By Darren Johnson
Campus News and Nu2U
Fuhgettaboutit! I was wrong. I’m sorry Tony … and Big Pussy … and Paulie Walnuts.
Yeah, you, too, Carmela. Sorry!
You see, in this space a few years ago, I declared “Breaking Bad” the best TV show of all time. Of course, I was aware of “The Sopranos” and how it trail-blazed a market for all of these multi-season crime series we marathon watch today on services like Netflix.
But here’s the problem. I had never marathon watched “The Sopranos.” In the late 1990s and early 2000s, I’d catch it, here and there, on HBO, depending if I’d had a subscription at the time. And I was younger — some of the family drama at the time went over my head. Sometimes I’d catch it on regular TV, where it didn’t translate that well without the cursing and Bada Bing! strippers. Then there was the finale, which got mixed reviews at the time. So my recollection of the series was skewed.
Thus, when I got to “Breaking Bad” a decade later, it seemed — ah, finally a perfect series. And it was — except for “The Fly” episode, and Anna Gunn’s dramatic changes in appearance from season to season.
But now I have Amazon Instant — which is totally worth it (click here if you have a .edu email address and want a great deal) — and Tony and the whole Soprano family are there, free for Prime members, and ready to marathon watch. I’ve now seen the series two more times. It’s amazing what one catches when marathon watching — for example, loyal wife Carmela folding the laundry, which includes the awful Hawaiian shirt Tony wore to the BBQ when his panic attacks started worsening. Paulie saving Tony’s vanity portrait of himself from a fire; we forget about it and then see it a season or two later, when Tony goes to visit him and there’s an awkward exchange about it.
Stuff like that. When watching this series on HBO when it had originally aired, sometimes sporadically, over several years, I didn’t catch such nuance.
And this is not to say “Breaking Bad” is an inferior show. But, right now, I’m more excited about watching and rewatching the Italian gang up North. Here’s a breakdown comparison:
The Main Characters
Both Bryan Cranston as Walter White and the late James Galdolfini as Tony nail their roles, and there’s no saying one is better than the next. They both hit home runs. Both characters go through a transformation, but White’s is more dramatic; going from moribund high school teacher to drug kingpin. Soprano just becomes a bit more self-realized. Very early on he goes from captain to boss, so not as much of a career change. White’s disease — Stage 4 lung cancer — is also more dramatic than Soprano’s panic attacks.
Edie Falco as Carmela is superb. She’s the wife every guy needs to be a boss. She’s loyal but tells it like it is. She looks the other way in regards to the strippers and gumars Tony sleeps with. She keeps the kids neat and tidy and on the college track. She shows us incredible acting chops (also marathon watch “Nurse Jackie” on Netflix, where she, instead, plays a very bad wife as the title character). I think I have a small crush on her. Anna Gunn as Skyler seemed like the right choice in Season 1 of “Breaking Bad,” kind of earthy, kind of pretty, somewhat supportive; but either the actress, or the character, became one of the most hated women on the Internet at one point in time, and probably deservedly. How far could Walter White have gone had he married Carmela, instead?
Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman is a legitimate co-star — and the most likeable actor in the series — while Tony Soprano is surrounded by henchmen. Michael Imperioli as Christopher is also an excellent actor. Though Giancarlo Esposito as drug lord Gus Fring, Jonathan Banks as hitman Mike and, of course, Bob Odenkirk as lawyer Saul (and “Better Call Saul,” the best spinoff in TV history (sorry, “Joanie Loves Chachi”), is starting again this month) all come to life under Vince Gilligan’s masterful storytelling and direction.
Apologies, Albuquerque, but the New York Metro region is just a better, more relatable locale. The desert is nice and all — a great place to bury bodies — but so is the Meadowlands. As far as bodies go, HBO was able to add more sex — including a good deal of nudity at Bada Bing! — compared to AMC, which is limited to just allowing gruesome killing. Not that White was much of a player when it came to extramarital activity.
Hey, both of these shows have excellent dialogue and very real, well-developed characters. Maybe “Breaking Bad” has a tighter plot, where everything connects, and the finale is spectacular. But, hey, yo’ — give me some more gravy on my mani-got, before it gets cold! And, really, “The Sopranos” finale is not bad at all — it’s actually just right.
Darren Johnson has been writing “It’s New to You!” since 2010, reviewing what’s on Netflix, Amazon Instant and other such services. Read more on www.Nu2U.info.