Tag Archives: Breaking Bad

A seasoned film critic eyes TV’s biography

At 75, David Thomson is the sultan of cinema criticism. British-born but long based in America, he is the author of nearly two dozen film-related books including “Moments that Made the Movies,” “’Have You Seen…?’: A Personal Introduction to 1,000 Films” and “The New Biographical Dictionary of Film.”

Now Thomson has switched his gaze, and his analysis, to the TV medium.

In “Television: A Biography” (Thames & Hudson, $34.95), David Thomson focuses on TV from its individual genres to its broad social impact during the past 70 years. As ever, his writing is bright, puckish and reader-friendly.

At 400 pages, the book is a bit weighty, but not the prose.

But what made Thomson, who had never before put his take on TV between covers, decide to change channels? During a recent interview, he explained.

“I was at a point where I felt that the movies were not really going anywhere very exciting, and that if you were looking for the best American movies, you probably needed to look at television. ‘The Wire,’ ‘The Sopranos,’ ‘Breaking Bad’ — they were so much more ambitious than anything made for theaters.

So I began to develop an historical perspective on TV that I had had on the movies for a long time. I’m much more interested now in thinking about and writing about TV than the movies.”

A VIEWER’S BOOK

“You may have watched a lot of TV but never thought systematically about it. I wanted to do a book which would give you a sense that the totality of the medium had been addressed. Not covered, but addressed. And if you have never watched television, after you read this book I think you can say, ‘I understand what television is.””

A DIFFERENT CREATURE

“Our relationship with TV is different than with almost any medium we’ve had before. It’s all well and good for something on TV to be so riveting that you don’t want to miss a moment. But when you tune in to watch one show, you may end up just watching TV overall. There’s such a lot on television that is sort of tidal — it just washes in and out, over you. You turn it on like you would turn on a light, and you may be doing other things. But even if you’re not watching, it enters into you in ambient ways.”

SHORT LIST

Thomson, film’s consummate list-maker, shared “off the top of my head” a few pick TV hits:

“Monty Python’s Flying Circus” … the BBC version of “The Singing Detective” … live coverage of the funeral of President John F. Kennedy … “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In” … “a couple of episodes of ‘All in the Family’ where Edith is just sublime” … the ESPN documentary series “O.J.: Made in America,” which he calls “a major work” … and, of course, “Breaking Bad.”

“But this time tomorrow,” he cautions, “I would revise the whole list.”

TV PRESIDENT

“With Donald Trump in the White House, I think we’re going to get more of the same as with the campaign: His administration will have to be judged as an ongoing TV show. He is a television person, so I think it’s going to be a presidency of shows and moments. My instinct is, in terms of policy, he’s doing to be dreadfully disappointing to his supporters. But on TV, I think it’s going to be amazing _ until it becomes grotesque.”

LOOKING AHEAD

“We watch stories and stars, but it’s more and more evident that, as TV viewers, we go where the technology takes us. My sense of television is that technology has always driven the whole thing, and I think that will continue. I think more sophisticated, interesting fusions of what we still call television with the computer are going to occur. That will be more important than any sort of new genre or new narrative form in entertainment. And I see the end of the movie house. But it’s inevitable that a cellphone will be built into our hands. So maybe a screen could be implanted in our heads. I think that will happen!”

 

Toys R Us yanks ‘Breaking Bad’ dolls after Florida mom complains

Toys R Us is yanking four collectible dolls based on characters from AMC’s hit series Breaking Bad after a Florida mom launched a petition crusade against it.

The dolls included models of Walter White, the high school chemistry teacher who turns into a crystal meth dealer, and his erstwhile sidekick Jesse Pinkman. The figures came complete with detachable bags of cash and methamphetamines.

Toys R Us, which is based in Wayne, New Jersey, told The Associated Press that the dolls were being removed immediately from its website and shelves.

“Let’s just say, the action figures have taken an indefinite sabbatical,” Toys R Us said in a statement. The retailer had maintained that the figures were sold in limited quantities in the adult-action-figure area of its stores.

The Fort Myers, Florida, mom, identified by news media as Susan Schrivjer, launched a petition on change.org last week, demanding that Toys R Us immediately stop selling the dolls. The mom, who wrote the petition under the name Susan Myers, said that the dolls are a “dangerous deviation from their family friendly values.”

