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Breaking Bad, one of the greatest TV series of all time, ended six years ago. Since then, creator Vince Gilligan has been serving up Better Call Saul, a nice extension of the Breaking Bad universe that will go into its fifth season next year.

However, Better Call Saul is a prequel, meaning the Breaking Bad timeline came to a stop six years ago. (Spoiler alert: If you haven’t watched Breaking Bad, but intend to, you may want to stop reading, as spoilers follow.) So, what happened to Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) after Walter White (Bryan Cranston) liberated him from captivity at that American Nazi compound? When last we saw Jesse, he was speeding off into the night, laugh-crying hysterically.

Knowing full well that the fan base is itching for more, El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie has made its way to Netflix (and a select few big screens). The film picks up where Breaking Bad left off, with Jesse in a pinch as “a person of interest” after the White assault—and still very much in need of a shave and shower.

It’s a great thing to see Paul back in his wheelhouse as Pinkman, even if the character has become a bit dour after being held prisoner in a hole in the ground. Jesse’s screen time during his captivity on the TV show was limited, as the story, logically, focused primarily on Walter White’s last days. We only really saw Jesse eating ice cream and failing in an escape attempt—he became a background character.

El Camino gives Gilligan and Paul a chance to, via flashback, explore some strange adventures Jesse had with his captor, the quietly evil Todd (Jesse Plemons). Plemons actually plays a big part in this movie—thankfully so, because he’s a badass as Todd. Todd is a seemingly sensitive, low-volume man—with a psycho streak that poses all kinds of threats to Jesse’s well-being.

Other characters we see again include Mike (Jonathan Banks), who makes an appearance in flashback (his character having been eliminated by White in the show). Skinny Pete (Charles Baker) and Badger (Matt Jones) show up early and haven’t lost a step in providing comic relief. Most notably, the late Robert Forster, who passed away on the very day El Camino was released, returns as Ed, the vacuum salesman who does something a little extra on the side.

For those who loved the show, El Camino is a must-see. It fits right in, like two episodes that were hidden in a secret vault for six years. I won’t reveal all of the other cameos, but trust me: Breaking Bad fans, you won’t be disappointed.

If you haven’t seen the show and have read on anyway, stay away from the movie until you have watched the series. This is a movie that reveals virtually everything that happened during Breaking Bad’s run. Watch something else on Netflix until you have seen all 62 episodes of the series.

The movie gives Jesse Pinkman a more poetic sendoff than him screaming like a banshee. While this might be the end for future Jesse, chances are good that past Jesse will appear somewhere within the Better Call Saul timeline, which is taking place before the events of Breaking Bad. I’m sure Gilligan has a few more Jesse stories up his sleeve.

El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie is now streaming on Netflix.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

The Royal Teens, Herb Alpert and Bobby Hart have something in common: They were all discovered by Lee Silver.

Silver started in the music business as a singer-songwriter and producer in New York in the early ’50s. Today, he calls Palm Desert home.

Before entering the music business, Silver served in the Army, and he worked as a mechanical engineer. However, it was hard to deny his first love—music. He’d been a performer since the age of 6, when he began singing and dancing onstage.

During a recent interview at his Sun City home, he discussed his start in the music business.

“When I was in the Army, I was stationed in Nashville. I fell in love with country music, and I’m a boy from Brooklyn,” Silver said. “There was no country music in Brooklyn during that time period. I remember producing a record in New York with an engineer who became so famous, Al Schmitt. Schmitt worked with Natalie Cole and became an engineer at RCA. At that time, I was a young kid who produced a country record that I loved.

“One of the songs, ‘In the Valley of the Sun,’ went on to be in Breaking Bad during its last season.”

Silver said the song, performed under the pseudonym Buddy Stuart, was inspired by a visit to his sister in Arizona.

