Bryan Cranston’s Back to “Breaking Bad” in Albuquerque

This morning, Bullz-Eye had a chance to chat with Bryan Cranston – oh, sorry, I think we’re now required to refer to him as three-time-Emmy-Award-winning Bryan Cranston – about his new Atom.com series, “The Handlers,” and rest assured you’ll learn all about it when the full interview turns up in the very near future. For the moment, however, we can’t resist shining the spotlight on our beloved “Breaking Bad,” which, as we learned in AMC’s panel during the winter TCA press tour, starts production on its fourth season on January 13.

Cranston, God bless him, opened our conversation by asking, “How are you? When are you coming back to the set?” (My answer: I’m ready when he is, since God knows I had a blast last time.) This is kind of a funny question for him to ask, though, given that he himself hasn’t even made it back to the set yet, having literally only arrived back in Albuquerque last night. Still, given that we talked to him at 6:30 AM PST, he’s clearly raring to go when the time comes.

That doesn’t mean, however, that he’s looking to get too far ahead of the game when it comes to finding out what’s next for Walter White.

“I’ve only read the first script so far,” said Cranston. “I have the second one ready to read. I like to keep it like that, where it doesn’t get too far ahead of me. Walt is on this journey, and I like the fact that he doesn’t know where he’s going, so why should Bryan know where it’s going? It doesn’t help me. In fact, if there’s any kind of subliminal preparation, then it could hurt the character. I want to keep it as fresh as possible for as long as possible, so that I feel that one-foot-in-front-of-the-other tension that Walt has.”

As a result, Cranston’s obviously not in much of a position to offer up hints of what we can expect from the season…not that anyone from this show has ever gone out of their way to provide spoilers.

“I can’t!” he apologized. “I don’t even know anything, except that the first episode picks up right where the last episode left off. The tension was wound pretty tight, so we just have to wind ourselves back up to that level, and away we go, spinning like a top!”

Having only just returned to Albuquerque, Cranston’s big post-interview plans were to get settled back into his townhouse and get himself unpacked, then head over to “Breaking Bad” HQ for a fitting and to pick up some paperwork.

But we know what you’re really wondering: has he shaved his head yet?

“No, actually, and here’s an exclusive for you,” said Cranston. “Steven Michael Quezada, who plays Gomez on ‘Breaking Bad,’ he’s a local guy, and he’s very popular here. He’s a stand-up comedian, and he has a variety show on The CW that airs in New Mexico once a week (‘The After, After Party with Steven Michael Quezada’). They tape on Tuesdays, so tomorrow night I’m going to be on his show, and I’m going to do a little stand-up, and then we’ll do an interview session. What the audience doesn’t know, though, is that when we’re talking, Steven’s going to say something to the effect of, ‘You know, you look so different in person than you do as Walter White the character.’ And then I’ll say something like, ‘Well, it takes a team of professionals and…well, let me show you!’ And then out comes my makeup artist, my wardrobe head, and hairdresser, and they start going to work on me. And I’ll just keep talking to Steven, taking off my clothes, putting on the wardrobe, the make-up goes on, the goatee goes on – I don’t have one right now – and then they’ll shave my head live on TV. And then I’ll put the glasses on, and it’s, like, ‘Voila!‘”

NICE.

Cranston’s hopeful that they can get a clip of this momentous event onto YouTube sooner than later. Let us all keep our fingers crossed…both for the clip, and that he makes good on his assurance that he’ll have me back on the “Breaking Bad” set in the near future. (In this case, a win for me is a win for you, too!)

  

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2010 Year End TV Review: Jason Zingale

It was an especially transformative year of television, at least for me, as my TV viewing diet underwent a bit of restructuring. Once-favorite shows began collecting dust on the DVR (sorry “Burn Notice,” but you’re losing your sizzle), and in the case of a few (like “Chuck”), were deleted altogether. Consequently, NBC’s “Community,” which spent most of its freshman season on the fringe of receiving similar treatment, is now the highlight of my Thursday nights. That’s because while shows like “Burn Notice” and “Chuck” are pretty much running on dead fumes at this point, “Community” has just begun to hit its groove. “How I Met Your Mother” also bounced back from an off-year with some of its funniest episodes to date, “Glee” and “Castle” continue to be as guilty as they are pleasurable, and the new season of “Top Chef” might just be the best yet. But none were able to crack my Top 5, which goes to prove that while there might have been a few misses this year, the hits were a lot more memorable.