“While the show may be compelling viewing for adults, its violent content and celebration of the drug trade make this collection unsuitable to be sold alongside Barbie dolls and Disney characters,” she wrote.

As of Tuesday, the petition had 8,000 signatures.

On Monday, Bryan Cranston, the actor who played White, responded to the controversy, tweeting, “I’m so mad. I am burning my Florida mom action figure in protest.”

The debate has also spurred die-hard adult figure collectors to rally behind Toys R US. Daniel Pickett, of Manhattan Beach, California, launched a petition on change.org in favor of the toy seller keeping the dolls. So far, it has collected nearly 3,000 signatures.

“I’m a parent of a school-aged child myself, but I’m an informed, responsible parent and I closely monitor the toys, TV, music, movies and games that my daughter sees,” Pickett wrote. “That’s my job, and I take it seriously. But I also like toys/action figures and I want 3-D representations of characters from my favorite properties and I love being able to walk into a store and find them.”

Drug supplier to ‘Monsignor Meth’ sentenced to 5 years

A woman who authorities say helped supply nearly 10 pounds of methamphetamine to a drug operation in Connecticut run by a Catholic priest dubbed “Monsignor Meth” has been sentenced to five years in prison.

The Connecticut Post reports that 49-year-old Kristen Laschober, of Laguna Niguel, California, was sentenced on Aug. 20 in federal court in Hartford.

She and her boyfriend, Chad McCluskey, of San Clemente, California, pleaded guilty last year to drug conspiracy charges connected to their meth business with now-suspended Monsignor Kevin Wallin.

McCluskey was sentenced to more than five years in prison in June.

Wallin pleaded guilty to a federal drug charge and awaits sentencing for selling large quantities of meth out of his apartment in Waterbury.

With ‘Breaking Bad’ behind him, Aaron Paul chooses racing film as next career move

When Aaron Paul received the script for Need for Speed, he had very little interest in even reading the story, let alone taking a starring a role in the movie.

He saw the title and immediately envisioned another poorly done video game adaptation. Or worse, a car film desperately trying to become a franchise.

“When I saw Need for Speed, I just instantly thought this is a Fast & Furious rip-off. This is going to be God awful,” Paul said in an interview with The Associated Press. “Let’s be honest — everyone going into this movie is going to expect to see something similar to Fast & Furious. That’s fine, the Fast & Furious movies, they’ve made six of them, they are on the seventh, they are fun to watch, they are popcorn movies and I have nothing against them.

“But I didn’t want to jump into something like that.”

Paul ultimately decided to read the script, which is based on the popular EA Entertainment racing game, and found himself surprisingly intrigued by the story of a street racer framed for a crime he didn’t commit. He seeks his revenge while taking a cross-country trip in a custom-built Ford Mustang, which he hopes to enter in underground and illegal street race called the De Leon.

Paul was hooked and signed on for the project in 2012, as he was preparing for his final season as Jesse Pinkman in Breaking Bad.

“I just had such a fun time reading this film, just flipping the pages,” he said. “It was just a fun ride and after doing a show for so long that I was so proud to be a part of, but it was also emotionally exhausting, just so heavy every single day. I wanted to do something that was a little bit lighter and this was that.”

Paul got his wish in a campy film with cliche-filled dialogue and a predictable plot. But the movie also features several European super cars — a Swedish Koenigsegg Agera R, Lamborghini, GTA Spano, Bugatti and McLaren P1, all of which are featured in the video game, as well as a Saleen S7 — and Paul got to do most of his own driving.

He trained at Willow Springs International Raceway, driving from Los Angeles before dawn for lessons that lasted up to 10 hours a day.

“From the moment the sun starts peeking up, I am there all day long, learning how to maneuver these cars,” Paul said. “It started out learning how to get out of problematic situations, and then I got to learn how to do all the fun stuff: driving the car backward at really high speeds, flipping the car around in a reverse 180 and going through stunt courses. It was so much fun, I loved every minute of it, it never felt dangerous.”

