Breaking Bad Season 4 Promo Poster
Chuck Klosterman, you are the best.
Chuck klosterman and bill Simmons enjoy smelling each others’ farts.
klosterman! and Simmons!
Nothing, up to this point, can touch the first 4 years of The Wire. Comparing Breaking Bad to The Wire is doing the former a real disservice because it is an excellent show and one of my favorites. However, it’s scope is very narrow, it’s characters few in number and the conflicts depicted now predictable. The Wire, especially season 2, destroyed whatever paradigm HBO had created in it’s cable drama genre and thereby set the bar incredibly high for television shows. As good as Breaking Bad is, it simply has not, and maybe cannot, reach the greatness of The Wire. Notwithstanding the foregoing: it destroys Mad Men and The Sopranos, both of which became a parody of themselves by season 3. Klosterman further damages his argument by offering his laudatory critique of LOST as a side-note to the column at issue. When one has a benchmark like LOST as a guide, one can understand that Chuck’s tastes must run more towards the popular and that’s fine, but placing Breaking Bad above The Wire is simply inaccurate. Finally, coloring The Wire’s fans as a “secular cult” relies on the “straw man” fallacy of logic and further undermines his categorization of the show.
I bet Tony felt really smart when he typed this.
Wow, somebody wanted to impress the interwebs with his vocab skillz. “Paradigm,” “laudatory,” even the use of the word “coloring” when “describing” would have been perfectly fine! This pretentious douche has it all!
“coloring The Wire’s fans as a “secular cult” relies on the “straw man” fallacy of logic and further undermines his categorization of the show”
Straw Man – I don’t think that phrase means what you think it means
Tony – Is a preference for BB over The Wire really a clear example of populism? I’d guess that there’s more fans of Wire but I could be wrong. And Klosterman didn’t use LOST as a benchmark so much as he denigrated it against the four shows.
Klosterman’s argument is solid because it’s based on how each show approached morality. You can disagree with his conclusion, or his reasoning, but it can’t be said the argument was damaged or illogical.
I think his stance is that the Wire is a higher quality show, and Breaking Bad’s reliance on stylized violence, extraordinary situations and plot twists, stock characters, etc., make it ‘populist’ by comparison.
Don’t really see the need to denigrate the guy. Agree, disagree, and/or present something else. There’s nothing any more pretentious in Tony’s comment than in Chuck’s writing, and you wouldn’t be here if you didn’t enjoy that, right?
You are smart but you don’t know everything.
If Chuck Klosterman could read comments to his essays in IV and Eating The Dinosaur, would he ever write a book again?
Tony likes sniffing his own farts, besides sounding really smart on the internet.
Tony stores his farts in jars–dating and describing them with a labelmaker–to be opened later, at his leisure.
tony may come off as pretentious but that doesnt change the fact that he is %100 right…
ok hes 95% right, totally agree with all his arguments re: the wire, to me its a much better show, david simon writes from experience as a crime reporter for the baltimore sun and an author who spent a year with the baltimore homicide division for a book. he isnt just spewing his own politics like klosterman implies, hes depicting what he has seen. and as for walt whites “breaking bad” transformation being the most interesting or significant character, i agree it is well done, season 2′s finale in particular sticks out, but to me the wire’s characters are more interesting and just as authentic (jimmy mcnultys internal stuggles, omar’s “code”, bubbles, carcetti’s idealism and then corruption, etc etc) there is no good or bad and the wire isnt afraid to show that. also as great a character as walt white is, the rest of the cast is mostly bland, sterotypical, or flat out annoying. jesse pinkman is good but walts wife, son, sister in law, hank, etc are all pretty average at best, annoying as hell at their worst, whereas on the wire i could rattle off 20 characters who are deeper, more realistic and better acted…all that said i do still love breaking bad but to me the wire is by a landslide the best drama of all time. oh and the disagreement i have with tony is where he says breaking bad “destroys mad men and sopranos”. while i love breaking bad and am not in anyway trying to belittle the show, mad men and the sopranos are both absolutely better than it.