“I went to Los Angeles and made an inexpensive demo that sat on a shelf for 50 years,” he said. “A movie called The Hills Have Eyes came out, and the producer heard it, and he said he wanted to use it in the end credits. I said, ‘Go ahead!’ It got a little bit popular, and the producer and the director of Breaking Bad said, ‘Hey, we’d love to use that song in our show.’ They used it in a scene where they’re driving a truck.

“That was me singing a demo that I made for myself. I didn’t want to be an artist. I just made demos of the songs I wrote and sang on them. That sat on a shelf while I was producing so many people after that.”

Silver and Herb Alpert formed a professional relationship that led to hit records before Alpert eventually started A&M Records with Jerry Moss.

“Herb Alpert and I got together, and I gave him his first song, ‘Baby Talk,’ for a group he had that was called Jan and Dean, before A&M Records existed,” Silver said. “He asked me if he could use the song, and I told him to go ahead. He did, and it became a No. 1 hit. Herb and I became partners in a record company called Lash Records, which was way before A&M. Lash stood for: L for Lee, A for Alpert, S for Silver, and H for Herb.”

All of Silver’s songs that have been featured on shows such as Damages, Mad Men and Breaking Bad are credited to Buddy Stuart.

“When you produce, you go to the record companies to show your product,” he explained. “I went to Capitol Records, Liberty Records, and they would say, ‘You wrote and sang on it, and you produced it, and you’re publishing it. We want half of the royalties.’ The next time I would visit the record companies, they would ask, ‘Who is singing on that?’ I would say, ‘Buddy Stuart.’ I gave them a phony name.

“That name stuck with me from that time on. I was on the labels as Buddy Stuart. They didn’t know that was me singing, because when you go to a record company, they know you have the artist signed, and the song, and you’re just giving them the master copy. That’s how the name stuck, and how I used it.”

Silver has 300 songs to his credit. His daughter manages his catalog and other master tapes he made as a producer. He told an amusing story about how the great Les Paul and his wife, Mary Ford, used a song he wrote called “Fire,” from which he never received any compensation or royalties.

“I wrote the song ‘Fire,’ and Les Paul and Mary Ford are appearing in New York, and I’m a young, aggressive kid. I waited behind the stage door when he came out, and I said, ‘Mr. Paul, I have a song for you.’ He said ‘Give it to me, son.’

“It was recorded on Capitol Records a month later. I was the writer; I gave it to Les Paul. I loved the guy, and I called him after a while. Jody Reynolds owned a record store in Palm Springs, and we had a song of Les Paul’s. and I said, ‘Jody, we can’t release it unless we get his permission.’ He told me I could call Les at a specific number at 3 in the afternoon. I called him and said, ‘Les, remember the song called “Fire” that you recorded?’ He said, ‘I loved that song.’ I told him, ‘I NEVER GOT PAID!’ I never got any money for it—but he let us release that song of his.”

When Silver looks back on his career, he’s proud of what he accomplished on his own terms. He especially takes pride in the ownership of his own catalog.

“There are people who are so talented who never made it at all in this business, and that’s who I feel bad for,” he said. “I have friends who were struggling every day and never had that hit to get them going. I feel fortunate because I did have a couple of hits, and I could have been very wealthy, but I also wanted to smell the roses. I didn’t really go crazy, and I did what I wanted to, and I built a big catalog in the process. I own my product, and a lot of guys who produced for different record companies do not own what they produced.”

Arrow (The CW): The comic-book superhero series that got it right in its first year has been on fire in Season 2, jacking up the action to thrillingly visceral levels, as well as giving both our hero’s allies (love that Felicity) and enemies (hate that Malcolm) generous chunks of screen time. Oh, and the Flash!

Justified (FX): Despite the guns, guns, guns promos, Justified is all about the consequences and the dialogue, and Season 4—which had to follow a landmark “just try and top that” season—had plenty for Marshal Raylan, Boyd and anyone unlucky enough to be attached to them. FX’s best drama, period.

Banshee (Cinemax): This gritty-weird series about an ex-con assuming the identity of a small-town sheriff to reunite with his former lover/partner—and their loot—should have been a pulp-crime mess, but the deepening story (and the hyper-violent action) can’t be denied.

