    • SEK

      Or you could use Google and find the very same links. I suggest you start with criticism of the first and second season, written at the time they were being aired, and move forward.

      • Anon21

        I’ve followed AV Club’s coverage since the beginning, and they’ve never said a damn thing about the show’s supposed “realism.” Who are you reading? Just give us a hint.

  • Anonymous

    Two years ago I picked an episode of Breaking Bad to analyze for my final assessment in my Television Cultures Class.

    I argued that the show followed too many superhero comic book conventions for it to be accidental.

    Walter White is literally a comic book super villain, and Breaking Bad chronicles his origin story.

    Realism? That’s nuts.

    • As someone upthread said, who goes tot he TV for realism? We get enough of that every day in our own lives.

      • mark f

        Tonight on Where the Fuck Did Those 28 Minutes Go, we join Walter as he takes fucking forever to bread some chicken. Will his wife give him a hard time for leaving the egg shell on the kitchen island?

    • Nigel

      Hmm. Isn’t it also the origin story of, y’know, a villain? Out of crime fiction? I could see this being the story of a villain/anti-hero in, say, a Donald E Westlake or a Lawrence Block novel. Breaking Bad particularly crosses over between the more darkly comic and the coldly scary of Westlake’s novels. Heck, it shares a theme with The Hook of cold economic logic leads ordinary man to casual evil.

    • Halloween Jack

      Scientist turns to crime, has at least one henchman and a secret identity? OK, I can kind of see that. Gilligan made his TV bones from writing for The X-Files, one of the more comic-booky of non-superhero shows.

      • Adrian Luca

        Not to mention that one episode of the X-Files, “The Post-Modern Prometheus”, specifically references comic books repeatedly.

        Also, Gus Fring, and eventually Walter White, work their evil sciences in a vast hidden underground laboratory/lair.

  • SEK

    Many replies from me in the morning. Not that I’m sure you want or expect that, but like the NWS I’m polite enough to let you know they’re coming.

  • So wait. The Wire is not realistic in the least, except it embraces a realistic ethos. And anyone claiming that The Wire traffics in realism must stand behind every single directorial choice made over 60-odd hours of narrative. And people who called it realism after a season or two, when it was clearly, decisively, ostentatiously setting itself apart in this direction from fare like Homicide or The Sopranos, are undone by a few scenes involving particularly magnetic and iconic characters. This side of, I don’t know, 100 Center Street, is there anything out there that’s any good that tends more to realism? By what standard would what work of American TV be more realistic? The Killing? I’d be interested to know, here.

    As for BB, it would never occur to me to characterize it as realist, and I’d be interested in hearing about anyone reputable who has. Meanwhile, your invocation of naturalism is helpful, I hadn’t thought of Norris but that’s a hell of a good comp — thanks.

    • SEK

      By what standard would what work of American TV be more realistic?

      To stay within the Simon canon, I can point to The Corner and Treme as being more committed to a documentary style realism than The Wire. Again, that’s not a judgment — as The Wire is, to my mind, the superior show — just a description.

  • Matt McKeon

    BB is like Macbeth. Macbeth is a middle aged war hero who suddenly becomes a mass murderer. The inclination was always there, is just needed a unique set of circumstances: the ambitious wife, the trusting king, the witches, to provide the opportunity.

    Once started he keeps killing. He doesn’t enjoy it, but he never loses heart, never expresses remorse and he never gives up. The murderer’s nature was always there.

    • “I am in blood stepped in so far that returning were as tedious as to go o’er.”

      Not remorse, but perhaps regret?

      • Matt McKeon

        Not even regret. He doesn’t feel much towards the end.

        After Lady Macbeth’s death he muses a little on the meaning of life, and decides it doesn’t mean anything. He’s weirdly optimistic. He has his charms from the witches. One more killing will stabilize the situation, and one more after that.

        • JRoth

          Just like potato chips.

  • blondie

    I was going to explain about the sheers and the drapes, but someone upstream beat me to it.

    Breaking Bad is a greatly entertaining, well-crafted, serialized story with polished, careful writing, direction, and production values, stand-out performances, and enough inside-baseball details and layers to get people talking about it at many levels.

    With respect to the likeability of the characters, I have disliked every one of them at one point or another, except Holly. She’s just the most delicious baby.

    Plus, the darned thing is so much fun to watch!

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  • Mike Jordan

    This is hands down the best show in the history of television, period!!!!!! Don’t question this. BC is an amazing writer and producer and creator. You should be massaging his ego so he keeps feeding us more episodes.

  • Interesting points. It doesn’t matter to me if it’s real enough or not though as long as it’s gritty and poses the right questions. I just wish I could get to watch the show in English where I live. Hopefully soon, fingers crossed:)

  • Dr. Stromberg

    The Wire isn’t realistic in the least? What show were watching? The dialogue, which is very pitch-perfect match to the Baltimore slang used by real life drug dealers, the very accurate portrayals of the dysfunctions in the institutions that from the Law enforcement, schools, politics. Portraying the drug dealers as fully fleshed out dimensional human beings rather the often vilified, reviled one-note bad-guy.

    They were drug dealers who were interviewed on a BBC show that centered on the Wire who said that the show was about 90% accurate. They’re have been real life FBI agents and police officers who come to showruuners and actors and be like, “How’d you get it so right?” Are they’re unrealistic elements in the show? Yes.Not enough to decimate the show’s overall faithfulness to life itself. The show eschews traditional screenwriters in favor of novelists who write in a realistic framework and journalists(who were highly steeped into politics and other subjects the show covered). The show doesn’t just have a realistic ethos. To say the show isn’t in the least bit realistic is a massive understatement. In comparison to the Breaking Bad, the Wire is like a documentary almost.

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