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1. Terriers

Clever, funny, dark and provocative, “Terriers” may have wowed critics with its flawed characters and rich storytelling, but that didn’t change John Landgraf’s recent decision not to renew it for a second season. I don’t blame the FX President for the low ratings (most networks would have given up after only a few weeks), but I do blame the rest of America for failing to tune in to the best new show of the season. Yes, you heard right. Although I enjoyed “The Walking Dead” and the overrated “Boardwalk Empire,” the buddy detective drama delivered better acting and writing week in and week out. Donal Logue and Michael Raymond-James had unparalleled chemistry as the scrappy private investigators (the titular terriers, if you will) caught in the middle of the case of a lifetime, so it’s a shame that we won’t get to tag along on any of their further adventures – especially since the season finale left things wide open. Another brilliant but cancelled television show that, ten years from now, will still be missed.

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2. Modern Family

It hasn’t even completed its second season, but “Modern Family” already seems destined to become a comedy classic. It’s that good, and anyone who says otherwise should get an X-ray to see if their funny bone is broken. Of course, considering that it’s one of the most-watched shows on TV, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn’t agree. But for those who still haven’t experienced the funniest half-hour of television, it’s about time that you do, because there isn’t a single show that even comes close to matching the number of laughs in an average episode. And although the writing staff certainly deserves some credit, it’s cast members like Ty Burrell, Ed O’Neill and Sofia Vergara who make every joke that much funnier. Even the kids are funny, and that’s saying a lot from someone who isn’t particularly fond of child actors. It’s almost unbelievable the way the show fires on all cylinders so consistently, but that’s what separates a great show from a good one, and “Modern Family” is nothing if not that.

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3. Sons of Anarchy

The third season of FX’s outlaw biker drama may not have been its best, but after a sluggish start, the series redeemed itself by getting back to the kind of top-notch storytelling that fans have come to expect. Many of those fans were quick to criticize the ambitious Ireland subplot that dominated most of the season, but along with fleshing out some of the club’s back story, it also set the stage for what turned out to be a killer finale. Many of the supporting players got lost in the background this year, but Charlie Hunnam gave the performance of his career, guest stars Paula Malcomson and James Cosmo proved themselves worthy additions to the cast, and Ally Walker put the finishing touches on what might just be the best TV villain in quite some time. The show may have stumbled a bit along the way, but no matter how you felt about the season as a whole, those who stuck around for the long haul were given plenty of incentive to come back next fall.

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Does Nikki Finke know about this?

Just a bit of post-Halloween cheer directed in high style by Greg Nicotero with some fun cameos by Frank Darabont, Eli Roth, and comedy writer/stand-up comic Dana Gould as the Wolf Man. As you can read in the interview with Nicotero we posted Saturday, he’s the effects maestro responsible for the gore and what not on AMC and Frank Darabont’s “The Walking Dead,” which may be responsible for my either fleeing from the show out of my notorious squeamishness or becoming an alcoholic regular viewer. Fortunately, our own Jason Zingale is able to watch the thing stone cold sober, I believe, and just started blogging the show regularly.

As AICN’s Quint notes, Nicotero — whose responsible for all kinds of brilliant effects work in all kinds of movies and now on television — is the real deal when it comes to geekitude. We salute him.

  

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A chat with Gale Anne Hurd, producer of “The Walking Dead”

Gale Anne Hurd, producer of There aren’t many producers around these days whose name can help sell a movie or TV show, but Gale Anne Hurd is the rare exception. Probably best known as one of the co-creators of “The Terminator” franchise, Hurd has been an important player in numerous mega- or merely major productions, including both “Hulk” and “The Incredible Hulk,” “The Abyss,” “Armageddon,” “The Punisher,” and the underrated 1999 comedy “Dick,” which starred Dan Hedaya as Richard Milhous Nixon and a young Kirsten Dunst and Michelle Williams as a couple of teenagers who wind up bringing down a presidency.