Shameless (Showtime): The Gallaghers continued their grimy reign as America’s Family, and Season 3 injected all-too-real drama and fallout for their many, many questionable actions. No other series can match Shameless for sheer volume of yeah-it’s-cable-but-they-can-get-away-with-that?! situations.

Bates Motel (A&E): Sure, it seemed a like terrible idea at first, but the subtle, creeping terror of Psycho: The Wonder Years worked, thanks to Vera Farmiga’s sympathetic but wildly unpredictable Norma Bates. We know where it’s all going, but the ride so far is addictive.

Archer (FX): Season 4 kicked off with a hysterically blatant nod to star voice H. Jon Benjamin’s other series, Bob’s Burgers, and ended with a tribute to obscure Adult Swim series Sealab 2021. The characters are idiots, but Archer’s scripting is stoopid-smart.

Veep (HBO): Speaking of hapless dumbasses guided by comedic genius, Veep’s second season stayed the course of Vice President Selina Meyer’s slog through deflating beltway politics and worse PR. It’s funny, profane and probably closer to the truth than C-SPAN.

Breaking Bad (AMC): Obviously. Breaking Bad’s final season may have tied up more neatly than logically, but a drama this perfectly executed over five years earned more than a few last Wile E. Coyote outs. Go back and re-watch the whole series without the weekly critical media over-over-analysis; you’ll enjoy it even more.

The League (FXX): Even a gonzo throwaway episode dedicated entirely to peripheral characters Rafi and Dirty Randy couldn’t distract from the scarily consistent and ruthless comedy of The League’s fifth season. It’s finally a viable heir to the Sunny in Philadelphia crown—or Shiva.

Ray Donovan (Showtime): Gigantically-noggin-ed Liev Schreiber is an unlikely leading man, but his portrayal of Ray Donovan, a Hollywood “fixer” with a family from hell (Bah-ston, actually), kills. Even better is Jon Voight’s giddy, nothing-to-lose performance.

The Blacklist (NBC) After two years of empty talk, NBC finally made good on the idea to produce “cable-quality” programming, first with Hannibal, then the superior crime serial The Blacklist. The series doesn’t shy from intensity and violence, and James Spader is, well, James Spader.

Parks and Recreation (NBC): On the flipside, now that NBC has discovered the ratings gold of ineptly staged musicals, smart underperformers like Parks and Recreation are likely doomed. Too bad; Seasons 5 and 6 have been the comedy’s strongest yet, even with the impending losses of Rashida Jones and Rob Lowe.

Masters of Sex (Showtime): A semi-factual ’50s period piece with the warm look (and contentiously slow pace) of Mad Men, Masters of Sex delivered on the years-building Lizzy Caplan hype and, even though it’s as much soap opera as historical document, radiated raw humanity. The (purely clinical) nudity and sex didn’t hurt, either.

13 Runners-Up: The Americans, American Horror Story: Coven, Bob’s Burgers, Eastbound and Down, Grimm, House of Cards, Maron, New Girl, Orange Is the New Black, Raising Hope, Rectify, Sons of Anarchy, Trophy Wife.


DVD ROUNDUP FOR DEC. 31!

CBGB

The story of Hilly Kristal (played by Alan Rickman) and the legendary ’70s punk club that launched thousands of bands. Also starring Taylor Hawkins as the worst Iggy Pop ever, and Opie from Sons of Anarchy as, natch, a biker. (Xlrator)

Don Jon

Porn aficionado Don Jon (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and rom-com lover Barbara (Scarlett Johansson) try to make a relationship work despite unrealistic expectations on both sides and the fact that she’s Scarlett Goddamn Johansson. (Relativity)

Hell Baby

When an expectant couple (Rob Corddry and Leslie Bibb) moves into a cursed house, it’s up to a pair of Vatican exorcists (Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon) to vanquish the evil. It’s Reno 911! meets The Exorcist meets House Hunters. (Millennium)

