As is often the case when a show becomes unassailably good, a lot of critics are doing just that of late: Assailing the quality of Breaking Bad. It’s part of the culture we live in, and I totally understand it. It’s the job of television critics, bloggers, and feature writers to deconstruct television shows, pick them apart at the seams, and often split them open in order to reveal their flaws. I know that Alan Sepinwall, for instance, is on some sort of crusade against the eight-episode mini-seasons, arguing that it’s forced Vince Gilligan to move the narrative too quickly. Matt Zoller Seitz over on Vulture is tore apart the “Dead Freight,” arguing that it was an wholly implausible episode.
I get that, in part because I also like to deconstruct episodes, although I am inclined to give more leeway to Vince Gilligan to account for the dramatic liberties one needs to take because THIS IS TELEVISION and not real life, so I’m not expecting everything to be completely plausible or paced along with the same glacial rhythm as reality.
That said, while I can deal with the nitpicks, I absolutely positively draw the line at some guy writing a manifesto on all the many ways in which Breaking Bad is completely “overrated.” That’s precisely what Jim Salant — himself a former meth addict — did a few weeks ago over on GQ, arguing that Breaking Bad is the most overrated show since Mad Men and that it is “too flawed to enter the small pantheon of television that qualifies as art.”
I won’t go into all of Salant’s arguments for why Breaking Bad is such an overrated show (you can read the entire piece here), except to say that Salant takes issue with Gilligan’s fast-forward techniques, thinks Breaking Bad is rife with cliches, finds Walter’s character development unbelievable and contrived, and basically calls out the show for not being original enough.
The issue I have with anyone calling Breaking Bad “overrated” (and Salant also calls Mad Men overrated) is this: If Vince Gilligan’s show is overrated, then what isn’t? To be clear, Salant doesn’t call Breaking Bad a bad show, he’s just calling it overpraised, but that’s a very cynical and troubling perspective. It also illustrates my problem with the word “overrated”: If a show is great, shouldn’t we all be praising it, especially a show that — at its height — only reaches 3 million viewers. Is Salant suggesting that collectively, the Internet should get together and decide upon a predetermined level of praise to give it that’s commensurate with his perception of the show’s quality? How do we temper our enthusiasm for a brilliant, compelling, dark, and complex show so that it doesn’t reach into his subjective sense for what is overpraised?
“Overrated” is a mean-spirited troll’s word, a useless term that only serves to denigrate a person’s enthusiasm. That word should never be applied to a show like Breaking Bad because no one should ever be made to feel ashamed for loving the most breathtaking show on television as much as we do, especially on the basis of a few perceived flaws that are as contrived as Salant believes Walter White’s actions are. You know what? F**k that guy, and f**k anyone that suggests to you that your love and dedication to one of the best — if not the best — show on television should be more restrained because he happens to have a problem with Gilligan’s use of flash forwards. Haters gonna hate, critics gonna nitpick, and douches are always going to find a way to piss in your Cheerios.
Screw ’em all. If anything, Breaking Bad and Vince Gilligan aren’t lauded enough for creating the most compelling hour of television very single week it’s on the air.