Clearly one of the more hands-on producers around, Hurd is pleasant and businesslike when talking to a member of the show-biz press, but clearly has the gumption to deal with the biggest and most difficult of personalities, which is how I segue into the obligatory mention of the fact that she spent the part of the late eighties and early nineties being married to first James Cameron and then Brian De Palma. Moreover, she began her career working for one the most fascinating and effective producers in the history of the medium, Roger Corman, but more of that in the interview.

Still, nothing she’s done is quite like her current project, the zombie horror drama and comic book adaptation, “The Walking Dead.” The AMC television series, adapted from a series of acclaimed comics by Robert Kirkman primarily by writer-director Frank Darabont (“The Shawshank Redemption,” “The Green Mile,” “The Mist”) is currently receiving maximum exposure on the web. The publicity train was only just getting started when I spoke to Ms. Hurd at a mammoth new San Diego hotel adjacent to the Comic-Con festivities last summer.

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I had typed my questions on my laptop, which I was afraid might be a little off-putting. So, after a quick greeting, I tried to explain why.

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Breaking Bad 3.13 – Where In The World Is Jesse Pinkman?

Has any season of television seemed to go by quite as fast as this run of “Breaking Bad” did?

You hear critics throw around phrases like “the best show on television” so often that it barely seems to mean anything anymore, so in addition to making that particular declaration of “Breaking Bad,” I feel like I should offer a bit more, in order to give it some extra heft. Now, obviously, I’m a TV critic, so I watch television day in and day out. Indeed, to borrow a phrase from one of my peers, TV feeds my family. (Hi, Bill!) But while that’s a far cry from being a hardship when you love the small screen as much as I do, I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve watched so much television that it takes a hell of a lot to lead me from saying “I like this show” to “I fucking love this show.” “Breaking Bad,” however, has done that, by taking the time to intricately build the characterizations of its major players, developing plots which never seem to stop unfolding, and – perhaps most impressively – zigging when I think they’re going to zag and unabashedly defying me whenever I say, “Oh, no, they wouldn’t dare do that!”

Man, I haven’t even finished writing about the Season 3 finale, and already I’m longing for Season 4…

We start tonight’s episode with…an empty house? That’s right: it’s a flashback to when Walt and Skyler were first buying their house. Okay, to be honest, this wasn’t a surprise for Jamey or I, since we were there when they were filming the season finale. In fact, there’s a portion of this scene that we’ve seen and you haven’t yet, with Walt and Skyler wrapping up their walk-through of the place and stepping outside, then hopping into their convertible and driving away into what they perceive to be a perfect future. Presumably, this will turn up on the Season 3 DVD, but what we all got to see was more than enough to show that, once upon a time, the Whites were not only happy but in a position to see the world as their oyster. (“Why be cautious? We’ve got nowhere to go but up!”) Hell, back then, they were even talking about having a third kid, something that probably isn’t going to happen anytime soon, based on the current state of their marriage.

Cut to the present, with the disconcerting sight of the windshield and front bumper of Walt’s car showing the residual effects of the previous night’s events. There’s no sign of Jesse as Walt looks across the horizon, watching the headlights of a car roll ever closer, but if he’s suffering from any nervousness, the return of the Heisenberg hat seems to be displacing it. Mike gets in several great lines, including his version of “assurances” and a momentary musing on how words can be “so open to interpretation” (I love the way you can hear the smirk in Jonathan Banks’ delivery), but Walt scores a point when Mike suggests that he get his car fixed: “Let’s see how this goes first.”

Gus is not a happy man…and, really, who can blame him? This scene was, as has become par for the course with any scene featuring Giancarlo Esposito, thoroughly gripping, but it was as much so because of the lack of certainty surrounding the actions of both characters. We thought we knew Walt pretty well, but after that move last week, when he mowed down and shot down the dealers, it’s clear that we’re dealing with Heisenberg now, which means that anything can happen. Like the scene last week with Walt and Skyler, this is a back and forth full of constant oneupsmanship.

Walt: I’m quite well.
Gus: Clearly, you are not.

Gus: Are you asking me if I ordered the murder of a child?
Walt: I would never ask you that.

I find it fascinating that Walt’s life has taken this turn where, after years of suffering through the public school system, he’s had to start making meth to find himself back in a career where he’s on something approximating even intellectual footing with his co-workers.

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