I have become hooked on several TV series: “Mad Men,” “Breaking Bad,” “Homeland,” “House of Cards,” “How to get away with murder,” and “Better Call Saul.” All of them are dramatic stories, based on strong characters, with excellent acting and complex plots that defy simple explanation. Herewith a brief review of each series:
Mad Men: I became hooked on this series mainly because of the main character, Don Draper, an enigmatic advertising man, who is married to a beautiful if troubled blonde, and yet is a serial adulterer. He is also insanely hard on his employees, and only later do we discover that Don is an assumed identity and this allows him to be both ruthless and to take chances that others probably would not. Also, the strange twists and turns of the action, such as when an employee runs a lawn mower over the foot of a visiting British buyer thus saving the firm, or when Don takes out an ad attacking advertising of cigarettes, or the many women he seduces, all make this an amazing series. But, once the firm spreads to California and buys a computer, I found the tight story diffusing.
Breaking Bad: The most fascinating series I have ever watched. Yes, it is violent and of questionable moral values, but it is very dramatic and unpredictable. Walter White is a loser, a high school chemistry teacher who is dying of lung cancer, has a pregnant wife and a crippled son. He decides he wants to leave them enough money to live on, but how? By chance he becomes a drug producer, and since he is a chemist and is a perfectionist, his product of crystal meth is the best on the market. So the bad drug dealers come calling, and how Walter manages to outwit them all and make the money he needs and avoid the police and manage his wife make for a fascinating story. This is a black, black comedy.
Homeland: Based on an original Israeli series, “Homeland” is about homeland security and how a returned US marine who was a hostage for over a year in Iraq and is a hero was in fact turned into a Muslim traitor. Only one CIA agent, played obsessively by Claire Danes, doesn’t trust him, then helps to turn him back, and then falls in love with him and helps him to escape after a huge car bomb kills many CIA agents. The question is always, is he or isn’t he? Somewhat improbable, but very dramatic and grittily realistic.
House of Cards: I saw the British series on which the American one is based many years ago, and although it was great, it didn’t have Kevin Spacey as the ruthless Francis Underwood and his equally cold, blonde wife Claire, played perfectly by Robin Wright. To see them plot and manipulate everything and everyone to get their way is fascinating. How FU goes from Senator to VP to President is a joy to watch. Unfortunately, when he becomes President the plot loses its way a bit and his interactions with the Russian President are quite unbelievable. The transformation of Claire Underwood into a caring person at the end of the third season in many ways undermines the thrust of the plot.
How to get away with murder: From the first entrance of Annelise Keating, Law Professor played brilliantly by Viola Davis, I was hooked. She says her job is not to teach law but to train her students how to get their clients off, whether they did it or not. The plot that develops when her own husband has an affair with his student who turns up dead, and the involvement of her own students, makes for compelling and fast-moving action. Where will it lead?
Better Call Saul: Although this is a spin-off of “Breaking Bad” and is amusing and unpredictable, it lacks the core hard story line of the original. The lawyer of questionable morals in BB, Saul Goodman, is now the central character. How he transmuted himself from a petty criminal to become a lawyer and changed his name and became successful is the crux of the story. It is worth watching for the great character acting and the wonderful plot twists.
Altogether enough watching to stave off the inevitable.