Breaking Bad ended this past weekend. So let’s talk about episodic TV.
***Warning there will be no spoilers for Breaking Bad in the video
The evolution of TV over the past 2 decades has been amazing to watch. After watching the finale we got into a discussion about the best endings to TV series and if Breaking Bad’s holds up. (It does) My top 3 are now Breaking Bad, Six Feet Under, and The Wire in no particular order. And I started to think how a show like Breaking Bad would not have worked 10 years ago.
I grew up in the hay day of Sit-Coms and enjoyed many of them Cosby Show, Wonder Years, Family Ties etc. Dramas of that era could have been call situational dramas. Each episode was formulaic. Scully and Mulder would arrive at a new mysterious case and would solve it. Sure characters evolved but MacGyver is still MacGyver, you don’t need to watch every episode of ER in order to enjoy an episode.
But you can’t say the same for the great episodic of the recent past. You can’t sit someone down to an episode of season 3 of BattlestarGalactica. They will be way too lost. It was the advent of first the VCR then TiVo that began the slow rise of the episodic show being able to survive other than early afternoon soap opera for the stay at home parent.
Today we have DVRs, On Demand, Hulu, Netflix, digital downloads, and other means of getting the show when and where you want. We no longer have to be in front of the TV at a certain time to catch our show. Never again will 100 million be watching one TV show say good bye like they did for M*A*S*H*.
Remember when ABC started airing Lost? They didn’t understand it episodic nature and would play 3 new episodes then repeat one. People would sit to watch it live or recorded and go crazy because it was not new. You can’t watch Lost out of order backwards… At the same time 24 would run every Monday straight until it was done.
I missed half a season of The Sopranos and I at some point I plan to finish it. I know how the last scene ends but I haven’t seen the episode so I’m not going to watch it or pass judgment on it until I’ve seen the last season and a half.
Bringing the conversation full circle, Breaking Bad doesn’t work unless you have the capacity to watch the entire series in order. A near impossibility 20 years ago is an unavoidable fact today. There are still good Sit-Drama out there like NCIS any of the Law and Order shows. But our ability to consume at our own schedule ends the need to make dramas that way. I’m still waiting for the episodic-comedy to hit TV. If you know of one please let me know.
If you have hung in reading this long you deserve a reward so here is a list of shows I recommend that you can watch for free online… legally. They are all on Hulu and no I am not getting paid by them.
Misfits: British teens doing community service when a meteorite hits giving everyone superpowers based on their personality for good and for bad. Gritty, sexy, and brilliant.
The Yard: From Canada comes this Mocumentary of the grade school kids who run the playground and their adventures against the mean kids who run the lunch room. Reflective of our grown up world, this is an elementary school Goodfellas:
The Booth at the End:You need something done? The guy that never leaves the café can make it happen. You must do something for him in return. No request refused. Well-acted one room Twilight Zone like series should be on everyone’s watch list.