Local Lifestyle

Monday, Feb 11 2013 05:43 PM

HERB BENHAM: 'Breaking Bad' is my latest TV addiction

By The Bakersfield Californian

Recently I began watching the first season of "Breaking Bad," the TV show on AMC that is now six seasons old. It is the story of a high school chemistry teacher (played by Bryan Cranston) who, when diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer and given two years to live, turns to making meth in order to provide for his family after he's gone.

The good news is, I still have teeth. However, given how addicted I am to this show, there's a chance by season five my teeth will have loosened and begun to have dropped into my soup, tooth by tooth.

"Mom and Dad, this is the best show I've ever seen on TV," Herbie said, a veteran of "Seinfeld," "The Sopranos" and also probably a half-dozen shows we've never seen.

Sue lasted one episode and she was done. Too dark, too gritty and too few characters for whom she could root.

This woman is fundamentally good. So much so that it's hard for her to watch people commit crimes and not feel as if she is an accomplice unless she does something, which, in this case, means leave the room.

"I'm sorry but I can't watch this with you," she said. "I can't see hanging out with these people week after week. There is nobody I like."

As a former public defender, she's earned the right. Those people were her people. This show was like watching reruns.

We agreed to a TV divorce. The separation has been amiable. I gained custody of the TV from 9 p.m. on and she got Blueberry, the cat, and my side of the bed until I stagger in.

I'm gone. Addicted. The only cure is queuing up another episode, turning out the lights, pulling down the shades and shielding the neighborhood from the desperately troubled person I have become.

I read an article recently on guilty pleasures that stated people love shows like this because they provide a narrative focus and a story arc that their lives lack.

I'm not sure what that says about us -- certainly nothing positive -- however let's focus on the good that's come from "Breaking Bad."

I have a renewed interest in chemistry, odd because I've never understood a science class in my life. Now the periodic table of the elements, which is displayed in the credits at the beginning of the show, seems fascinating. It makes me want to buy a home chemistry set and make something mysterious and colorful and if it makes a couple of bucks, that's OK too.

One hallmark of a show to which you are addicted is that you are always at the end of the DVD. Episodes are like thumbprints. You remember eating the first cookie but then you're overcome with thumbprint amnesia and they're all gone.

Gone and it's close to midnight, the room is dark and there is nothing more to watch. You remember that you have a life, but you can't quite recall what that life is and why you were excited about it in the first place.

Until the mailman comes three days later with a fresh DVD, there are few reasons to carry on except the promise of rolling around in the mud with Walter White, Jesse Pinkman and Tuco Salamanca.

The upside is, I still have teeth. Four seasons from now, I wouldn't bet on it.

These are Herb Benham's opinions and not necessarily those of The Californian. Email him at hbenham@bakersfield.com.

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