Teacher + family man + part time job + cancer = drug dealer. Welcome to Breaking Bad.
Watching the first episode of Breaking Bad last Thursday, 8:30 on Showcase, I wondered whether American TV producers will ever run out of ordinary people/extraordinary predicament scenarios. But then, just as soon as I'd concluded they will probably never run out of them, it occurred to me that it doesn't matter. It's all about how well they do them.
I never bought Weeds, the other program in which a suburbanite starts selling drugs to make ends meet. It seemed to me as if Weeds was hedging its bets. Hook the viewers by putting a "heroine" in a tight spot, have her sell drugs around the neighbourhood, chuck in an early-doors sex scene, but don't go in too hard: heroine should peddle harmless, everyone-does-it marijuana. Were the DEA to drug test Weeds and its paraphernalia, they would doubtless find trace elements of cop out. Breaking Bad, on the other hand, has Walter White, a chemistry teacher at a New Mexico high school who has just been diagnosed with cancer and faces two years max, deciding to cook and sell crystal meth, a far less savoury chemical enhancer altogether. While Weeds has the watered-down feel of a network television show, despite emanating from Showtime, Breaking Bad, even on one showing, has a more natural and gritty feel to it, topped with lashings of black humour.
So, how well do they do Breaking Bad? Well, pretty well.