Breaking Bad vs. The Biggest Loser: How Television Is Getting Both Really Good And Really Awful

by Randy Murray on January 24, 2011

Something interesting has happened on television over the last few years: TV shows have gotten really good. There have always been a few bright spots, but today there are some really amazing things available. More than ever before, it seems. And it looks as if that trend will continue.

These shows are not, however, on ABC, CBS, NBC, or Fox.

This really hit home recently when my wife and I started watching the AMC original series, Breaking Bad. I had heard it was good, but never got around to seeing it. AMC recently started rebroadcasting it, in order, two episodes every week, starting from the series’ premiere, and we’ve gotten completely hooked. Not only is it extremely well acted, directed, written, but it’s also intense and surprisingly funny. The series is structured in a masterful and intelligent way that always leaves you hungry to find out what happens next. It’s perfect to watch without having to wait a week or months for the next episode. We recorded the first several on our DVR and once we started we quickly watched them all. If you haven’t started watching, it’s available on DVD.

AMC has had an amazing track record over the last few years, with not only this show, but also Mad Men, The Walking Dead, and Rubicon (which we loved, but was canceled after the first season).

There have, or so it seems, always been terrific shows on HBO, but I’ve never really considered HBO “TV.” It’s a “premium” channel. I almost never watch movies on HBO, but it’s completely worth the fee for the terrific original programming. I’m not a fan of everything they’ve done, but I am a diehard fan of their miniseries, like Band of Brothers, The Pacific, and possibly the best thing ever done on TV, From the Earth To The Moon. I also love their series, like Rome, Deadwood, and even John from Cincinnati, and of course, The Wire.

On the other hand, regular “network” television has become almost uniformly awful. Yes, we’ll watch anything with Law and Order in the title, but that’s more as comfort food (including the strange, yet familiar Law and Order: UK). And there are standout examples, like Battlestar Galactica, but even this wasn’t on regular “network” television. It is a terrific example of remaking something that was originally a cheesy failure and making something great out of it. That should be the rule for remakes.

But I will not watch “reality” programming. There’s nothing real about it. Most of it is offensive, if not dangerous.  I detest The Biggest Loser, any reality shows with “housewives” in the title, anything that requires “contestants” to survive, compete, or endure. Most of it, like American Idol, is an endurance test for the audience as well. These shows do not show humanity at its best.

There are lots of good things to watch, and now that we’re freed from having to watch only what’s on the TV when we switch it on, I can find wonderful things to see ­– either recorded or on DVD and over the internet from sources like Netflix, Hulu, Apple’s iTunes Store, and others.. Don’t waste your time with TV junk food. Sink your teeth into something really really good. You shouldn’t have much trouble finding it.

Breaking Bad vs. The Biggest Loser: How Television Is Getting Both Really Good And Really Awful by Randy Murray, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Mari January 24, 2011 at 7:16 pm

Newer television technology like more channels, larger screens, and higher resolution has done little to influence my viewing habits. The challenge for me is to find something to watch which afterwards does not leave me feeling that my time would have been better spent elsewhere. Recently I’ve become apt to turn off a movie after a twenty minute investment has not convinced me to care about its outcome.

For someone like me, a person without cable TV who shares your lack of interest in the plethora of reality shows, I choose to watch PBS. Edutainment works for me most of the time. I am thankful for a few thirty minute sitcoms I watch on the major networks after I’ve reached information saturation and just want to laugh.


Randy Murray January 24, 2011 at 7:20 pm

Try some of the series I’ve mentioned on DVD - it’s a great way to watch at your own pace.


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