Filling the Void That Heisenberg Left Behind

I’m suffering from major Breaking Bad withdrawals. Already. They say that the first 72 hours are the toughest. Sigh.

So, like any decent junkie, I’m trying out other drugs with which to get my fix.

Thankfully, Eastbound & Down is back just in time. Catching up with Kenny Powers again after a long absence, I’d forgotten just how much I love this show. Powers is now a family man, or at least he’s doing a pretty good impression of what he thinks one constitutes. His dreams of making a comeback (attempt number 17, give or take?) on the baseball diamond seemingly dormant, Powers has now got two rugrats and a committed union to April, she of the successful real estate salesperson.

I love this scene, where Kenny manages to offend a customer that recognizes him from his time in the major leagues:

I look forward to seeing where Season 4 takes us.

I also checked out the first episode of Stephen Merchant’s new sitcom, Hello Ladies. Scanning the interwebs, reviews have been decidedly mixed, but I actually enjoyed it. I think it’s great that Merchant has been given the green light to branch out on his own, away from the considerable shadow (and ego) of longtime cohort, Ricky Gervais. It’s early days for Merchant’s project of course, but I can’t help but see similarities between Gervais and Merchant, and Seinfeld co-creaters Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld. It wasn’t until David left the show following Season 7 that we saw the void that David’s unique and brilliant take on comedy brought to the table. And of course, Curb Your Enthusiasm further reinforced who the real comedic talent was within the duo. Not that Jerry isn’t funny – he obviously is – just not on the level of David. I can see Merchant achieving similar results – if on a more watered down level of expectation – having broken the shackles. Merchant’s character in the show, web designer Stuart, is pretty much unlikable as he tries to have meaningless flings with everything in a skirt. The character is put into awkward, cringeworthy social situations, not unlike every other sitcom that finds its way onto our screens these days. We’ve got none other than the aforementioned Gervais and David to thank for this oft-imitated form of comedy. There were, however, glimpses of heart beneath the shallow facade on display in this pilot episode, and you get the sense that Merchant’s Stuart has plenty of room to grow and perhaps strive for something more meaningful, such as something of substance with his housemate Jessica, played by the cute and talented Christine Woods. This will undoubtedly be the Jerry/Elaine, will they-won’t they tease that they’ll drag out over the arc of a season or two, if the show makes it that far.

In this scene, Stuart is trying every trick in the book to get some girl to give into his charms, while Jessica tries to shoo him away:

It’s only one episode obviously, but I’m giving this a chance because of Merchant’s track record and the notion that the show and character will develop over time.

I checked out the first episode of Family Tree, a new series from Christopher Guest. I love Guest and his merry band of brilliant improvisers. This is Spinal Tap and Best in Show rank among my favorite movies of all-time. Genius.

I really liked the episode. Longtime collaborator Michael McKean plays Keith Chadwick, and does a pretty decent English accent. Keith is father to Bea and Tom, portrayed by Nina Conti and Chris O’Dowd respectively. Conti, herself from thespian stock, has toured the comedy circuit for years with her monkey puppet in tow. This quirk has been written into the character of Bea, and it really is quite charming.

Here is a clip of Nina and Monkey at the Edinburgh Comedy Festival:

O’Dowd, of course, will be familiar to most as Rhodes from 2011’s Bridesmaids. He shines here as essentially the lead character.

Check out this scene where Tom goes on a blind date with a woman who unfortunately believes that dinosaurs still exist:

Ouch.

Again, like Hello Ladies, it’s relatively early days for Family Tree, but it’s in safe hands with Guest at the helm. A fantastic show so far, and highly recommended.

I’ve also discovered an “older” gem. Weeds. Where has this show been all my life! Brilliant stuff! Mary-Louise Parker is one of those actresses that I knew was talented but I’d never seen her in anything that blew me away. Until now. She owns it as reluctant pot dealer, Nancy Botwin. Nancy is struggling to keep her family afloat as they cope with the death of husband and father, portrayed in flashback scenes by Jeffrey Dean Morgan.

The parallels between Weeds and the dearly departed Breaking Bad are eerie. In both shows, death (or impending death) is the catalyst for delving into drug dealing to provide for their respective families. Both Nancy and Walter White seem to enjoy the power that comes with partaking in such a rarefied profession, and each of them has to overcome their own personal scruples to forgive themselves for doing what it is that they do. Initially, they both hide behind the “providing for family” excuse, but as time goes on we find that they each gain something personally from dealing drugs, personally and financially. They are both liberated by slanging crystal (or weed, as the case may be).

The great news about Weeds: I’m into the first of seven seasons. So I’ve got a lot more great TV to catch up on.

None of the aforementioned shows can provide me with the thrill ride that Heisenberg and friends have over the past half-decade, but here’s the thing: I know that going in. I’m just trying to find a new high.

 

 

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