Paul did many of his own stunts, but said professionals were brought in for “the real heavy lifting” and Paul was only in scenes where the driving didn’t exceed 130 mph. Scott Waugh, the former stunt man-turned-director, insisted that all the action sequences and wrecks be done live and did not rely on the use of CGI or a green screen.

Both Paul and Waugh bill Need for Speed as an homage to classic car flicks. They cite Bullitt and Vanishing Point and even Smokey & The Bandit as inspirations.

So Waugh went into the film trying to give it a “Steve McQueen style of filmmaking,” as in when a camera would pull up right next to a car in a McQueen film so the audience could see the actor in the driver’s seat. That was in his mind during casting when he first heard Paul’s name.

Waugh had never seen Breaking Bad and was unfamiliar with Paul, a two-time Emmy winner for his role as Pinkman. But Paul was suggested to Waugh to play the villain, so he took a look.

“I didn’t even know who Aaron Paul was and everyone thought I was an alien on earth,” Waugh said. “Then I saw the tape of him and was so blown away, he was the obvious choice for the bad guy. But the more interesting choice and the one that would define the movie was the lead, and having him as the lead was the edgier choice. He’s not just a beautiful person, he’s so much more of an actor than that.”

So much so that Waugh sees Paul as a present-day McQueen.

“Aaron has this uncanny ability of portraying edge, mixed with charisma, mixed with humble and likability and Steve really had that,” Waugh said. “Steve was such a man’s man and he was also a ladies’ man. I remember seeing Steve at motocross, his hair would be disheveled, mud all over him, and he didn’t care who was looking at him. It’s that ego-less attitude that Steve had that Aaron really has in his natural life.”

Paul, who has several other projects due out this year and said he would consider a spot in the Bad-prequel Better Call Saul, isn’t sold on the McQueen comparisons.

“I don’t know how that makes me feel,” he laughed. “I love Steve McQueen and that’s very nice of (Waugh) to say, but I grew up loving and watching Bullitt and I remember my dad showing me Bullitt when I was a kid and Steve McQueen was just a bad-ass. If our director thinks that, I thank him. But I am definitely not claiming to be that.”

AMC announces premiere for ‘Breaking Bad’ spinoff: ‘Better Call Saul’

Walter White’s lawyer is returning to Albuquerque.

AMC announced recently that the “Breaking Bad” spinoff, “Better Call Saul,” will premiere in November 2014, but no specific date has been released.

The series will follow sleazy attorney Saul Goodman, played by Bob Odenkirk, as he defends drug lords, criminals and those allegedly injured in minor traffic accidents.

The network has already created a website for the fiction lawyer, with Saul Goodman’s signature videos boasting how he can get anyone out of legal trouble. The website includes “testimonies” from a drug dealer and prostitute who tell potential clients how he got them out of jail.

“Breaking Bad,” which ended last year and was filmed in Albuquerque, followed former high school teacher Walter White, played by Bryan Cranston. White produced methamphetamine with a former student, Jesse Pinkman, played by Aaron Paul.

Odenkirk played their attorney who came up with money laundering schemes from his Albuquerque shopping mall office.

AMC has given few details on the upcoming spinoff nor have show creators said how much of it would be filmed in Albuquerque.

But the fictional website shows “Breaking Bad” characters bragging in video on the streets of Albuquerque about how the convincing lawyer was able to pull them out of jail

For example, one such testimony comes from Badger, a methamphetamine dealer on “Breaking Bad” played by Matt Jones, who tells viewers that Goodman got him out of legal trouble after undercover officers arrested him for selling drugs _ a reference to an episode of “Breaking Bad.”

“And then, bam! Saul Goodman shows up,” Jones says in the video. “He’s like, get out of here cop, because of the Constitution.”

Within two days, Jones said he was back on the street and “burning one with my homies.”

The website also includes fictional advertisements from “Breaking Bad” businesses like Los Pollos Hermanos, a chicken restaurant used as a front for drug lord Gus Fring, played by Giancarlo Esposito.

Is there a statute of limitations on spoilers?

Rosebud is a sled.

So goes the ending of the 1941 Orson Welles classic “Citizen Kane,” spoilers be damned!

Revealing secret endings and plot twists has brought on wrath since the dawn of cinema, straight through VCRS to today’s DVR-fueled delays that led to much nail-biting over The Ending That Shall Not Be Spoiled on “Breaking Bad.”