InAPPropriate Comedy

A tablet full of offensive apps becomes the excuse for a random series of comedy sketches starring Adrien Brody, Rob Schneider, Michelle Rodriguez, Lindsay Lohan and others. Directed by the ShamWow guy, so you know it’s funny. (Freestyle)

Sweetwater

An ex-prostitute (January Jones) makes a new life for herself and her husband in 1800s New Mexico, only to have it ripped away; bloody, horrific vengeance and Jones’ bloody horrific acting ensue. Yet it’s still better than The Lone Ranger. (Arc)

More New DVD Releases (Dec. 31)

Angel of the Skies, Black Angel, Cassadaga, Last Love, Love Marilyn, Ninja II: Shadow of a Tear, Percentage, Sanitarium, Shaolin Warrior, Sister, When Calls the Heart, Zombie Hamlet.

Published in TV

My personal list of truly great TV shows is a bit short: Twin Peaks, Mr. Show, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Happy Days (the first two seasons), Lost and this, Vince Gilligan’s epic masterpiece.

The conclusion of Breaking Bad was astoundingly, astonishingly good. Bryan Cranston’s final moments as chemistry teacher turned meth master Walter White count as one of the best series finales I’ve ever seen (along with Agent Cooper’s bloody face laughing into a cracked mirror on Twin Peaks).

You get every season in this set, including the newly released final season. It starts where the prior season left off, with Dean Norris’ Hank finally figuring out what his brother-in-law was doing in his spare time. From the moment he confronts Walter, to the musical strains of Badfinger’s “Baby Blue” in the last episode, the final season is a wild, wild ride.

You know a show is great when you feel a void as it ends. Breaking Bad is a series worth viewing multiple times—which I have done. I don’t have a lot of time for TV, but I made, and will continue to make, time for this one. It’s a true gem.

They’d better throw a bunch of acting Emmys at this show next year. Nobody in the history of TV did a better job of creating a character than Mr. Cranston did here (and I’d put his dad from Malcolm in the Middle in the Top 20 as well).

Special Features: All of the seasons come to you in a nifty “money” barrel; those who saw the final season know of the barrel’s significance. You get a nice booklet, an awesome Los Pollos Hermanos apron, and many hours of special features, including a documentary, more than two hours long, that is special to this set. The already-circulated Malcolm in the Middle fake ending is here, too. This set will make many fans happy this holiday season.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

Nikita (Friday, Nov. 22, The CW), final-season premiere: Before Arrow came along, Nikita was the only viable action series on The CW; Maggie Q’s titular character is every bit the ass-kicker The Not Green Arrow is, all while weighing in lighter than one of his jade hoodies. The complicated/convoluted (complivuted?) tale of a former agent’s war on the evil quasi-governmental operation that created her comes to an end with this fourth and final season—which is only six episodes long. (The final two, airing in the holiday burn-off dead zone of Dec. 20 and 27, are “Bubble” and “Canceled”—ha!) The ever-twisting conspiracy against Nikita “goes higher” than target villainess Amanda (Melinda Clarke), of course. The Only TV Column That Matters™ believes this overlooked series will wrap more satisfyingly than, say, Chuck or Burn Notice did with twice as many farewell hours. Netflix it, latecomers.

Lucas Bros. Moving Co.; Golan the Insatiable (Saturday, Nov. 23, Fox), series debuts (preview): Fox’s late-night Animation Domination High-Def “answer” to Adult Swim—and “competition” to Saturday Night Live—finally introduces two more shows to follow-up Axe Cop (solidly weird) and High School USA! (half-baked, but admirably offensive): Lucas Bros. Moving Co., about twin brothers (voiced by actual twin comics Kenny and Keith Lucas) who, you guessed it, start their own moving company; and Golan the Insatiable, about a monster from another dimension trapped on suburban Earth and befriended by a 10-year-old goth girl. Like 80 percent of Adult Swim shows, neither is fully realized out of the gate, but the potential for at least a fraction of Axe Cop greatness is there—and they contain at least as much funny as the average SNL episode. These shows preview tonight before returning in January.

Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor (Saturday, Nov. 23, BBC America), two-hour special: Like you need me to tell you about this, Whovians.

Sarah Silverman: We Are Miracles (Saturday, Nov. 23, HBO), standup special: Filmed in front of an audience of 39 (!) at Los Angeles’ Largo in May, We Are Miracles is a more-straight-forward standup performance than the comic’s wacktastic 2005 Jesus Is Magic concert film, or the sadly short-lived Sarah Silverman Program. We Are Miracles won’t receive the HBO-comeback fanfare that Louis C.K.’s Oh My God did earlier this year, but Silverman’s cheerfully biting riffs on everything from porn to Obama are just as pointed and funny, but more subtle and steeped in ’90s ironicism (which Silverman still wears better than most of her contemporaries). If only she hadn’t filmed this before the rise and fall of twerking …

Getting On; Ja’mie: Private School Girl (Sunday, Nov. 24, HBO), series debuts: After the sure-to-be-hilarious Season 4 finale of Boardwalk Empire, HBO debuts a pair of oddball short-run comedies that are perfect reminders of how creatively risk-averse, say, Showtime tends to be. Getting On is set in a Long Beach women’s extended-care facility (read: a home for old ladies running out the clock) that works as a dark hospital comedy more so than Showtime’s Nurse Jackie or Netflix’s Derek, thanks largely to TV veterans Alex Borstein (the voice of Family Guy’s Lois Griffin) and Laurie Metcalf (The Big Bang Theory, Roseanne). On the less-morbid mirth side, Ja’ime: Private School Girl would be funny even if it wasn’t 40-something male show creator/director Chris Lilley playing teen-girl Ja’mie (pronounced “Juh-may,” of course).


DVD ROUNDUP FOR NOV. 26!

Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me

A documentary about the great ’70s band you’ve never heard of that inspired all of the ’80s bands you’re somewhat familiar with. Includes previously unseen footage and interviews, because everything about Big Star is previously unseen. (Magnolia)

Breaking Bad: The Complete Series

It’s the epic tale of a cancer-stricken chemistry teacher who became a meth kingpin with the help of a former student (Aaron Paul) and—spoiler—several doomed associates. All 62 episodes and 55 hours of extras (!) come in—spoiler—a handy black barrel. (Sony)

The Canyons

When a trust-fund film producer (James Deen) finds out his girlfriend (Lindsay Lohan) is banging her co-star—without letting him watch—unpleasantness and Acting! ensue in Lohan’s sexiest movie role since Herbie: Fully Loaded. (MPI)

Please Kill Mr. Know It All

An anonymous newspaper columnist (Lara Jean Chorostecki) unwittingly falls in love with a hit man (Jefferson Brown) who’s been hired to kill her alter ego. Lessons: Love conquers all, and somebody’s apparently still reading newspapers. (Monarch)

Red 2

The geezers (Bruce Willis, John Malkovich and Helen Mirren) and the MILF (Mary-Louise Parker) set out on another mission—this time to 1) retrieve a nuclear bomb in Russia, and 2) act almost interested in doing it. At least one of those two things is accomplished. (Summit)

More New DVD Releases (Nov. 26)

Animals, Applause, Battle Ground, Bill Cosby: Far From Finished, Black Sabbath Live: Gathered In Their Masses, Getaway, Jim Breuer: And Laughter For All, Jobs, Mystery Science Theater 3000: 25th Anniversary Edition, Pete’s Christmas.

Published in TV

On this week's extra-girthy Independent comics page: The K Chronicles pays tribute to Breaking Bad's David Ury; Jen Sorenson has suggestions on how to fix the GOP brand; The City analyzes the consequences of the government shutdown; and Red Meat attempts to avoid some large junk.

