Breaking the Habit
You can feel the first pangs of withdrawal starting. After all, you've had a relationship with Breaking Bad for 5 years, and now they just expect you to quit cold turkey? Don't they know that's not how the
meth critically-acclaimed cable drama game goes? Turns out that's exactly how it goes. Sure, there's that Better Call Saul spinoff happening, but it's just not the same, so before you go all Trainspotting, we've put together a list of suggestions of shows that will ease the harsh comedown. They're all excellent dramas and any one of them should bind to the correct receptors in your brain — and think of all the time you'll have now on Sundays to devote to them! Turns out quitting has its perks.
Luther S1E1: Episode 1
If there's one thing Walter White could always do on Breaking Bad, it was compartmentalize. Detective Chief Inspector John Luther (portrayed by the always-brilliant Idris Elba) is not quite as able. His work not only comes home with him, it consumes him. Unable to arrest Alice Morgan, a genius-level psychotic, for the murder of her parents, he ends up drawn to her in an intimate way, consumed by his quest to put logic to sociopathy.
Rescue Me S1E1: Guts
Talk about an antihero. Dennis Leary's Tommy Gavin, a veteran New York City fireman and 9/11 survivor, is a self-destructive alcoholic with anger management issues. Not only that, but all of Gavin's friends and family are problem-laden as he is, which, over the course of 7 seasons, leads to a lot of heartbreak, violence, and despair. Sounds like a really fun time, I know, but Rescue Me was far from a run-of-the-mill cable drama — it was the first show that truly took the post-Giuliani New York ethos to its logical (if extreme) conclusion.
Sons of Anarchy S1E1: Pilot
It's not all sunshine and daisies in Charming. This (fictional) Northern California town is home to the Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club, a tortured — and occasionally torturous — motorcycle gang that really, truly tries to live by a moral code. Keeping drugs out of your town = good; using violence and intimidation to do so = effective, albeit maybe-kind-of-sort-of unethical? Sons of Anarchy is practically a Greek tragedy in scope, so don't get too attached to anyone.
The Fall S1E1: Episode 1
Like Luther above, The Fall is a British import in which a devoted cop tries to get inside the head of PURE EVIL. You might think I'm joking, but in this case, the serial killer has reached Buffalo Bill levels of depravity while playing the devoted husband and father at home. Gillian Anderson trots out her British accent (which she comes by honestly, having spent part of her childhood in England) as a detective who sees herself in the murdered young, professional women.
Boardwalk Empire S1E1: Pilot
It's always a nice thing when character actors get a chance to star, and the cast of Boardwalk Empire, HBO's visually arresting Prohibition-set drama, is made up entirely of character actors. Taking a look at gang activity and political corruption in 1920s and '30s Atlantic City, New Jersey, this Steve Buscemi vehicle doesn't skimp on the sex, violence, and all-around crazy evilness that comes with prolonged exposure to the Jersey Shore.*
Homeland S1E1: Pilot
All is fair in love and war... and psychiatric disorders and brainwashing and terrorism, according to Showtime's Homeland, an adaptation of the Israeli series Prisoners of War. Claire Danes' CIA agent Carrie Matheson is on a mission to prove that the recently returned POW Nicholas Brody has been turned by the terrorist group that captured him. Complicating this is her battle with bipolar disorder, and the fact that, uh, [Spoiler Alert] she bangs him. Basically, everyone on this show could be the unreliable narrator of a Dostoevsky novel, and it's pretty damn glorious.
Homicide: Life on the Street S1E1: Gone for Goode
Alone on this list in both provenenance (an American broadcast TV drama) and age (it debuted in 1993), Baltimore-set Homicide: Life on the Street was the precursor to The Wire. Following the personal and professional lives of the detectives of the Baltimore Police Department's Homicide Division and featuring a brilliant ensemble cast, the series was one of the first to really take a look at the complex motivations that drive street crime in a large, decaying city, and frankly, every subtly layered, morally muddled crime drama owes this forerunner a huge debt.
The Sopranos S1E1: The Sopranos
This mob drama (set in North Jersey, of course*), one of the defining shows of the 2000s, started out with crime boss Tony Soprano (the late James Gandolfini) in therapy to deal with panic issues related to, well, being in the mafia. The 7-season run showed the tribulations of both of Tony's families, and was arguably the first television drama to accurately display classic existentialist angst — a trait exemplified by its polarizing series finale.
*I would apologize for the Jersey jokes, but I grew up there, so I'm entitled.
Now, if you've seen ALL of these, then please, take a break (and maybe get a drink) and go watch some comedies. For real.
Leah E. Friedman is the editor of SideReel.com. You can follow her musings on Twitter.