Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Talking Bad

A lot of people have been talking about the show Breaking Bad lately. But, you know, there aren't nearly enough people talking about the show where they talk about the show Breaking Bad; that is, Talking Bad. That's where I come in!

AMC first did this with The Walking Dead, and it sounds kind of silly at first. Immediately after each episode of Walking Dead, AMC aired a talk show called Talking Dead, in which a few people sit down and discuss the episode of Walking Dead that just aired. Given the big ratings that Walking Dead gets, this was surely just an attempt to milk that cow for all it's worth, right? After all, it's not like AMC has a whole lot of content, or gets a whole lot of viewers outside of that one hour on Sunday night in which they air that single new episode of Mad Men / Walking Dead / Breaking Bad / whatever.

Well...it worked, because surely, Talking Dead got better TV ratings than whatever else would have aired in its place. (Probably a repeat of the same Walking Dead episode.) AMC's dramas are certainly the "water cooler" conversation-provoking type, so for their shows, it works. So, why not do the same thing with Breaking Bad, they thought? Let's call this one Talking Bad.

I actually don't know how Talking Bad did in the ratings, but I am fairly certain of one thing. Whereas Talking Dead aired immediately following Walking Dead, thus giving the talk show a perfect lead-in, AMC instead decided to sandwich their new show Low Winter Sun in between Breaking Bad and Talking Bad. I'm guessing they'd like to have that one back. I've never seen Low Winter Sun (has anyone?), but apparently it's not very good, and hardly anyone is watching it, either. Low Winter Sun had to have killed any ratings potential that Talking Bad would have had. Actually, instead, Low Winter Sun became a punchline. And, FAR fewer people ended up watching Talking Bad than would have had it aired immediately after Breaking Bad.

But, for the Breaking Bad finale, they finally came to their senses and aired Talking Bad immediately afterwards. And you know what? I actually stuck around and watched it. How about this "show about a show" format?

I'm sure the final Talking Bad had a different feel to it than the ones that preceded it, but here are my thoughts on the idea of following a scripted drama with a talk show in which they talk about what they just saw. When they discuss the background of the episode and talk with the writers / directors / actors about it, and talk about "what they were thinking", perhaps, I think it's great. (For example, the host asked Vince Gilligan why Walter left his watch on top of the phone booth. GREAT question.)

But, after about 15 minutes, the show basically devolved into everyone repeatedly patting themselves on the back, and lame questions such as, "How has this show changed you as an actor?" [puke] In that respect, the final Talking Bad was more like the "retrospectives" that often precede the final episode of a long-running show, rather than a talk show. The prior Talking Bad episodes were likely different, but, still. The behind the scenes stuff is interesting, but all the hugging and emotional crap, I can do without.

In any case, I think what MythBusters does is the gold standard. They post a short epilogue on their website called the "Aftershow", in which they may answer viewer questions, go "behind the scenes", stuff like that. We don't need a 30-minute talk show, necessarily; the "MythBusters Aftershow" format is perfect, and it's usually pretty interesting. For this, five or ten minutes is plenty long. Every big time, "water cooler"-type show should do something like this.

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