Look, I like Breaking Bad. It’s a good show. But don’t you think that, as a society, we might have crossed some sort of an invisible line? It’s getting out of hand, the daily praise being heaped upon the cast, upon Bryan Cranston. And I’m not trying to take anything away from his performance, from the storytelling or anything like that. But it’s past the point where it’s way too much.
I’m talking about how the phrase Breaking Bad has entered itself into the beginning and end of almost every human interaction. It’s like right after two people meet and say hello, one party is obliged to at least make a reference to Breaking Bad. “How’s it going,” “Good, you?” “Great. Did you see Breaking Bad last night?” “Did I? Oh my God. That was the best hour of television I’ve ever watched in my life.” “Tell me about it! And I thought last week’s episode was as good as it could have possibly gotten.” “Right? I know!”
I went to the doctor the other day for a physical. He sat me down in his chair to look over my preliminary paperwork, and he was like, “So …” and I was filling in the blanks in my head, “So, it looks like you haven’t been to the doctor in a while,” or, “So, I notice that you’re blood pressure is a little up.” But no, he’s looking at my charts, and the first thing he says is, “So, did you watch Breaking Bad this week?”
And what do I say? Like I’ve already made it clear, I like Breaking Bad, OK, it’s a good show. But do I feel it necessary to talk about it with my doctor? “Well,” I told him, “I do watch it, but I’m a few episodes behind.” And he stopped with my papers and looked up at me slowly. “How many episodes would you say you’re behind by?” And I don’t know, my weeks are busy, days and nights have a way of blurring together. “Three? Four? I don’t know,” I told him. And he continued staring at me, clearly concerned, “But … but you do watch it, right? You do like Breaking Bad?”
“Yes,” I assured him, “I do like Breaking Bad.” He looked visibly relieved. “Good, that’s good,” and he went back to my papers. Was he writing that down? Is that pertinent to my medical history? I felt compelled to add something, anything, “I just can’t believe how far they’ve taken Walter White, his character,” and the doctor was like, “I know right? It’s like … wow … they’re taking him all the way.” “Yeah, intense.” “Right?”
And then every Sunday I go on Facebook and Twitter and it’s all Breaking Bad status updates, “Holy crap! I did not see that coming #BreakingBad.” “Just watched Breaking Bad. I do not know how I’m going to make it to next week’s episode!” I swear, I was walking down the street yesterday and there was a guy holding a makeshift cardboard sign that said, “Can you believe what happened last night on Breaking Bad?” and this other guy pulled out his iPad and wrote out a reply, “I know! Right?” and everybody around was just standing there nodding in approval, everyone stuck in awe of how groundbreaking this television series continues to be, and also, that we’re all in on it. You’re in on it. I’m in on it. And you know that I know that we both know that we’re watching it unfold together, the drama of our generation. Well, at least since The Wire wrapped up.
It’s not just social media, it’s all media, new, old. All of the newspapers are constantly running articles, stuff about Breaking Bad heralding a golden age of cable television. The New Yorker did a piece on Bryan Cranston last week and it was almost hagiography, interviews with all sorts of coworkers and Hollywood insiders praising Cranston’s work as the performance of a lifetime.
Again, I’d agree, Cranston is giving the performance of a lifetime. But does it have to leak into every aspect of my life? Can I just watch the show at my own pace without having to compete with everyone I know, trying to prove who likes Breaking Bad the most? Could we just watch an episode and then stay off of the Internet spoiling plot twists immediately after they’ve aired? I like Breaking Bad, but can we, as a species, just cool it, just a little bit?