So what do you do when the smoke is thick and heavy in the valley? We’re holed up at our cottage on a hill, binge-watching Breaking Bad.
We’re part of the small handful of people who didn’t see it when it played on AMC. In our defense, there’s no cable here in the boonies - just satellite. When my husband, Wayne, moved up here I still had Dish Network, including HBO. By then, it seemed as if the Golden Age of HBO had come to a close. Six Feet Under ended. Then The Sopranos, and Sex and the City. The replacement fare seemed vapid to me (except for Big Love), so I dropped HBO sometime in 2008.
Wayne was puzzled as to why we were paying a monthly fee for basic satellite service that offered little more than psychologically addictive cable news channels, commercial-peppered sci-fi and comedy stations, way too many shopping channels, and something called “Flat Abs Fast.” Even an old favorite of mine, HGTV, had sunk from the helpful and entertaining garden and DYI fare to programs geared toward, apparently, How To Be Incredibly Greedy in Real Estate.
Sensing that cable/satellite programming had reached its nadir, we cancelled our Dish subscription and turned to network TV. We bought our first flat screen TV, and a super antenna. We’ve enjoyed really good network programs such as Fringe, Flash Forward, Heroes, Life On Mars, 30 Rock, The Office, and of course, our beloved Jeopardy! That’s more than enough TV for people who actually have other interests. We have satellite internet to handle the things we would be missing, such as The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. And there’s always the local video store to take care of everything else.
But alas, we never seemed to have time for Breaking Bad, even when it came out on DVD. Life being the way it was for us back in the late 2000-aughts and early teens, which included a massive, 3-years-long house remodeling project among other things, we often opted for fantasy and escapism for entertainment. Breaking Bad just seemed too dark for us, even though we’d heard of its award-winning excellence and vowed to catch up at some point.
A few weeks ago I happened to be cruising past the DVD section of our local library when I saw Breaking Bad: The Entire First Season, and jumped on it. We became completely hooked at the first episode. Many of our conversations now are about Breaking Bad, where the characters and episodes are examined with great depth and speculation. Each scene is an eye and ear-smacking work of art, even when it includes hopelessly decrepit, zombie-like meth-heads. The timing is impeccable. For instance, the final scene in the episode, “Grilled,” in Season 2, in which psycho drug kingpin Tuco is killed next to Jesse's bouncing, hydraulically-enhanced low-rider. It runs out of steam as Tuco dies. The bell that Hector, his wheelchair-ridden uncle uses to communicate, rings one more time.
We’re halfway through Season 3, now. Outside, nearly 100 or more miles away in most directions, the fires continue to burn. Often, in the mornings, there’s a faint hint of blue sky, but that disappears by midday, when smoke fills the valley and I feel lucky to be driving home in an air-conditioned bubble.
On a happier note, there’s rain in the forecast for tomorrow, but we’ll be holed up watching Breaking Bad like wide-eyed devotees until we finish the series.
In the meantime, we extend deepest gratitude to our firefighters.