Jim Wares: ‘Breaking Bad’ badly

I learned I feel sort of guilty … sort of dirty. You see, since last week, and this is difficult for me to admit, but I have been binge watching the 2008-13 television series “Breaking Bad”. Yeppers! About three hours per day. I’m on season six. And this isn’t the first time. A little over a year ago, I binge watched the series “House of Cards.”

Most of the time, I’m sort of an anti-televisiontarian snob. While the average adult American spends about five hours and four minutes per day watching television, normally, I might spend that much time per week. And yes, this fact allows me a sense of opportunity/cost superiority. But like all superior feeling people who eventually demonstrate themselves to be less than common, the preacher videotaped in the bordello, the politician photographed kissing the lobbyist or the anti-televisiontarian snob caught binge watching “Breaking Bad” … we’re all the same … weak, frail humans, feet made of clay.

I feel the same sense of superiority when it comes to glazed donuts. When I’m standing in a checkout line and I see the person ahead of me buying glazed donuts, I pity that person. I feel smug knowing that in my cart there are no glazed donuts. I’m stronger than that. Glazed donuts have no power over me. But the sad, sad truth is…every fiber of my being is craving a glazed donut. Over time this craving builds, festers within me. I try to deny it. I try to suppress it. But the day comes when I’m in the supermarket and I find myself looking over my shoulder making sure Princess Wife is pre-occupied with the price of tofu while I sneak away to the bakery section to look…just to look…at the glazed donuts. Then one day, one inevitable day, I find myself dazed, lying on the kitchen floor, an empty quart milk cartoon on its side next to my head and an empty pastry box on my chest, a baker’s dozen of glazed donuts having died at my hand. Shame.

When compared, glazed donuts seem benign next to television. Oh sure! A dozen glazed donuts may yield almost 4,000 calories, 3,960 milligrams of sodium and 168 grams of fat and cause premature death … but one can always diet or do some pushups to burn up some of this garbage. But once one watches five hours and four minutes of television, one can never get that five hours and four minutes back … it’s gone … forever … just gone.

I learned television is “the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people” The average American child, between the ages of four and six years old, when asked to choose between spending time with their fathers and watching television, 54% choose television. I learned that the average American youth spends around nine hundred hours per year in school and that the average American youth spends twelve hundred hours per year watching television. During those 1,200 hours he will see 16,000 60-second commercials. By the time that child reaches the age of 18 he will have seen over 150,000 acts of violence. Even though the average American watches over five hours of television per day, only 49 percent of Americans feel they watch too much television.

But the thing I have most succinctly learned during this past week of binge watching “Breaking Bad” is that one doesn’t learn anything while binge watching “Breaking Bad.” This is not a good thing for a person who writes a column about what he learned today.

Now, the funny thing is, I’m not enjoying “Breaking Bad” enough to justify this binge behavior. I understand bingeing on glazed donuts. They’re delicious and they give me happy mouth. But “Breaking Bad”, in my opinion, is only a so-so television series. So why waste my time? Why give up these three hours per day? It’s not my fault. It’s theirs…the writers and producers. They knew what they were doing. They employ the same tactic as drug pushers and cigarette manufacturers. They don’t make me want more. They make me need more. I am the prey and television drama is the predator. The average episode is around 45 minutes long. I am mostly bored with 39 minutes of the 45 minutes. But the writers have mastered the cliffhanger. It is the last three minutes of each episode that makes me need to watch the 45 minutes of the next episode. To make matters worse, to suck me in even more, the writers and producers do not only end each episode with a cliffhanger, they begin each episode with a cliffhanger. I don’t have a chance. I can’t stop. Hank has just figured out that it is Walter who is the mysterious Mr. Heisenberg and Mrs. White is on the verge of nervous breakdown, the D.E.A. is closing in and there has been a foreshadowing of war beginning between Mr. White and an international syndicate … what? … what will happen to Jesse? I am a lost soul.

I am forced to confront this weakness. I must learn from it so I can move on with my life. I must conquer this … this … obsession. But on the other hand, at least I’m not devouring glazed donuts while I’m binge watching television. All things in moderation, you know, that sort of thing. This is all I have learned today.

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James Wares lives in Marshalltown and can be reached at whatjimhaslearnedtoday@yahoo.com