TCA Tour: Breaking Bad

AMC may have broken its streak of perfection in late 2009 when their miniseries remake of “The Prisoner” met predominantly with either indifference or annoyance, but there’s plenty of reason to expect that the network will regain its good name in full in 2010.

For one thing, there’s the announcement that Kurt Ellis, the screenwriter behind HBO’s “John Adams,” is setting his sights on Warren Harding and developing the miniseries “Black Gold: The Teapot Dome Scandal.” Then, of course, there’s the fact that we’ve been chomping at the bit for Season 4 of “Mad Men” ever since the dissolution of Sterling-Cooper back in November, which means that we’ll pretty much forgive the network anything when the series returns later this year. Joel Stillerman, AMC’s Senior Vice President of Original Programming, Production, and Digital Content, gave us this one-liner: “Betty is off to Reno, Don is shacked up in the village, Sterling Cooper is held up in a hotel room, but maybe most importantly, Joan is back, and it should be another great season of one of the best shows ever.” Sounds good to me. More details are also emerging about the latest addition to AMC’s slate of original series, “Rubicon,” which Stillerman describes as “an incredibly compelling mystery that pays homage to the great conspiracy thrillers of the ’70s like ‘The Parallax View’ and ‘Three Days of the Condor,’” adding, “We thought, if we could find a way to take that style of storytelling that has stood the test of time so well and spin it off into a serialized drama, we would have something really great.” Let’s hope they do.

But enough about the new kid on the block. Let’s talk about the network’s other high-profile series: “Breaking Bad,” which will kick off its third season on March 21st.

It will, I’m sure, not surprise you that there will be little in the way of revelations in this piece, what with the season premiere still more than two months away as of this writing, but I can tell you that, within the first five minutes of the panel, the discussion had already veered between a religion called Santa Muerte and a teddy bear’s eyeball, so, y’know, make of that what you will.

Like many dramas on TV, the cast members of “Breaking Bad” have almost as little idea what’s going to happen next as the viewers do, rarely knowing how things are going to unfold until they get the script for the next episode.

“That’s what makes it exciting,” explained Bryan Cranston, who plays the show’s cancer-ridden meth dealer, Walter White. “Just like you watching it, we are reading it, and the feeling has the same impact, as much surprise as you have. We often comment to each other, ‘Did you read it yet? Did you read it?’ ‘Yeah, don’t tell me. Don’t tell me. Don’t tell me.’ ‘I’m only halfway through it.’ ‘Oh, yeah. Oh, my goodness. You are not going to believe it. You are not going to believe it.’ So you have that kind of anxiety and anticipation of what’s about to happen, so it’s never boring and always a surprise and a turn here and there.”

As expected, Cranston wouldn’t offer specifics about what Walt would be going through in Season 3, but he was willing to speak in general terms, at least. “There are actually a couple turns that happen emotionally, some physically,” he said. “I’m starting to completely accept the metamorphosis of my character. I’m breaking out of the cocoon and ready to become a different person, and that transition over time is one of the things that was the most compelling for me about wanting to do this show is that (creator) Vince Gilligan said he wanted to do something that he’s never seen before, and that’s, as he famously puts it, turn Mr. Chips into Scarface. And it hasn’t been done on television before unless someone can cite an occasion where you actually see a person completely change who he is by the end of the series or near the end of the series. I will be a completely different person from the milquetoast person you saw in the pilot.”

(You may recall that Cranston spoke to this issue when he chatted with Bullz-Eye in conjunction with the most recent TV Power Rankings.)

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