Thursday, August 5, 2010

Notes on Pop Culture: Two Seasons of 'Breaking Bad,' 'Rescue Me' Battles Alcoholism & Army Mom Goes AWOL

Breaking Bad’s First Two Seasons

CliqueClack TV, a blog to which I contribute, has this nifty little feature called the “Virgin Diaries” where the site’s writers watch a TV series for the first time and write about it, giving readers who are already fans of the show the chance to re-live the show from the beginning.

In the past few weeks I've been writing about AMC’s Breaking Bad, the drama where Malcolm in the Middle’s Bryan Cranston plays anti-hero Walter White, a high school chemistry teacher who’s diagnosed with lung cancer and starts cooking meth so that when he dies, he’ll leave some significant money behind for his pregnant wife and their 15-year-old son with cerebral palsy, as well as trying to make sure that the cost of his cancer treatments doesn't drive the family into bankruptcy.

The cancer, coupled with the drug making (he's a whiz at making pure crystal meth) awakens something dormant within Walt -- chiefly his confidence -- and he blossoms, going from a timid teacher (who had done Nobel Prize-worthy work in graduate school) to a cut-throat drug manufacturer.

My review of the complete first, seven-episode season is here, followed by my take on the first part of season two as well as the remainder of Breaking Bad’s sophomore season.

I was riveted by the first season while watching Walt transform, but I didn't find the second season as compelling as the first. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t bad, it was just . . . different, more depressing, as Walt’s personal life fell to pieces as he learned the ropes of the meth business and his partner coped with tragedies and struggled with his own appetite for drugs.

Rescue Me Battles Alcoholism

Speaking of depressing . . . the past two weeks of Rescue Me have featured the intense fear that Tommy Gavin’s daughter Colleen – who’s a raging alcoholic like her father – had died after going on a bender with Tommy (I was convinced that she was going to be found dead by the end of last week's episode), to this week's episode, where Tommy claimed he’s off the juice again and tried to drive demonic spirits out of his daughter by forcefully baptizing/exorcising her by plunging her face into a baptismal font which Tommy had filled with a priest’s stash of booze.

I can’t decide whether the show is going to try to sink Tommy to even lower depths – I don’t think he’s reached “rock bottom” yet, whatever one might call “rock bottom” – in his and his troubled family’s battle with alcohol, or whether it'll spend the remainder of the time trying to have Tommy climb his way out of the hole he's in. I also can't figure out where the writers are headed, and that's, I think, a good thing.

Army Wives and AWOL Moms

Recently Army Wives took on the thorny issue of what to do when a single parent is supposed to deploy overseas and his or her childcare arrangements fall through. Based on a true story of an Army cook who was threatened with court martial for failing to report for duty to go overseas after her mother backed out of taking care of her 10-month-old son, Army Wives tugged at the heartstrings, asking the question of whether this fictional AWOL Army mom should’ve been loyal to her job or to her child.

My column on moms in the military -- both on the Lifetime drama and what's gone on in the real Army -- was posted on Mommy Tracked this week.

Image credit: AMC.