Monday, September 30, 2013

TV Watch: As of now, the message from "Breaking Bad" to non-Blu-ray fans seems to be: Drop dead!


[Click to enlarge -- it gets really big!]

by Ken

I resorted to my Plan C last night and watched the Breaking Bad finale in real time, and then the finale of the final-half-season after-show, Talking Bad. They were fine. No complaints about them. They did what the situation called on them to do.

But I might explain that my Plan A was to schlepp to Astoria to watch the episode live on the movie screen of the Museum of the Moving Image. The series is so meticulously photographed and edited that I bet it would look fabulous in big-screen format. (As I've mentioned, this is how I was introduced to The Sopranos. via an MMI marathon.) And I thought it might be fun to group-watch the episode in a theaterful of BB fanatics. Alas, though I think I RSVP-ed within an hour of receipt of the e-invite, as I found out a couple of days later, that was apparently too late! Oh well. It would have meant about 2½ hours' round-trip travel time.

Plan B was trickier. As long as I was going to be home after all, I thought, maybe I'll catch one of the many Breaking Bad repeat airings and take advantage of the opportunity to watch the Good Wife season premiere in HD. (When I got my first HD TV, I made the decision to leave my DVR on a non-HD TV, so I can't record in HD.) But then it occurred to me that CBS might have its legendary "football shift" on, whereby if it has a late Sunday football game, its whole Sunday primet-time schedule can be pushed back to, well, whenever the hell they feel like running it. I believe the network markets its schedule officially as "Bunch o' Crap Sunday." Which meant that I would be foregoing the Breaking Bad finale, or possibly the new Boardwalk Empire episode or the Homeland season premiere, for a show that would start . . . well, who knew when.

So instead, I set my (non-HD) DVR to record The Good Wife, kicking in an extra hour of recording time "just in case." And I watched Breaking Bad and Talking Bad, and as I said, that was fine. I'll probably have something to say in an upcoming "TV Watch" piece. That's not what I want to talk about now, though.

All through the run of the Breaking Bad after-show, Talking Bad, though the second half of Season 5, host Chris Hardwick -- who, let me say once again, has done a bang-up job -- has been talking up this gonzo complete-series video release that's in the works. During last night's hour-long final Talking Bad outing, series creator Vince Gilligan said how proud he is of the package they've put together, and mentioned that the script for a scene he wrote for the final episode, which for reasons of money and time was never even shot, is included in the package. Yes!

Of course all this time I've been wondering what kind of mixture of genuinely worthwhile supplementary material and ridiculous garbage is being thrown into the package, and what sort of price it's going to carry. As it turns out, I didn't have to worry, as I'll explain in a moment.

As to what's in the package, here's a list that appears in the listing, to which, by the way, the Breaking Bad Shop links:
The Complete Series Collector's Set Includes:
• Collectible replica money barrel
• Over 55 hours of special features from all seasons
• All new two-hour documentary
• 16 page booklet with letter from Vince Gilligan
• Commemorative challenge coin designed by Vince Gilligan
• Los Pollos Hermanos apron
I'm certainly on board for the "over 55 hours of special features from all seasons," the "All new two-hour documentary," and (at least in theory) the "16 page booklet with letter from Vince Gilligan" (the obvious question being what's in the booklet). I don't want to be wasting money on the "collectible replica money barrel," the "commemorative challenge coin," or the Los Pollos Hermanos apron. (I have some sympathy for the idea of the apron, but my guess is that the actual object won't be durable enough to be used as an apron, and as a mere tchotchke it's of no interest to me.)

As it turns out, though, it appears to be academic. What's listed on Amazon is exclusively "Breaking Bad: The Complete Series (+UltraViolet Digital Copy) [Blu-ray]." The set isn't due out till November 26, and it's certainly possible that the full marketing plan hasn't been developed, but as of now all that's listed is this Blu-ray edition -- at $299.99 list, $209.99 (30 percent off) Amazon pre-order price. For non-Blu-ray fans, that's a net saving of $209.99 plus tax. Of course it also means no DVDs.

[Click to enlarge -- this gets really big too!]

There is a DVD alternative listed, supposedly comprising "Seasons 1-5," on 18 DVDs, but since this set is apparently already available, I'm guessing that in fact it contains Seasons 1-4 plus the first half of Season 5. Given the dishonest decision made by the network and/or producers to present what were really Seasons 5 and 6 as two halves of Season 5, it seems to me that the Breaking Bad producers and merchandisers have a particular obligtation to be crystal-clear about this. So far, what I'm seeing is murk. At the online Breaking Bad Shop there are separate listings for "Season 5" and "Final Season," the latter currently in pre-order. Apparently the marketing people seem determined to maximize confusion.

To make matters worse, as of this morning there were already 33 reviews up on the Amazon listing for the "Complete Series" package. This is pretty impressive considering that the item is almost two months away from existing. Of course most of the review are babbling on about the show. Anyone who imagines that at this point a review of the show is relevant to potential customers is someone I doubt very much I want to hear from about it. Even more nefariously, there were also 33 reviews -- the most conspicuous of which are the same reviews -- on the listing for the DVDs of "Seasons 1-5."

I assume the complete series will eventually be made available in some form to non-Blu-ray fans of the show, and as I noted, we're still almost two months away from the release date, and plans do evolve. But I have to say, I got a jolt when I went online today to check out the famous complete-series set I've been haring so much about. I thought all I was going to have to decide was whether the price was a budget-buster for me, and that in all likelihood I would be clicking on the "buy now" button.


For a "Sunday Classics" fix anytime, visit the stand-alone "Sunday Classics with Ken."

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