As well as watching all those free movies from Now TV during my October hiatus from work, I watched a number of TV series on Netflix UK that I have absolutely got to recommend.
Breaking Bad was promoted heavily at the time of Netflix UK’s launch, and boy, is it something to shout out about! It’s a fantastic show. It’s a comedy drama, but perhaps more emphasis on the drama. It goes to some very dark and cruel places, and never ever lets up on the tension and suspense.
Set in Albuquerque, New Mexico, it tells of Walter White, an overqualified high-school chemistry teacher who is diagnosed with cancer. His brother-in-law Hank works for the local DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) and having been taken out by Hank on a low-risk stakeout/bust, Walter notices his old high school student Jesse Pinkman leaving the property surreptitiously from the first floor bedroom window while Hank and his team are snooping around the back of the property they’re investigating. It turns out that Pinkman was in the process of doing business selling drugs and Walter decides to pay him a visit after Hank explains to him just how much money is being made by these drug dealers.
After a bit of toing and throing, Walter and Jesse get into the crystal meth business. With Walter’s chemistry knowledge, his is able to produce the purest meth ever seen on the market. Jesse is the business end of the deal – selling the product, Walter is the cook. Walter is in this to make money to help provide for his family upon his death. But as the series progresses it’s less about a nest egg, but rather the costs of chemotherapy and treatment as their health insurance just won’t cover the bills.
What’s so great about this show is that it takes a protagonist such as Walter, and slowly turns him into an antagonist. The show’s creator, Vince Gilligan, describes the show as ‘Mr. Chips meets Scarface”, and it’s absolutely the perfect description. Walter’s adventures are compounded by the lies he has tell his family and friends – and then having to come up with new lies when he’s on the verge of being discovered. It doesn’t help that Hank and his wife Marie are constantly in and out of the White household – making things very awkward for Walter’s drug business. Even when the truth comes out – at least to small extent – there are still many more lies floating around. A liar cake is made, as it were. Layers upon layers of lies.
Breaking Bad is a fine, fine show (IMDb users have given it an average rating of 9.4/10) – perhaps one of the best dramas I’ve ever seen. Season five begins on Netflix UK next week.
Arrested Development started off as a series in 2003 and has gone on to win so many awards and acclaim. It spawned three series until 2006, but despite all the praise heaped upon it (IMDb users have rated it an average of 9.3/10), the show had low viewing averages and the series was eventually cancelled. A fourth series has just been commissioned and is now in development (as of 2012), as well as a movie.
This is a fun show. Very few live action US comedies make me laugh as hard as Arrested Development. It’s silly, surreal and utterly compelling.
It tells of the mega rich Bluth family who suddenly lose their wealth after the father, George, is arrested having been found by the government of cooking the books for many years by using the firm’s money to fund the family’s lavish lifestyle. The one family member that hasn’t had his hands in the till is Michael – the middle child. His sister, his older and younger brothers, his mother and brother-in-law have all been at it. It’s Michael who has to sort out the mess – the only sane person in the group of people who are completely devoid of any sanity.
I cannot express how much I love this show, but I will say that if you want something that’s smart, funny and unusual – Arrested Development is for you. It’s up there with Curb Your Enthusiasm and Episodes as my absolute favourite US comedy shows.
Finally, and thanks to Arrested Development, I’ve discovered The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret, a series created by David Cross who plays Tobias in AR. Cross co-writes the series with Shaun Pye, who has not only written material for the likes of Jonathan Ross, but many other British comedy programmes too. It’s produced by Channel 4.
Todd Margaret is from Portland, Oregon who comes to Britain to head up the international division of an energy drinks company. The problem is that the energy drink in question comes from North Korea and is generally classified as being “toxic”. Meanwhile, Margaret’s boss (played by Arrested Development’s Will Arnett) is coming down hard on him to make plenty of sales. Margaret has a single employee in the form of Dave (played by The Inbetweener’s Blake Harrison) who is always winding Margaret up and getting in the way of success. All the while Margaret has designs on Alice, a cafe owner and keen molecular gastronomy cook, whom he meets the first time when he arrives in London.
The show is an absolute riot – like Arrested Development it’s chuckles-a-plenty at every turn. Cross and Pye certainly know their genre well and the result is a very smart, well written comedy that pokes fun at the many elements of US-UK relations as well as corporate politics.
A second series has been recorced and has aired in the US, but has yet to be aired over here. GAHHHH.