Thursday, 18 February 2010

TV or not TV Heroes #1 - Bryan Cranston

This time last year I did a live blog on the Brit Awards, this year’s incarnation of which took place on Tuesday, but after exposing myself to the relentless tsunami of shit that was last year’s Brits I just couldn’t bring myself to sit through it again for a second year in a row, as much as I would have loved to pour scorn on what is the most over-hyped and over-rated show of the year.

This decision was vindicated by the ten minutes of the Brits I actually saw which looked as gash as usual and consisted of Geri Halliwell insulting Kula Shaker – what is this 1996? And JLS winning an award, ah, the good old British public – don’t forget to take your shirts off lads…

Instead this week, I decided to launch a new quasi-regular feature profiling some of the more unsung TV stars out there and who better to begin the TV or not TV Heroes feature than the brilliant Bryan Cranston, star of the multi-award winning Breaking Bad.

Prior to the majestic Breaking Bad, Cranston had carved out a niche for himself as a supporting comedy star who routinely stole the show from series regulars on whichever show he was guesting on.

I always knew he was a brilliant comedy actor but with Breaking Bad he has taken his acting skills to a new level altogether, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Cranston first came to prominence as Dr. Tim Whatley on Seinfeld, who became somewhat of a nemesis to Jerry over the course of the show. Whatley appeared a total of 5 times, at completely random junctures, but was always brilliant.

First appearing in season 6, amongst his highlights were being referred to as a “dentist to the stars” by George, being ‘labelled’ a re-gifter after giving Jerry a label maker Elaine had given to him as a gift (see what I did there), seeming to have violated Jerry with his assistant whilst he was under anaesthetic and who could forget his finest moment: converting to Judaism according to Jerry “for the jokes” prompting Seinfeld to be branded an ‘anti-dentite’.

To be one of the more memorable supporting characters from a show that was famed for them is quite an achievement and Cranston went to constantly be the best thing on whichever show he was appearing on.

Cranston’s next big role was on the HBO mini-series From the Earth to the Moon on which he played Buzz Aldrin, but it was his recurring guest spot as Doug and Carrie’s annoying neighbour Tim Sacksky on King of Queens that was the next role that made it clear Bryan Cranston was one of the finest comedy actors out there.

Cranston appeared in a total of 4 episodes of the Kevin James starring sitcom across the first three seasons and his highlights including ripping off Doug in a pyramid scheme selling water filters and then returning in season 3 to build an above ground pool, much to Carrie’s chagrin.

From there Cranston went on to his most famous role playing Hal on Malcolm in the Middle. Although I was never an avid fan of Malcolm, I remember the odd time I caught an episode that Cranston was his usual great self, blending perfect comedic timing with a great deal of charm and warmth as the Father to the titular character and his band of delinquent siblings.

During his tenure on the show, Cranston also directed several episodes of Malcolm, something he would also go on to do in his current role on Breaking Bad.

Following the end of Malcolm and the start of one of the best shows on TV right now: Breaking Bad, Cranston made two appearances on the very funny How I Met Your Mother as Ted’s annoying boss Hammond Druthers, although not given much to do in either appearance, Cranston exuded that comedic sensibility that underpins all his performances and was funny as always.

Then came the role that, for me, will define Cranston’s career – that of chemistry teacher turned crystal meth dealer Walt White on AMC’s amazing Breaking Bad.

Almost unrecognisable from his previous roles, with moustache and eventually shaved head, Cranston has proved with Breaking Bad that he can handle the serious stuff just as capably as the funny stuff and his contribution to Breaking Bad’s success cannot be underestimated – the show has a great cast, but it is Cranston that is ultimately asked to carry most of the show’s emotional weight and he does it with aplomb.

Breaking Bad and Bryan Cranston have had a hell of a ride so far, rapidly becoming one of the most unmissable shows on TV and snagging a multitude of awards along the way. Season 3 is right around the corner and after the plane crash that ended season 2 I can’t wait to see where Walt’s head is at for the new season.