I view ‘Breaking Bad’ a little bit like Van Halen. Van Halen was the greatest 80′s hair metal band that ever existed, no question… but not so great as to transcend the category.
It’s a plot-driven drama, and the best there is. But in terms of characterization, it’s lacking, especially compared to the aforementioned three (or even other notable series, like Deadwood or Rome). Beyond Walt and Jesse, everyone is more or less stock (some embarrassingly so, like the sleazy lawyer or Taco), and while the cinematography and other somewhat periphery elements are first rate, in the end you watch BB for the same reason you become glued to a John Grisham novel: To see what will happen next.
Lost was a show that infuriated me, and should have infuriated every self-respecting writer out there. The entire series was plot-driven, far moreso than BB; the characters were as static as one would expect from any network drama. Just when you thought you understood ‘the rules’, the island is moved, or characters time travel, or some other totally bizarre event takes place solely to throw you for a loop. Then, with fewer and fewer episodes to go, they jerry-rig a half-explanation of everything whilst tugging at your heartstrings with Jack’s fate in a finale that can only be enjoyed once. The writers of this show went toe-to-toe with the internet and ‘lost’. Afterwards, they had the gall to weather criticism with the insulting claim that it ‘was always about the characters’, as if those of us expecting answers on a show that gave us no reason to watch other than for answers were all intellectually-stunted buffoons that couldn’t grasp the majesty of what we’d witnessed. To keep the musical analogy alive, I’d liken Lost to the Bee Gees or some other 70′s disco heavyweight; it’s embarrassing to admit now, but at one time they were as big as anyone.
Mad Men is an acquired taste; I liken it to Bob Dylan. There is a formula, but thankfully, it’s complex enough to evade skepticism, and while it is ultimately brilliant, one has to wonder if the effort is always there. It does play the “how crazy were people in the 1960′s!” card a little often, and the stilted cadence of the dialogue gets tiresome, and save for Freddy Rumsden, virtually every character is impossibly elegant and intelligent… but I don’t think a more fully-drawn character than Don Draper exists anywhere on television. Chuck makes a point about how the drama is lessened because it involves no life-or-death scenarios, but I think that touches upon the very brilliance of Mad Men; the viewer is invested enough to feel a true sense of gravity over relatively trifling issues (after all, I sure wouldn’t want to lose my job). And the point about the characters being mere products of their time is a gross oversimplification; one wonders if Chuck’s even seen Mad Men beyond the first episode, where Don wows Lucky Strike in the comically foggy conference room.
The Sopranos was the first of such shows and undeniably the most popular; without the Sopranos drawing viewers into HBO, it’s very likely the Wire wouldn’t exist (certainly not for five seasons). It gets the Republican vote, no question, and beyond that I think Tony stacks up against near anyone as far as great characters are concerned. But the “after the first 2 seasons…” argument Chuck so casually touches on is a valid one, in my view; where does the Sopranos ever go? There’s so much filler, and so many nearly identical characters, and so many instances of an imperiled Tony that barely register because the show clearly couldn’t go on without him… one wonders if the Sopranos was a victim of its own success, and forced to expand far beyond what Chase’s original arch suited because of its breadwinner status. Musically… perhaps it’s the Rolling Stones? (Fitting: The season 2 finale prominently featured a track from Voodoo Lounge, one of the Stones’ later, post-apex, ‘keeping our private jets fueled’ albums).