Published in Comics

The Crazy Ones (Thursday, Sept. 26, CBS), series debut: In his … triumphant? … return to television, Robin Williams (over)plays advertising exec Simon Roberts, a whacked-out genius who’s as difficult to tolerate as he is, of course, brilliant. His daughter and partner, Sydney (Sarah Michelle Gellar), is his uptight polar opposite; forced dramedy ensues. Like another new—and funnier—CBS comedy, We Are Men (premiering Monday, Sept. 30), The Crazy Ones is a single-camera, no-laugh-track outing, which means it’s ultimately doomed: The Eyeball Network’s viewers need to be told where the punchlines are—and there ain’t none here.

Homeland, Masters of Sex (Sunday, Sept. 29, Showtime), season premiere, series debut: Alleged bomber Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) is laying low in the Season 3 premiere of Homelandpretty damned low. Meanwhile, things are going from bad to worse to supremely eff’dup for Carrie (Claire Danes) during the Senate investigations into the “Second 9/11” bombing that killed more than 200, and Saul (Mandy Patinkin) takes some seriously un-Saul-like actions to distance the CIA from the whole mess. The tense “Tin Man Down” goes a long way toward getting Homeland back on track after some sub-soap distractions last season—and the sure-to-be-huge ratings should deliver a lot of curious eyes to the fantastic new Masters of Sex, the dramatized story of 1950s sexuality-research pioneers Dr. William Masters (Michael Sheen) and Virginia Johnson (Lizzy Caplan) that’s more about human relationships and academia (and, yes, gorgeously-detailed Mad Men period style) than sex and nudity—but there’s plenty of that, too. Go, Showtime!

Eastbound and Down, Hello Ladies (Sunday, Sept. 29, HBO), series premiere, series debut: At the end of Eastbound and Down’s third and intended-to-be final season last year, baseball-legend-in-his-own-pants Kenny Powers (Danny McBride) quit the game and faked his own death to be with his true love, April (Katy Mixon). Season 4 (the real final chapter, if you trust HBO this time) opens with a sadly domesticated Kenny working in rental-car hell and denying his lust for the spotlight—until he’s tapped to guest on a popular sports-talk TV show by its host (Ken Marino); within two episodes, KFP is back in all of his obnoxious glory. New companion comedy Hello Ladies, starring and almost entirely carried by Stephen Merchant, is far more low-key and dry: Brit Stuart (Merchant) and a staggeringly awkward crew of fellow singles look for love in Hollywood, with staggeringly awkward results. It’s the anti-Entourage.

Breaking Bad (Sunday, Sept. 29, AMC), series finale: The final episode of Breaking Bad is titled “Felina.” It’s 75-minutes long; there’s still an hour of dead air called Low Winter Sun between it and Talking Bad; and … that’s all The Only TV Column That Matters™ knows. AMC isn’t sending out preview screeners to TV critics or real people—and why would they?

Super Fun Night (Wednesday, Oct. 2, ABC) series debut: Don’t dismiss a TV-subdued Rebel Wilson with an American accent: Super Fun Night works hilariously, largely due to Wilson’s (relative) underplaying as Kimmie, a junior attorney whose recent promotion is moving her up the social ladder. Will she abandon her equally geeky best friends (Liza Lapira and Lauren Ash) and their standing Friday shut-in “Super Fun Night”? It’s an odd pairing with Modern Family, but Super Fun Night shares the same underlying sweetness and bonding. It’s also saltier and edgier than the rest of ABC's Wednesday—and look where that got Happy Endings.


NEW-RELEASE ROUNDUP FOR OCT. 1!

