I don’t know why ESPN sports writer Jason Whitlock decided he needed to write 2,000 comparing Robert Griffin III and Breaking Bad, but he did, and it’s left a lot of people scratching their collective heads. Why? Because it’s a silly article. Basically, Whitlock’s thesis is this: Washington Redskins’ quarterback RG III has had a huge sophomore slump this season because no one bothered to criticize him during his first year. He has been spoiled by a lack of criticism, Whitlock suggests, and it has led to poor play. He also suggests that the inability of the media to criticize Brett Favre basically ruined that quarterback’s career, and that … wait for it … Vince Gilligan is the Brett Favre of the television world, minus the dick pics, one assumes.
No matter what Gilligan does with Breaking Bad, the critics praise its gun-slinging, impossible-to-believe plot twists. You would think there had never been a fast-paced, high-action TV show that explored the drug world, featured a white male’s spiraling descent into immorality and showed the price paid by his family and former friends.
Breaking Bad plays by a different set of rules than all of its predecessors. Nothing has to make sense or be remotely believable. As long as Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul act at a high level, Gilligan will fill the critics in behind the scenes on the story holes and the critics will write reviews explaining what defies explanation and doesn’t take place on screen.
There’s no accountability. Gilligan can throw multiple interceptions, but he’s a gunslinger having fun out there. Last Sunday’s episode played out like many before it, like a bad Die Hard movie.
Unfortunately, its divorce from sophisticated, detail-oriented storytelling doesn’t matter. BB is judged on a different standard. This final season is being hailed as the greatest in TV history. It’s comical.
[The Shield] was awesome. It’s what Breaking Bad had a chance to be, what BB would’ve been if the critics hadn’t decided to go in the tank for Gilligan.
That is some lab-grade trolling right there, folks. You really have to read the entire thing to understand just how dislodged this man’s brain is from its pan. As soon as he started comparing BB to Brett Favre, I knew we were in trouble. When he compared this final season to a bad Die Hard film, we’d gone off the rails.
I think my friend Angelina Burnett (who actually worked on The Shield) provided the best response to Whitlock’s piece:
This “Mary Mary quite contrary” sportswriter who fancies himself qualified to dissect story can pontificate on the cultural importance of criticism all he wants but he misses the most fundamentally important job requirement – meeting the material on its own terms. And this is where his already week sports analogy falls apart. Story telling is not a zero sum game. It’s not measurable by an agreed upon, standard set of criteria. It is not the critic’s job to dog a creator into “being great” as defined by personal taste. And it is not the creator’s job to give you what you want … Now take this sippy cup and go sit at the kids table and I’ll be over in a second to explain to you in simple terms how last week’s Breaking Bad plot held together just fine. Or you can just stick to sports.
Yeah, I think sticking to sports is the way to go here.