This winter we were all witness to the first writer’s strike in 20 years. While we all took sides (the writers’…) it made for a very interesting Television season and had many people watching closely. It was almost an experiment and like the networks, a lot of us were wondering how the strike would or could impact viewer ship with the absence of many regular shows. It seems that the answer still isn’t very clear with both sides claiming victory and everyone is just happy that Lost is returning to further confuse us. Still, through all the turmoil, a few new shows debuted and made it through the other side (nearly) unscathed. I’m here to detail two freshman shows that stood out during this cold and dry season. One dares to cross the line and the other dares to be about Terminators and NOT include
Breaking Bad AMC Sundays 10PM
A surprise hit this season came from the new basic cable underdog of television series, AMC. Following their first true hit, Mad Men, they decided to bring the one-two punch with a series that was developed by FX but was passed on, probably due to its extremely controversial nature. Luckily AMC had enough guts to put Breaking Bad on the screen and it seems to be paying off. Many will recognize the show’s lead Bryan Cranston, who was arguably the best character on Malcolm in the Middle where he portrayed Hal, their child-like father, but most will be stunned at
This show is definitely not for the faint of heart, not only due to its drug depicting nature but also the utter hopelessness and self-deprecating feeling one gets from watching the aimless Walt. Coming from former The X-Files scribe Vince Gilligan, it’s something that should be expected. Like his previous show, Breaking Bad dares to go deep into the darkness of our own psyches and question everything we know. It isn’t quite clear why Walter decides to "break bad" (southern slang for, essentially, going down that bad road) but it is assumed it is so he can leave his family in good financial standing. Everyone can sympathize with that, but can they condone Walter’s actions? That is what lies deep in the heart of the show. It never asks you to agree with Walt’s decisions, only to understand them, which makes the show such an emotional ride. We are rooting for Walter but deep down we question why we are and if we really should.
The cast is top notch and the relationship between Walt and Jesse is one of the best duos to arrive in years. Both their lives have lead to a dead end and they strangely come together as they search for a way out. Of course the breakout star is
Unfortunately, the original order of 9 episodes was cut to 7 due to the strike but the transformation of Walt, thus far, is so compelling and dramatic that it’s hard to imagine where the series can go from here. Of course, his terminal cancer status brings all of this into question immediately but Gilligan and co. will surely figure something out (if they haven’t already) as it hopefully enters its second season. A controversial and daring series like this is something that will inevitably be both lauded and revolted against, especially on basic cable. But AMC has to be given praise for airing such a truly original and bold show. We can only hope they have the brains to continue Walter’s plight.
The season-finale airs this Sunday at 10 PM on AMC.
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles Fox
Another show that broke onto the scene this year was Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, a show that is also controversial in its own way. The Terminator series is now considered a classic, but only when it involves James Cameron. Luckily, this series ignores what happened following the destruction of the T-1000 and continues the story from there. We are now introduced to a 16 year-old John Connor (Thomas Dekker) and a thinner and more brunette Sarah Connor (Lena Headey). They’re still running and still trying to stop the creation of that apocalyptic company, SkyNet, which will ultimately bring upon the destruction of Earth as we know it by the hands of the machines. This time the two are being protected by Cameron (Summer Glau) a young, female Terminator who passes off as John’s sister.
This series isn’t groundbreaking, but it’s a real treat for Terminator fans and even for those new to the story. Sometimes relies too heavily on the films and newcomers may be at a loss as to what is happening. It’s surprising that this should even be a criticism, but towards the end of the season the show really comes into its own blend of new storylines blended with the ones we’ve all committed to heart. Following a 12 episode airing the show is still in limbo and its fate has yet to be determined. Unlike Breaking Bad it didn’t hit the ground running but for such a well known story, it’s really held its own and there’s obviously great potential for future growth. Lena Headey is no Linda Hamilton as she will always be the true Sarah Connor, but Headey breathes new life into the character and does the job. Fox should give this series, itself, more breathing room this fall and allow it to come into its own. But a network notorious for canceling great shows, optimism may not suffice.