Awkward: Seasons 1 and 2

Jenna (Ashley Rickards) narrates/blogs about the perils of being a teenager and dealing (awkwardly, duh) with cute boys, mean girls, dumb parents and wasting her child-bearing years on high school and learning—according to MTV, at least. (Paramount)

Beauty and the Beast: Season 1

A detective (Kristin Kreuk—yes, really) fights her attraction to a horribly disfigured monster (Jay Ryan—playing “horribly disfigured” with a wee scar on his face) as they solve her mother’s murder in an appropriately sexy manner. (Paramount)

Fright Night 2: New Blood

In the sequel to the 2011 remake, a professor (Jaime Murray) who also happens to be a vampire prepares to feed on American idiot high-schoolers in Romania. Can the vamp-hunting host of Fright Night (Sean Power) stop her? Should he? (Fox)

New Girl: Season 2

Jess (Zooey Deschanel) gets fired from her teaching job, then spends 25 episodes on temp gigs (model, shot girl, general quirkstress, etc.), wacky misadventures and falling for roommate Nick (Jake Johnson). In other words, Comedy Gold! (Fox)

This Is the End

Five Hollywood pals (Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson and James Franco) and one asshole (Danny McBride, of course) get high and wait out the Apocalypse. Will they burn in L.A. or be Raptured to Heaven? Yes. Comedy Gold! (Sony)

More New DVD Releases (Oct. 1)

Bob and the Monster, China Beach: Season 1, The Croods, Dead Before Dawn, Ferocious, The Frozen Ground, Glee: Season 4, Hallow’s Eve, How I Met Your Mother: Season 8, Morning, Treasure Guards

Published in TV

Strike Back (Friday, Aug. 9, Cinemax), season premiere: This series is more macho than Jason Statham crashing a Hummer into an MMA octagon where Ron Swanson and Nickelback are fighting over a rib-eye, but the addition of Rhona Mitra to the cast of military-actioner Strike Back last season brought at least a little feminine balance—too bad it looks as though she’s going down hard in Season 3. When Maj. Dalton (Mitra) sees her terrorist-hunting mission in Beirut compromised, Scott (Sullivan Stapleton) and Stonebridge (Philip Winchester) are pulled off a completely-heterosexual joint vacation (?) to track said terrorist’s associates in Columbia; as usual, things go from bad to worse for Team America (actually, MI6). Strike Back may be predictable, but it’s predictable with such visceral style and grit, who cares? Kill ’em all!

The White Queen (Friday, Aug. 9, Starz), series debut: Starz execs: “We need our own Game of Thrones, only waaay cheaper, with watered-down sex and violence, and scripts that were previously rejected by The CW or Drunk History.” BBC One execs: “Have we got a show for you!”

Clear History (Saturday, Aug. 10, HBO), movie: If you’re expecting a huge thespian departure for Larry David, forget it: The Gandalf wig and beard early in the movie are as far removed from Curb Your Enthusiasm’s “Larry David” as he gets in this film; in the end Clear History is really just an extended episode of Curb. On the upside, it’s an extended episode of Curb! David stars as Nathan Flomm, a marketing exec at a startup electric-car company who, after getting into a stupid, Larry-like fight with his boss (Jon Hamm), quits and sells his shares. Five minutes later, the company breaks billions-big, Apple-style, and Nathan is a national joke. A haircut and 10 years on, Nathan is now Rolly, anonymously and happily living Larry-like in Martha’s Vineyard—until his old boss shows up and builds a mansion on the island. Clear History is funny and star-studded enough (watch for an uncredited Liev Schreiber), but Season 9 of Curb Your Enthusiasm would have been pretty, pretty, pretty preferable.

Breaking Bad (Sunday, Aug. 11, AMC), mid-season premiere: The second half of the final Breaking Bad season (The Only TV Column That Matters™ is not going to miss explaining that) cuts right to the meat of The End of Heisenberg/Walter White (Bryan Cranston); returning episode “Blood Money” is a bracing, all-killer, no-filler episode that simultaneously spells out Walt’s post-meth-biz fate and somehow leaves it wide-open at the same time—quite a trick. It’s so jam-packed, nearly every plot point is a spoiler (real spoilers, not your Mad Men bullshit, Matthew Weiner), but it’s at least safe to mention that Jesse (Aaron Paul), Hank (Dean Norris), Saul (Bob Odenkirk), Skyler (Anna Gunn) and, my pick for lone survivor, Marie (Betsy Brandt) all get quality screen time—even Badger and Skinny Pete show up for some much-needed comic relief. You don’t need me to tell you to Be There.

