Sunday, November 20, 2011

My Breaking Bad problem

I don't watch a whole lot of these made-for-TV superseries. I've done season 1 of Dexter and The Walking Dead, all of Deadwood - and that's about it. I know from my Deadwood experience how addictive these shows can be, how one is compelled to stay up late watching episode after episode, in a way analogous to the experience of reading highly compelling pulp fiction. I've recently been introduced to Breaking Bad, an excellent example of the form - involving the moral compromises and human consequences that ensue when a high school chemistry teacher, Walter White, decides, on discovering that he has cancer, to start cooking meth to provide for his famiily. It's the same experience: it's hard to walk away having seen fewer than four or five episodes in a row. This is also true for my Mom, who is as hooked as I am, checking her watch at 11pm to turn to me and say "just one more episode?" She's as invested in the show as I am, which is what I'd hoped would be the case.

(...People seem scandalized that I'm showing these to my 80-year-old Mom, but she actually enjoys fairly violent entertainment, and has been known, at the climax of a good revenge thriller, to be cheering the hero on in the final showdown, saying things like "kill him!" - something that's become a bit of a joke between us, such that she now performs this reaction where appropriate because she knows it amuses me. My Mom is very sweet, and just a little bit bloody-minded... she also has no one else in her life to keep her company, so we watch a lot of movies together anyhow; I figured a series would be cognitively good for her, get her to exercise her memory over the long-term. Mind you, my Mom is also of a somewhat conservative mindset, and tends to get more satisfaction out of the scenes where Walter and Jesse are punished for their wrongs - she interjects things like "they deserve it!" - than the moments where they seem to be getting away with it, which is what I tend to cheer on...).

Our method of delivery for these has been primarily DVD up until now. I bought Season 1 last Friday, Season 2 on Monday, and Season 3 on the Friday just past. Here we are on Sunday, then - and all 33 episodes have been gobbled up, consumed, in a week and a couple of days. What to do now? We COULD just wait for Season 4 to be released on DVD - I will definitely purchase it, and DVD is still my format of choice. But Mom's attention span won't hold out that long - she'll have forgotten the series and her investment in it by that time, I would imagine, whereas right now she and I are both champing at the bit to see more. I generally only feel comfortable using torrent technology for things a) I cannot buy legally anyway - things unavailable legally, like Todd Haynes' Superstar, for example, or the uncensored version of A Serbian Film; b) things I would never buy anyways (pornography, for instance - surely only the very rich or compulsive masturbators pay for that, these days); c) things I do not yet know that I want to buy, which I want to take for a "free test drive." Torrents are ideal for such purposes - 'cept even here I've run into a snag; my first attempt to download the full season 4 netted me a zipped file that I supposedly have to pay money to de-encrypt, which I have to acquire from some sleazy-lookin' website called "Share Cash" that appears to be trying to commodify exchanges in the torrentsphere. No thanks! There's also the legal option of buying one-episode-at-a-time off Amazon, of course, but I'm damned if I'm going to pay for these things twice, once now and once the DVD is released. And I very much doubt that AMC's reruns coincidentally match up with Mom and my needs, here - I don't want to miss a single episode, or see them out of sequence...

So here I am torrenting one episode at a time, negotiating the odd failed download en route, checking each to make sure the quality is okay (it isn't, always), planning to compile them on a DVD that I can invite Mom over for (her player doesn't like burned discs). With luck, a legit DVD release will happen soon, and I'll be able to legitimize my position here. If all works out, maybe Mom and I'll even end up watching Season 5 as it airs on TV - "the old fashioned way." I should go check my downloads now... Mom'll be expecting me...

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