But exactly what is the magic formula for spoiler grace? When do calls of SPOILER ALERT (insert index fingers in the ears here) expire so we can, maybe, not feel so constipated when discussing our favorite fare in real time?

Does the 13-episode Netflix dump of “Orange is the New Black” in July equal two months of polite spoiler-free behavior? Are bets off when a show concludes, or does that depend on how many seasons late adopters would have to slowly, slowly slog through – say eight for “Dexter”‘ to five for “Breaking Bad”?

Or is it up to the unspoiled viewer to avoid social media or catch up? Get it done, people!

“I think asking people not to spoil for some reasonable amount of time is fine, although anyone who actually takes it seriously, i.e. gets mad or upset in the event someone does, is an idiot,” said technology analyst Melanie Turek in Steamboat Springs, Colo.

“But that `reasonable’ amount of time is, in my mind, about 48 hours after a live broadcast,” she explained. “And once a series is off the air and the hype has died down, asking people not to spoil is just silly.”

Others think keeping some things quiet – or at least warning our Facebook friends about potential spoilers – is what 21st-century etiquette might advise. At least that’s what the ragers who decry spoilers on social media hope for.

Marketer Kim Puckett in Indianapolis thinks “we’re all social media-level entertainment reviewers now” so should respect our written-word audiences on newsfeeds like Twitter or in status updates on Facebook that aren’t easy to escape.

“Unfortunately, specific status updates on key plot points might be banned forever,” she said.

But in other contexts, Puckett said, “as soon as the show ends, office and social talk should be allowed about the show. How can we enjoy shows at a social level if we’re always worried that someone is still on Season 1 of `The Killing’ or halfway through `Sons of Anarchy?'”

Justice is on the side of those who want to blab on Twitter or Facebook, according to Paul Levinson, a professor of communications and media studies at Fordham University and author of the book “New New, Media.”

The idea that “people have a right to be free of spoilers is absurd, and it’s an absurd misuse of the term `right,'” he said.

“You have a right to communicate,” Levinson assured. “I don’t think anyone is entitled to that kind of grace. If you feel like writing something you’re entitled to write it as long it’s not slanderous or libelous or breaking the law in some way. Why anyone would get into a rage about entertainment is beyond me.”

He harkened back to buzz over “The Crying Game” and Dil’s reveal as a transgender woman, along with “The Sixth Sense” and the Bruce Willis character being dead. And there was grumbling over spoiling the purgatory at the end of “Lost,” at a time when social media was well on its way to engulfing us, he said.

“If the ending is really atrocious, like `Lost,’ then you’re probably doing people a favor by letting them know,” Levinson said.

Etiquette expert Lizzie Post of the Emily Post Institute sees no value in people “posting a million times, `Don’t spoil anything for me, don’t spoil anything for me.'” Walk away from Facebook, shut down Twitter if you have to, she said.

“If you’re not living in the current season you have no claim. It’s fine if you have a friend who’s really into it and you want to say, `Don’t spoil it for me.’ But you can’t ask the world around you to completely bend.”

Has the quality of conversation been damaged by the call for spoiler-free discourse?

“What we’ve lost is the ability to step back and assess what we’ve just seen,” said Danny Groner, who like Puckett is in marketing and pays close attention to social media. “I think overall the live conversation is valuable.”

Judith Martin, who writes the Miss Manners columns and books, also believes the burden falls mostly on the person holding out for the surprise.

“But if the story is really good, it shouldn’t make that much difference,” she said. “I still enjoy re-reading `Moby-Dick’ and `The Golden Bowl,’ even though I know perfectly well what is going to happen.”

Catholic Church official’s meth business resembled TV’s ‘Breaking Bad’

To onlookers, Monsignor Kevin Wallin’s fall from grace at his Connecticut parish was like something out of “Breaking Bad,” the television series about a high school chemistry teacher who becomes a methamphetamine lord.

The suspended Roman Catholic priest was arrested on federal drug charges this month for allegedly having methamphetamine mailed to him from co-conspirators in California and making more than $300,000 in drugs sales out of his apartment in Waterbury in the second half of last year.

Along the way, authorities said, he bought a small adult video and sex toy shop in the nearby town of North Haven named “Land of Oz & Dorothy’s Place,” apparently to launder all the money he was making. He has pleaded not guilty, and jury selection in his trial is scheduled to begin March 21.

On social media sites, people couldn’t help but compare Wallin with Walter White, the main character on “Breaking Bad” who was making so much cash that he and his wife bought a car wash to launder their profits. He has also been dubbed in some media as “Monsignor Meth.”

Wallin, 61, was the pastor of St. Augustine Parish in Bridgeport for nine years until he resigned in June 2011, citing health and personal problems. He previously served six years as pastor of St. Peter’s Church in Danbury until 2002.

He was granted a sabbatical in July 2011. The Diocese of Bridgeport suspended him from public ministry last May.

Diocesan officials become concerned about Wallin in the spring of 2011 after complaints about his appearance and erratic behavior, diocese spokesman Brian Wallace told the Connecticut Post.

Some reports of his behavior were startling.

“We became aware that he was acting out sexually — with men — in the church rectory,” Wallace told the newspaper, adding that church officials deemed the sexual behavior unbecoming of a priest and asked Wallin to resign.

Wallace didn’t return several messages left by The Associated Press.

“News of Monsignor Kevin Wallin’s arrest comes with a sense of shock and concern on the part of the diocese and the many people of Fairfield County who have known him as a gifted, accomplished and compassionate priest,” the diocese said in a statement on Jan. 16 after learning about Wallin’s arrest. “We ask for prayers for Monsignor Wallin during the difficult days ahead for him.”

Wallin’s arrest called attention to larger problems within the church, said Voice of the Faithful in the Diocese of Bridgeport, one of many local chapters of the lay organization formed in response to the sexual abuse crisis in the church.

“Catholics have to ask whether the mandatory obligation of celibacy imposes a harmful burden on priests and whether women ought to be admitted to the priesthood,” the group said in a statement. “The steady decline in the number of priests, the aging of priests, the terrible sin of pedophilia among priests, and the downfall of Monsignor Wallin are all signs of a sickness in the priesthood. It is time to seek a remedy for this awful malady that threatens the Eucharist, the center of Catholic life.”

Elizabeth Badjan, a member of the St. Augustine congregation, told The New York Times that Wallin needed the prayers of parishioners.

“This is all the work of evil,” she said as she left Mass last weekend. “He was not close enough to God. He was tempted by the devil.”

Wallin’s case has drawn comparisons to that of the Rev. Ted Haggard, a well-known evangelical megachurch pastor in Colorado who was forced out of his job in 2006 after a male escort alleged Haggard had paid him for sex and bought crystal meth.

Federal agents arrested Wallin on Jan. 3, and a grand jury indicted him and four other people on drug charges on Jan. 15. All are charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of a substance containing methamphetamine and 50 grams of actual methamphetamine, a crime that carries 10 years to life in prison upon conviction.

Wallin is also charged with six counts of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine.

Last July, Drug Enforcement Administration agents in New York told agents in the New Haven office that there was an unidentified Connecticut-based drug trafficker distributing methamphetamine in the region. Two months later, an informant told the DEA that the trafficker was Wallin, according to an affidavit by agent Jay Salvatore in New Haven.

The Connecticut Statewide Narcotics Task Force was also investigating Wallin.

Authorities said an undercover officer with the state task force bought methamphetamine from Wallin six times from Sept. 20 to Jan. 2, paying more than $3,400 in total for 23 grams of the drug.

Federal agents also say they learned through wiretaps and informants about other sales Wallin was making.

Connecticut U.S. Attorney David Fein said federal and state authorities worked together in “the dismantling of what we allege was a significant methamphetamine distribution organization that spanned from California to Connecticut.”

Also charged in the case were Kenneth Devries, 52, of Waterbury; Michael Nelson, 40, of Manchester; Chad McCluskey, 43, of San Clemente, Calif.; and Kristen Laschober, 47, of Laguna Niguel, Calif. Authorities say McCluskey and Laschober were involved in the shipping of methamphetamine to Wallin.

Messages by the AP were left lawyers for Wallin, McCluskey and Laschober. Wallin is being detained without bail at the Bridgeport Correctional Center, state records show.