Low Winter Sun (Sunday, Aug. 11, AMC), series debut: Speaking of Breaking Bad, Gale Boetticher is back! Not really, but the actor (David Costabile) who played him is, as a Detroit Police internal-affairs officer investigating a cop’s murder—at the hand of Low Winter Sun’s (anti-)hero, Det. Frank Agnew (Zero Dark Thirty’s Mark Strong). Fortunately for AMC, Low Winter Sun is more The Shield than The Killing, and less cop procedural than tension-escalating indie flick. Just in time, eh, Detroit?


DVD-RELEASE ROUNDUP FOR AUG. 13!

Bad Parents

A suburban mom (Janeane Garofalo!) is thrust into the high-stakes world of kiddie soccer, facing off against long sleeves, crazed parents and a driven coach (Christopher Titus!!) in the movie that slams the coffin lid on ’90s alt-comedy. (Gaiam)

A Band Called Death

The SXSW rock-doc is about early ’70s Detroit sibling trio Death, the punk band who predated punk, were initially rejected for being black kids playing “white boy music,” and then rediscovered decades later. Move over, Anvil. (Image)

The Mindy Project: Season One

Successful OB/GYN Mindy (Mindy Kaling) is a hot mess looking for love, but she usually just ends up in even more pathetic situations than that wacky New Girl. The DVDs do not come with subtitles for those who can’t hear her high-pitched voice. (Universal)

Rock Jocks

Misfit gamer-geeks (including Felicia Day) work for a secret government agency, piloting satellite drones to destroy asteroids before they reach Earth, but they mostly just fight bureaucratic meddling. Not based on a true story … or is it? (Cinedigm)

More New DVD Releases (Aug. 13)

The Big Wedding, Cat. 8, The Company You Keep, Compulsion, Dave Foley: Relatively Well, Deadly Swarm, Divination, Dog Pound, Dolls of Voodoo, Emperor, Enlightened: Season 2, Girls: Season 2, Hatchet III, The Hot Flashes, Olympus Has Fallen, Once Upon a Time: Season 2, Southland: Season 5

Published in TV

If you have never watched Breaking Bad, it is time to get cracking. It is unquestionably one of the greatest television shows ever produced, thanks in large part to stars Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul—and all previous seasons are now available for you to watch before the show’s final eight episodes air later this year.

If you’ve never seen it, here’s a quick rundown: Walter White (Cranston), a mild-mannered chemistry teacher, finds out he is dying of cancer, and he’s concerned about his family’s future. He’s really good with chemistry, and he comes up with a formula for meth that becomes extremely popular on the streets.

What starts as a way to put some money in his bank account before death comes a-knocking turns into a tragic thirst for power. What happens as a result of his choices has provided five seasons of incredible storytelling.

Season 5 picks up after Walter has killed drug lord Gustavo Fring (Giancarlo Esposito), and Walter’s ego is out of control. This leads to tension with his apprentice (Paul) and wife (Anna Gunn), and far too many close calls with his in-the-dark lawman brother-in-law (Dean Norris).

God bless the folks who hired Bob Odenkirk to play sleazy lawyer Saul Goodman. There’s been talk of Saul getting his own show, and I say: Make it happen!

Interesting trivia note: Both John Cusack and Matthew Broderick were offered the role of Walter White, but declined.

The final eight episodes of Breaking Bad begin airing Aug. 11 on AMC. Start cramming if you haven’t watched the show yet. It’s not to be missed.

Special Features: This package is loaded. Audio commentaries that feature Cranston, Paul and series creator Vince Gilligan abound. You get deleted and extended scenes, and a ton of behind-the-scenes stuff. A lot of work went into this one. 

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing