Breaking Bad Good: The Wire, Game of Thrones and The Sopranos Much Better

Breaking Bad was a great show and the character of Walter White belongs right up there with Archie Bunker and Tony Soprano in terms of all time great characters in the history of American television.

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I give my props to Walter White (Bryan Cranston) in order to make it clear I am a fan of the show. All of the previous seasons are in my DVD collection and I will be buying the last season. Even though I was not a fan of the Jesse character at all and really wanted to see him dead I was pretty satisfied with the way the show ended.

However, Breaking Bad fans should not get carried away. While it was a great show probably in the top ten of television drams of all time it is nowhere close to being on the same level as The Wire, The Sopranos or Game of Thrones.

Why The Wire is Better Than Breaking Bad

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Lets start with the obvious. Breaking Bad is not even remote realistic. The idea that a high-school chemistry teacher with cancer having only the aid of a spoiled junkie headcase could take down Mexican drug-cartels and major drug-organizations is patently absurd. The idea that a biker game similar to the Aryan Brotherhood could be organized enough to kill fifteen people in different jails at the same time is equally absurd.

The Wire was as real as TV could ever get. Indeed, people who don’t know anything about the subject matter of The Wire have watched it not just for entertainment: but for educational purposes as well.

Season one focused on the police and the Barksdale-Bell West Baltimore street organization. It showed the police not as heroic angels: but gave a realistic portrayl of committed yet flawed people working in an organization full of political cronyism, bad apples, and racial-division. The drug-dealers were shown not as villians: but rather as products of the neighborhood and culture they came from.

Hank Schrader was a great TV cop. He looked and acted like many cops I have known and is much more realistic than any prettyboy or yuppie looking and acting cop on CSI or Law&Order who catches the villian within forty-five minutes. I give Breaking Bad that.

In season two The Wire dealt with deindustrialization and labor-unions. Season three City Hall, urban politics and drug-policy. Season four public schools, foster-care and youth-violence. Season five the decline of the media and the major-dailies. All five seasons well-written, well-acted, and dealing with very serious subject matter in an entertaining yet informative manner. Quite simply not only the best TV show ever: but also the most important to the national conversation since All in The Family. The ratings only suffered in my opinion because there were too many black characters for the liking of much of white America.

Breaking Bad was well-written, acted and entertaining. Yet, it didn’t deal with anything important. Walt has cancer at a time the national conversation is centered on Obamacare and it is not even discussed. The Wire had many characters people loved. Outside of Walt who was universally loved on Breaking Bad?

Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad

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Game of Thrones is a show where you can watch every episode five times and still not catch everything. Complex-writing, stunning visuals , great-directing and a large cast of superb actors. The viewer can get lost in the HBO show and books by George R.R. Martin. Game of Thrones is just deeper on every level than Breaking Bad. Imagine Walt getting killed in season one like Ned Stark was and the show still being a hit. Tyrion Lannister, Arya Stark, Cersei Lannister, Jon Snow and Danerys Targaryen are all characters with weight like Walt and all on the same show. And Gus or Todd on their worst day were not as evil as King Joffrey and Saul Goodman not as clever as Littlefinger or Varys ( or even Levy if we go back to The Wire). Nor was Mike as gangster as Stannis Baratheon or lethal as the Kingslayer.

The Sopranos
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Breaking Bad is close to The Sopranos (slightly ahead of Boardwalk Empire due to it’s weak third season). But lags behind due to not having as many interesting characters, being not as realistic, and not quite as developed a storyline.

A Look at Season 5 of The Wire Before The End

 There are only two episodes left of the best written, most well-acted, realistic, and complex show in my lifetime and as The Wire is leaving us it is doing so with a bang.

David Simon, the author and former police reporter who created the Baltimore-based show, created a masterpiece that always got a lot more critical acclaim than it did viewers. Which I attribute to the fact that there are no real good or bad guys in the show and most of its characters whether they be street dealers, kingpins, cops, politicians, kids, or reporters are all painted in shades of grey.

The show also has always had a strong educational component to it for those who are paying attention. Lessons can be learned and windows are opened to nuances that many observers have not previously had access to. For those not interested in that there is still just an entertaining show to watch.

The Wire, in reality, was probably never a good fit for TV, even premium cable TV like HBO, and was more suited for independent film ( or even being written as an epic novel) so in retrospect it is amazing it made it five-seasons and was able to carve out a loyal niche audience. 

In order to become the kind of ratings champ it needed to be to go longer it would have made the cops into saints, dealers into diabolical villains, and politicians either into martyrs of the faith or crooks. It would have also had to tell stories less nuanced and more quickly. And, lets face it, even with the finest cast of African-American actors in American TV history, for many the show is just too black.

As far as my thoughts on the final season of The Wire go I will say that there have been some things I have liked, and a few I have not liked, but that it is finishing with a huge bang and the last few episodes have been off the chain.

Omar Little:

I have said all along that if Omar ( Michael K. Williams) does not get killed than The Wire is not real; because no on does that much robbing and killing and does not eventually get popped himself. Furthermore, I always found the character of Omar to be a little unrealistic. On the hunt for Marlo Stanfield this season and taking on his muscle after  Marlow’s muscle killed his blinded uncle Omar once again dropped bodies left and right in Baltimore and struck fear into the hearts of corner boys and stash house squatters. Eventually though, Omar got what was coming to him, and I believe that how he got killed was very appropriate and real. Omar, the most feared man in Baltimore, was dropped with one shot in the head while buying a pack of Newport’s in a Korean deli by a young junior ( Kenard) on the corners of about 12 years of age. A little boy dropped the baddest stick-up man in Baltimore, and that was real, because a gun is a great equalizer, and some of the hardest have been dropped by some of the weakest with a gun. It also shows that some of the worst killers, who will kill for the helluva it, are the youngest.

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