From an Email to The Brazen Heads on Breaking Bad

The reason The Simpsons is the best TV comedy of all time is not because it's a mirror against culture reflecting our values, or referential of our biggest or most interesting cultural phenomena. If this were the most important metric of quality, South Park would be the greatest TV comedy ever. Or maybe Seinfeld. These arguments are not infrequently offered.

The reason The Simpsons is the best TV comedy ever is because--at least for a solid ten year period--it was crafted with the finest quality details necessary to draw out the intellectual and emotional response of hysterical laughter with near universality and in higher quantity and quality than had ever before been seen. There was simply nothing funnier, and, on average, there hasn't been since. And because audiences' relationships to comedic material are very subjective, The Simpsons--through absurdity, timing, context and satire, came close to universalizing the concept of "what is funny". Through this objectification of the subjective, if you will, Diz's point starts to make sense about how Breaking Bad "pushes the right buttons". I would actually argue that Breaking Bad is The Simpsons of drama. Unlike The Wire, which may be a more important show (ultimately what Diz was getting at about Breaking Bad is it's unimportant because it's just about some dude and not an incorporation of the American experience) Breaking Bad managed, through the tightest attention to plot mechanics, dialogue, cinematography, music and acting, to be a new and nearly universal experience of intellectual and emotional thrills.

When a show like The Simpsons starts to stink after thirteen seasons, people don't mind like they do a drama--it doesn't take away from much of the show's legacy because a comedy is designed to push different buttons. A drama need not be funny, but it's required to offer the sensation of realistic stakes in order to hold the emotions compelled. Thus, the complete narrative arc of a drama is heavily scrutinized--as you've seen either directly or through pop-osmosis with the recent conclusion of Dexter.

So, what Breaking Bad is showing to have managed in its five-season totality is a work of art that--granted--may not be a smorgasbord of the American zeitgeist but offers a thoroughly believable, emotionally and intellectually incendiary ride through a thrilling scenario. A scenario no matter how fantastically unlikely, nearly carries the weight and stakes of real life through the unprecedentedly taught crafting of all its parts.

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