So now I can finally reveal my decadent obstinance, and suggest that John Lennon and Dominic West have more in common than their shared British ancestry; they both headed the very best entities of their fields (of course, in the case of the Beatles, it’s very likely they’d have suffered without John. On the other hand, arguably the best season of the Wire occurred with very little McNulty). The Wire too has a formula, and it even lacks some of the complexity of Mad Men’s, but in other respects the show is so dogmatically authentic one can’t help but feel like they’re visiting old friends when rewatching it. The one instance in which the show compromised its own ethos was with Omar; always armed with the biggest gun and the coolest lines, and fans of the show regard him as a superhero. Some time ago, a common argument in any Deadwood vs. the Wire debate was that Deadwood was superior because of its beautifully crafted dialogue; opinions are never wrong, but this one simply is. ‘Beautifully crafted’ to some is self-indulgent and inauthentic to others (the charge of inauthentic is itself rather minor, until you realize the show’s chief pursuit in every other respect is authenticity). No show, certainly none of the others mentioned here, has dialogue as well-constructed as that of the Wire; completely authentic yet necessarily expository, and when the time calls for it, downright classic, be it with humour or tension (unlike Mad Men, which is overwitten in contrast).
The Wire; so entertaining and yet so culturally significant… well, like I said, the Beatles of television. If anyone read this far, thanks.
Mad Men is terrible. Cliched junk that looked really nice.
Oh and calling Van Halen hair metal is a disservice to Van Halen.
I think part of the appeal of Breaking Bad is that the tension is focused on the inner circle of the main, recurring characters, like a sitcom. In most dramas the tension is focused on the inner circle’s struggle with the external world. On Cold Case, for instance, the main characters unite — without any tensions among them — to oppose and conquer some evil that is external to them, a stranger who murdered another stranger. In Cold Case you’re not going to have a plot where a detective tries to subvert an investigation or frame another detective. That’s what you find in sitcoms. On Happy Days, say, and I know I’m sounding like a fool for using that as my example, the plot might revolve around Potsy doing something stupid that gets everyone else in trouble. Or on Three’s Company again Jack might accidentally — well, you get my point.
In that sense Breaking Bad’s conflict structure is like a sitcom. Hank makes life difficult for Walt and vice verse and then Jesse makes life difficult for Walt and vice versa, just like on a sitcom. I heard Vince Gilligan say that he intended Breaking Bad to be a comedy. Maybe that’s why he uses the structure of a sitcom.
My problem with Breaking Bad, even though I love it (and here I act just as Chuck says fans of these shows do act) is that it’s really not very believable. Sure, I believe that a high-school chemistry teacher might use his skills to make meth, but do you really think someone from such mundane origins is going to make millions making meth? And when Tuco kidnapped Jesse and Walt, do you really think those two wimps are going to be able to get over against someone that experienced in violence? If the duo had poisoned Tuco, it might have been more believable. But it just so happens that Jesse finds a rock buried in the sand and it just so happens that Jesse gets a good slam on Tuco and — and so on. In real life, once Jesse picked up that rock, he would have been dead and so would Walt.
I wonder too if Breaking Bad showed more of the misery that meth causes, we’d want to watch it all, much less identify with Walt.
Really? Believability is the issue? Have you entirely missed that the point of Breaking Bad is about the relationship between free will and morality? In that light, isn’t suspension of disbelief maybe a good idea?
I actually used to think that Breaking Bad was inferior to both the Wire and MadMen. After watching all 4 seasons, MadMen is much lower on the pole (a result of the last seasons of both MM and BB), and BB is now in a dead heat with the Wire. BB is about the conflict between free will and morality. The Wire is about how social institutions limit individuals’ moral choices. I haven’t decided which of those two themes is more important. However, if season 5 of BB is not a travesty like season 5 of the Wire, I should give it the nod anyway.
Saying Breaking Bad is better than The Wire is the same as saying Inception is better than The Godfather.
I do think Inception is better than The Godfather though.
Everyone’s entitled to their opinion. I disagree, and most of the critical community would disagree, I’m sure, but that’s a conversation for another forum.
a better comparison is between the Godfather and A Clockwork Orange.
But what did you think of The Wire, Season 5? Similar to Godfather Part III?