On “Breaking Bad” vs. “The Wire”
Him: I think the argument could be made that, because of Breaking Bad’s relatively limited scope (in the end, it can be encapsulated in one slightly run-on sentence and a tack on: “A chemistry teacher discovers he has cancer, decides to cook meth so that he can provide for his family, and teams up with a degenerate former-student. Then he deals with the consequences.”) it is actually impossible for BB to ever be a “better” show than the Wire in the way that I conceptualize of greatness. It could be more entertaining, better acted, even more skillfully written, but it could never really be more meaningful, I don’t think. Unless maybe Walter White were to run for Congress and lead a successful repeal and revamp of American drug laws in a latter season. When you have to describe a show with phrases like “an investigation of the life and death of the American city” or “kind of like a Tolstoy novel” you know that it’s bigger, in some important way, than most anything that’s ever been on television.
This is why we are friends.
The Wire is a 19th century realist novel. Breaking Bad is a Jonathan Franzen tome that is mostly concerned with one dude and the fallout of his increasingly poor decisions.
Surely things don’t need to be big in scale to aspire to greatness. Look at Mrs. Dalloway, or The Moviegoer. Both Breaking Bad and The Wire are terrific shows, but they aim at such different conceptions of “greatness” that it’s useless to hold them to the same standards. Breaking Bad may be “mostly concerned with one dude” but then so is Ulysses. And Franzen could never fit in with Breaking Bad’s writing staff, there’s way too much of a “Now let’s really fuck with things” attitude for him. Cormac McCarthy could definitely hang with them though.
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- natface said: weeellll, one man’s actions are saying a lot when you think about them re: the scope of the drug trade in the SW, the idea of addiction in many forms, and individual power. it’s more apt to say that the wire is dickensian whereas BB is shakespearean
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