Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Sunday Night Viewing: Breaking Bad Season 4, Curb Your Enthusiasm Season 8

It's all about the writing. As the movies get bigger and dumber, television seems to get sharper. But even the best television writing can get tired as we all saw with Mad Men. Maybe the Brits have the right idea: two seasons of Fawlty Towers and The Office and then out...Maybe.
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If you don't want to read spoilers, stop reading now. 
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Breaking Bad S4 episode 1 wasn't as great as it could have been. Walt and Jessie were trapped in their lab awaiting their fate. The episode was titled Box Cutter and the camera lingered on the box cutter in the opening sequence with Gil. It was heavy handed. We knew the box cutter was going to be used to kill someone and we knew that neither of the principals was going to die, so there wasn't a whole lot of drama there. We also got a cursory look at Hank and Marie's story but I'm pretty bored when those two are on screen nowadays. Hank needs to recover and get back on Walt's trail, soon. Sal needs to become a major player. I'd like to see more scenes with Walt's son. Episode 2 had more circling of the wagons. The party scene went on for a long time. Jessie's arc you could see coming a mile off and I didn't buy Walt going to the chicken man's house or his proposal in the bar...I don't know, I think it might have been smarter to have these two episodes compressed into one. A slow start to the year, but I like the foundations that are being laid for an explosive season.
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Curb Your Enthusiasm has always been hit and miss. S8E1 was very much a miss. None of the stories worked for me and I was pretty unimpressed by the whole thing. Four of the Seinfeld writers worked on this episode and it didn't show anywhere. S8E2, however, was more inspired. Larry David is at his funniest when he's getting underneath the skin of those closest to him and when he's uncovering the fracture lines in politics and religion. Bob Einstein is a great foil for Larry and Marty Funkhauser's new found love of Judaism and the opening of a fantastic Palestinian Restaurant next to his beloved deli made a wonderful collision course. I laughed out loud more than a couple of times in this episode and the Sandy Koufax neologism was a nice touch: "You're Koufaxing me?" "Yeah, I'm Koufaxing you." 
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Breaking Bad S4 has yet to find its feet but I'm pretty sure it will. S8E1 of Curb was dull, obvious and kind of stupid, S8E2 was acute, witty and well observed. All in all I'm guardedly optimistic about the writing in these two returning shows.