Breaking Up with Breaking Bad

“It’s over, bitch.”

That’s how she put it in no uncertain terms as the credits rolled at the end of the series finale.

It was the voice of Jesse Pinkman that she chose, the show’s outlaw Robin to Walter White’s cancer-clad Batman on a self-destructive mission to save his family from financial ruin at the cost of such greater ruin.

She being the bitch, of course—or, rather, the son of one in the best sense of that term.

After six long years of our on-again, off-again, you-ain’t-seen-nothing-yet-again seasonal trysts, Breaking Bad is done with me.

But I’m not done with it. Un-uh. Not so fast. Not before I get to say a few words myself, thank you very much. So get back here like the trophy show that you are and hear me out—lest you forget that you needed me way before I needed you.

Truth be told, it wasn’t a six-year affair in my case, as it was for hundreds and hundreds of thousands of other viewers; no, I was among the greater number who only caught up on back seasons of the series in time to watch this last one live.

She and I, we made up for lost time in a serious way.

The thing is, this wasn’t like me: I may work in television, but I sure as hell don’t get hooked on it like…a meth addict.

Hell, yeah, I did, this time around. Are you kidding me? Don’t make me start talking like Pinkman’s sidekick, Skinny Pete, after sampling a fresh batch of crank.

[Read more...]

Prime Time Secrets

Recently I completed work on the first season of The Americans, a new FX drama about Soviet spies posing as D.C. suburbanites in the Cold War heyday of early 1980s America. My prior job was on Boss, about a ruthless Chicago mayor desperate to hide and survive at any cost an equally ruthless degenerative disease.

Loath as I often am to watch TV at night after a day spent creating it, I am hooked enough on Breaking Bad that ahead of its final chapter this summer I’m catching up on back seasons of the saga about a terminally ill high school chemistry teacher who puts his lab skills to use in the crystal meth business to secure the financial future of his family.

But I’m way behind on Mad Men, about a 1960s ad exec whose primary marketing campaign consists of maintaining his fabricated identity.

What gives with all the secrets that form a kind of landscaping in prime-time television? [Read more...]

David Foster Wallace Kills My Darlings

“You do not have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.”

–C.S. Lewis

To be an artist is to be constantly dissatisfied. Many acclaimed artists have said this, and though not acclaimed, I identify. I have habit of sitting on projects for too long, afraid to let go until they’re absolutely perfect, a habit that usually doesn’t lead to perfection but preciousness, an inability to let go.

In an attempt to be more at ease with doing as Faulkner commanded and “kill my darlings,” I’m doing a similar thing when I read, looking out for the precious progeny of the author.

David Foster Wallace, whose many detractors feel he should have killed a few hundred more darlings in his loose, baggy fiction, speaks to this double vision in his 1988 essay “Fictional Futures and the Conspicuously Young,” collected for the first time in his posthumous book of essays Both Flesh and Not. [Read more...]

The Last Taboo in Hollywood, Take 3

In yesterday’s post I did a “second take” (in keeping with the Hollywood motif) on my first post in this unanticipated sequence. Take 2 reconsidered my original point about “the gross lack of anything but lame portrayals of Christian characters in TV and film” in light of comments from readers that helped to correct me on one front (quantity of more nuanced portrayals) and adjust the terms of my argument on another front (quality of such nuanced portrayals).

In this latter vein, one reader’s comment on the oblique treatment of faith in Lars and the Real Girl brought to mind Emily Dickinson’s famous dictum to “tell it slant.” And lest I or anyone else forget, God himself subscribes to the same aesthetic with the parabolic mode throughout the Scriptures. [Read more...]

The Last Taboo in Hollywood, Take 2

I didn’t plan on there being a second take when I sat down to write “The Last Taboo in Hollywood,” my recent post here at Good Letters that took issue with the gross lack of anything but lame portrayals of Christian characters in TV and film.

But after years of working in the business myself, I should have known better: only a fool ever expects to nail a scene—or in this case, a post—in one take. [Read more...]


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