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AMC's Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul

Breaking Bad's Hard-Earned, Heartwarming Emmys Win

Breaking Bad's Hard-Earned, Heartwarming Emmys Win

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True Detective's loss hinted that, for now, movie-style slickness and stars don't trump six years of storytelling.


"The 2014 Emmys: When a five-time winner beating a movie star is the biggest upset of the night." So wrote Grantland's Andy Greenwald on Twitter, referring to Bryan Cranston's victory over Matthew McConaughey for best lead actor in a drama. Famous guy beats ultra-famous guy: an outcome that's not exactly, to use a term often applied to both Breaking Bad and True Detective, mindblowing.

But there was something a little mindblowing to the mere fact that any suspense surrounded Breaking Bad's nominations heading into Monday's ceremonies. A little less than a year ago, pop culture seemed to unite in awe for a few weeks as AMC's show completed its final half-season. Barguments were had over whether it was the greatest show of all time; the notion of anything else seriously challenging it in the awards year to come seemed faint.

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Breaking Bad: A Happy Ending?
Then in January, True Detective arrived.

It was, by many measures, an experiment: one sole writer and one sole director handling a self-contained run of eight episodes. But in retrospect, it was also a pretty sure bet: two hugely magnetic movie stars, financial support and knowhow from the prestige-TV heavyweight HBO, and the most tested dramatic genre there is—cops. (Last night, Seth Meyers noted that the last time the Emmys happened on a Monday, 1976, every nominee for best drama was about police.)

True Detective quickly did exactly what HBO needs its shows to do, draw buzz. Four episodes in, and Christopher Orr here at The Atlantic wondered whether it was the best thing on TV. He wasn't alone, and for good reason. True Detective was extremely well made, boasting indelible characters, a hint of mystery, and cinematic flair previously unseen in the medium.

At this year's Emmys, it was clear that the show had shaken up the TV world a little bit. Jimmy Kimmel went on an extended joking-but-was-he-really tirade against Matthew McConaughey, saying that he's too good-looking for TV, that we were tired of his speeches, that he was, in essence, crashing the party and expecting to be rewarded.

Replace McConaughey's name with the show he represented—and cut the weed references—and the substance of Kimmel's rant would have still made sense. True Detective had arrived fully formed and built to win awards, bringing Oscar-level talent, a presumption of significance, and a hunger that no show ever had. Its impact was blockbuster-like. Even the memory of its underwhelming finale has faded, replaced by deafening casting speculation not unlike that which usually surrounds, say, an upcoming Marvel-movie installment.

Breaking Bad, on the other hand, was a distinctly TV-ish story of success in increments. It started small and obscure, a gamble from a network trying to prove itself, featuring TV character actors and TV writers-room deputies, forced to make TV-budget compromises as it fought, season after season, a sense of toiling in obscurity. When it blew up, it was in part because of evangelism from viewers who'd lived with the Whites and their associates for so long, watching characters evolve and make hard choices. Movies don't do that—they make one concentrated bid for your consciousness instead of slowly carving out a space.

The disappointment of True Detective's finale has been replaced by casting hype like that which usually surrounds, say, Marvel movies.
You could see the payoff to the Breaking Bad style of storytelling in the acceptance speeches from its team (it won best drama, lead actor, lead actress, supporting actor, and writing for the episode "Ozymandias"). Cranston, Anna Gunn, and Aaron Paul all accepted their acting trophies with a teary grin, talking about the "intimate" environment that had developed on set, the steady and gentle hand of show creator Vince Gilligan, and the love—yes, love, invoked multiple times by multiple actors—between all involved.

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  • I really tuned in for BB and the BB actors on Emmy night. Those are the ones I was rooting for and I'm happy they swept their categories. I can't speak about True Detectives because I've never watched it before.

    I love how the BB cast gets along. I guess I'm used to somebody just being friends with one or two cast members and that remains a life long friendship, drama on the set, or a cast that just treats the show like a job and no close ties are formed. BB is really different because you can see the love the cast has for each other. Something else I think is refreshing is the love the cast still shows towards the show. I guess I'm also used to people that show the love while the series is on the air and want to move on the next day after the series ends. I see how bitterness comes out in some actors if they're always tied to one character or one show for the rest of their life. I also see some that embrace all of it--embrace the show, the writing, the character, etc. I'd say the BB cast are in that category.
  • Better Call Saul

    I wanted to ask this because I'm also used to communities sorta dying down when a series ends. Anyway, is this community going to stay active and continue posting BCS news? I admit I haven't really checked to see if anybody has formed a BCS community yet.
    • I'm one of the mods and I am definitely keen to stick around for Better Call Saul. I figure it might be easier than trying to get a new comm up and running/establish a following etc. If people are keen for this, then I'm 99% sure we can do it (I'll just have to clear it with mod #2).
    • That would be nice
    • *nods* I think it would definitely be easier to blend the communities. Hopefully mod 2 will give approval. *crosses fingers*
  • TD is good but it's not BrBa good ;)
    • NOTHING is BrBa good! FACT!

      And I mostly think TD became a load of misogynistic, self-indulgent drivel, but that's a topic for a different day!
      • It is a topic for a different day but you are not wrong.

        And partially because of it, I wouldn't even have rooted for it in the mini-series category as I think Fargo overall was better put together.

    • THANK YOU! Pretty much no one gets this!!

      And partially because of it, I wouldn't even have rooted for it in the mini-series category as I think Fargo overall was better put together. THIS x1908498577%!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Fargo was freaking ~incredibly told in my opinion! AND it managed to be excellent AS WELL AS Equal Opportunity and not All White Boy Bromance All The Time! Haha. The existence of Molly Solverson for starters! SHE GOT TO HAVE IT ALL AND IT WAS AMAZING!!! And that doesn't even touch upon the fact that they cast an ~actual deaf actor in the role of a deaf character.

      HEARTS IN MY EYES FOR FARGO!

      Shutting up now!
    • I've been trying to watch Fargo since its season premiere but never got around to do it, one of these days I'll watch it, also ugh Martin Freeman, I've heard his character is unlikeable so it's okay if I hate him right away, lol.
      • Yeah, he's definitely not a likable character but the performance was so good that I liked him, if that makes sense. I rooted for him to go down and get caught but I got a kick out of watching his character's machinations.
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