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Why we love, and miss, ‘Breaking Bad’

This gravestone depicting fictional TV meth kingpin Walter White from "Breaking Bad" will not be installed at Sunset Memorial Park after outcry from families of relatives buried there and rumors about the stone being a target for thieves. (Journal File)
This gravestone depicting fictional TV meth kingpin Walter White from "Breaking Bad" will not be installed at Sunset Memorial Park after outcry from families of relatives buried there and rumors about the stone being a target for thieves. (Journal File)
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It seems like a month of Sundays has come and gone since “Breaking Bad” bid farewell as bullets flew and Badfinger’s “Baby Blue” played and the last of Walter White lay bleeding on the meth-lab floor.

You miss him, don’t you? A little?

Of course you do. It’s obvious. A faux obit that ran in the Albuquerque Journal on Oct. 4 sold out across town and was sold on eBay – the most widely read obituary of a person who died who never lived, I’m guessing.

A couple hundred of you attended a “funeral” service for old Walt Oct. 19 at Albuquerque’s Sunset Memorial Park, causing quite the controversy (which, given this was a funeral for a fictitious TV drug kingpin and murderer, stands to reason) and collecting more than $22,000 toward an endowment fund for Albuquerque Health Care for the Homeless.

Walter would have been proud. Or not.

That “funeral” was carried live – at least until copyright concerns caused Sony and AMC to pull the plug – to a potential global audience of millions via YouTube and reported on by Rolling Stone, CNN, the Hollywood Reporter and the United Kingdom’s Guardian, whose audience must surely think we folks across the pond and in the desert are completely daft.

Four weeks and still I receive weekly “Breaking Bad” news roundups in my email.

Just now, as I write this, a woman on Facebook typed the words: “I’m Breaking Bad facebook lonesome.”

We are still letting go.

And not. How could we have known that a cable TV drama could become so addictive, that the sites where it filmed in and around Albuquerque would become tourist attractions?

“Much of what made the show work was its backdrop,” observed Hank Stuever, TV critic for The Washington Post and my friend from our Albuquerque Tribune days. “For New Mexicans, it occasionally verged on the documentary genre.”

Think of this: Octopus Car Wash is now the highlight of many a tourist photo. Blue is the preferred color of food and drink. Guacamole is awkward.

Sure, “The Walking Dead,” which has taken over the Sunday night time slot inhabited by “Breaking Bad” on AMC, draws more viewers – 16.1 million for its season premiere as compared with “Breaking Bad’s” finale of more than 10 million.

But the buzz is down. And “Dead” hasn’t done for Senoia, Ga., where the show is filmed, what “Bad” did for Albuquerque, because I’m pretty sure being portrayed as the meth capital of the world is more desirable than being portrayed as a city overrun with zombies.

Which – and I might as well put the caveat here – is not to say that “Breaking Bad” in any way glorified or trivialized meth addiction. If anything, the show exposed the brutal underbelly of the drug culture, the greed, the grotesque hubris of a mind gone completely wrong. Anyone who says otherwise simply doesn’t know the show.

“Breaking Bad” has become part of the lexicon. We say, “Congress sure broke bad the other day” or “Don’t go all Skyler on me.” The scientifically ingenious use of household goods and duct tape to create weapons of mass destruction isn’t MacGyver-esque anymore; it’s Walter White-like. We use Jesse Pinkman’s trademark profanity (rhymes with “ditch”) as an exclamation point, a defiant underscoring of anything from magnets to mayonnaise.

Like this, (defiant exclamation)!

Here’s something to ponder. “Breaking Bad” was not the first TV series set in Albuquerque. In 1971, it was the scene of the short-lived “The Man and the City” (not a precursor to “Sex and the City,” incidentally) starring Anthony Quinn as the mayor of said city, which was Albuquerque.

I played “Girl in Crowd of Hundreds Downtown” in the show. Perhaps you remember.

Chances are you don’t. “The Man and the City,” which aired on ABC, never caught on and Albuquerque’s allure as a TV town never took off.

And then a chemistry teacher with cancer and a hankering to cook meth came to town.

Today, the Journal puts its final exclamation point on “Breaking Bad” by bringing you a special tabloid souvenir of the show that put Albuquerque on the map. Enjoy, (defiant exclamation)!

People ask what made “Breaking Bad” so popular here and elsewhere. In the shortest, easiest way I can explain that, it’s because it was that good. And because it was good, it made Albuquerque look good being bad.

I miss that.

UpFront is a daily front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to Joline at 823-3603, jkrueger@abqjournal.com or follow her on Twitter @jolinegkg. Go to www.abqjournal.com/letters/new to submit a letter to the editor.

 

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