So there you have it, number one in the TV or not TV Heroes series is the mighty Bryan Cranston, and if you haven’t checked out some of the man’s aforementioned back catalogue yet, then do so now!

Other Musings:

- Lost continues to have me absolutely hooked for its final year. I honestly haven’t got a clue what is going on but to me that’s a good thing. Every episode doles out a little bit more and then ends, leaving you gasping for more; which is precisely what a serialised TV show should do.

- Last year I wrote about how unbelievably cute Don Draper’s son was on Mad Men, which for me to say is a definite achievement, because for the most part, I don’t think kids are cute, in fact most of the time I hate seeing their stupid little faces.

Imagine my disappointment when I had a Mad Men marathon the other day to catch up on the new season and discovered that they’ve only gone and recast the little chuffer!

TV Moment of the Week:

- Jack Bauer took badassery to a new level on 24 this week by removing a knife from his own abdomen and flinging it across a room straight into a bad guy’s throat.

24 also took ridiculousness to new levels with this scene, if we were supposed to think it was cool it didn’t work, I actually burst out laughing the second it happened. One minute Jack’s on the floor looking extremely worse for wear after being stabbed, he hears a noise and suddenly has the wherewithal to not only remove the knife but to accurately throw it across the room to take it out his assailant.

24 has always required quite a large suspension of disbelief but this was about the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen; and coming from a show that has seen a White House siege, Tony Almeida come back from the dead, Jack Bauer land a plane of a highway, temporarily die twice, escape countless deadly gases simply by holding his breath and of course not eat, drink, sleep or relieve himself for seven separate 24 hour periods then that is a pretty bold statement, which is why this was so awesome! Only Jack Bauer could pull something like that off.

This all happened a few seconds after Renee had done the inevitable and offed Callum Keith Rennie’s Russian mobster Vladimir with the same bread knife. As soon as Vlad critiqued Renee’s bread cutting skills earlier in the episode I knew that knife was going to come back to haunt him, and haunt him it did as after getting rough with Renee one time to many she took the knife to his eye socket and then repeatedly stabbed his lifeless corpse with it, menacingly close to the genitals. Dark Renee means business.

Callum Keith Rennie was brilliant in his guest role and it’s a real shame he wasn’t around longer than three episodes, I’m quite alarmed at the speed they’re getting through villains this year though – we’re only up to hour 7 and we’ve already seen two tiers of bad guys (Davros and now Vladimir) meet their maker; and with Jack on his way to Bazhaev, its not looking to good for the patricidal Russian. I really hope that weaselly little Farhad doesn’t turn out to be the kingpin this season because he’s about the least convincing bad guy 24’s ever had, and let’s not forget that they once had Kal Penn as a terrorist.

All in all though, Day 8 seems to be getting on the right track now, even if that awful Dana Walsh storyline is still dragging on – I honestly think that only having one episode a week helps, it leaves you wanting more rather than getting bored by all the lame duck plot threads that don’t involve Jack, because let’s be honest, that’s what we all really care about isn’t it?

24 Day 8 Death Counter:

Hour 7 –

Vladimir Laitanan – stabbed through the eye with a bread knife by Renee Walker (corpse then repeatedly stabbed with aforementioned bread knife)

Lugo – (JBK) took bread knife to the throat courtesy of Jack Bauer

Laitanan’s henchman – (JBK) shot by Jack Bauer through a wall as Jack saw his shadow approaching

Episode Death Total = 3

Cumulative Season Death Total = 22

Ongoing Jack Bauer Kills (JBK) Total = 5


  1. "Callum Keith Rennie was brilliant in his guest role and it’s a real shame he wasn’t around longer than three episodes"

    He was the best thing about the season this far, well, aside from the laugh out loud moment of Jack flinging a knife he'd just been stabbed with into another Russian mobster's throat.
    Seriously, this show works on the level of pure comedy by now, I do hope this is the last season.

  2. Congratulations for this award

    I have seen you in Breaking Bad which is a great show and i am so highlighted from this.This show is fully a comedy show which i like the most in it..You have done good work

    Keep rocks!!!


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