A friend of mine has an unusual (I’m avoiding the word I’d like to use) custom of reading the endings of books prior to starting them, thereby alleviating any unwanted tension in her life. This perplexing habit contradicts my own insistence that endings of books, plays and movies not be divulged in any circumstances save for pacifying a blubbering child (“Honest, Sammy, E.T. is going to be just fine.”). But I learned this week that there’s another exception to the rule.
Over the past several years, my wife and I have watched – or tried watching – a multitude of TV shows that we missed over the past decade and a half by not having cable. Countless friends and family members said we “just have to see” this show or that show, and as our enjoyment of watching SNL and The Tonight Show kept diminishing because we didn’t understand any of the pop culture references (a cableless home has its disadvantages), we decided to catch up on various shows on Netflix.
We started with Six Feet Under and gave up after a season. Weeds? We lasted maybe half a season. Mad Men? We found it depressing and mean-spirited, which seems to be a trend in critically acclaimed cable TV shows these days. The meaner it is, the better the critiques. Downton Abbey: yeah, sure, it’s well done, but it’s basically a soap opera, and I kept hoping that Luke and Laura would make an appearance to spice things up a bit.
But then we heard about Breaking Bad. Surely this must be a show worth watching. After all, everybody and their mother was talking about it, and I heard that even Charlie Rose was in the finale. It had to be good!
Somehow my wife and I managed the impossible and went into the series completely ignorant about the subject matter except that it involved a meth lab. And sure enough, after trudging through the first season and a half of unsympathetic characters, blood, murder and the unseemly underbelly of American society, I didn’t care one iota about Walt and his foray into meth production. We’d finish a show – always expertly done – and feel kind of…assaulted, similar to how I felt after watching The Silence of the Lambs way back in ’91.
But here’s the thing: I watch TV to be entertained, not assaulted. I guess I prefer laughing to ridiculous jokes on Scrubs than I do watching a man choke another man with a chain. Call me crazy.
But I still felt like I needed to know the ending to Breaking Bad. I mean, I knew what was going to happen: Walt had a terminal illness, for crying out loud. One way or another he was !!!SPOILER ALERT!!! going to die. But I kind of wanted to see Charlie Rose (does Charlie start doing meth? Does he end up being murdered?), so, breaking the rule, I did what I had to do: I skipped half of season two and all of season three, four and five, and went straight to the second last episode. Sure, there were characters I didn’t know, plot lines I had to catch up on, but I was able to follow things pretty well, and in the end, none of it really mattered anyhow. I mean, Walt did in fact !!!SPOILER ALERT!!! die.
And now with the hours and hours of my life that I saved by not watching Breaking Bad I can watch reruns of Cheers and Scrubs. Sure, I know the endings of those shows too, but unlike Breaking Bad, at least I’ll have a few laughs along the way.
Hmmm. Maybe my friend who reads the endings to books first isn’t so far off the mark after all.