BREAKING BAD: NEW SEASON
9 p.m. Sundays
Since The Sopranos blipped to black, "Breaking Bad" might be the best show on TV. That's no exaggeration. The show, created by former "X-Files" writer Vince Gilligan, is a week-to-week powerhouse, full of intrigue, moral conundrum, murder, lies, comedy, sadness and dynamite acting. If you aren't watching it, you should be. "Breaking Bad," which debuted its fourth season last Sunday night, is the story of Walter White (Bryan Cranston), a former high school chemistry teacher who, on learning that he has what appears to be terminal cancer, sets out to provide a future for his family by making and selling the highest-quality crystal meth anyone has ever seen. He and his partner, Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), a 20-something burnout who White paired up with only because he was once kicked out of the school where Walter worked for dealing drugs, have come a long way, from throwing the DEA off their trail, to taking on a psychotic drug kingpin, to dissolving bodies in acid. Walter's in remission now, but that makes his sticking to the path of meth and money (not to mention what may well be his ongoing baby-steps descent into out-and-out evil) somehow worse. It's not about providing for his family now. It's about Something Else, and the depths of depravity he's willing to sink to in order to attain that Something appears to be a black and bottomless pit. At the end of last season, Jesse and Walter finally crossed the line from "questionable" to "unthinkable" to save their skins from squeaky-clean drug lord Gus "The Chicken Man" Fring (Giancarlo Esposito), who has them working in an industrial-quantity superlab. This season, with the pair sure to be always looking over their shoulders to make sure Fring isn't sneaking up with a knife, is sure to be a winner. Watch it. Soon.
NETFLIX PIX: MARY AND MAX (2009)
To be honest, I didn't really want to watch this one, but my kid twisted my arm and made me. For one thing it's a claymation movie that I've never heard of. While I like Nick Park's "Wallace and Grommit" films quite a bit, and got down with some Gumby reruns in my youth, the thought of spending an hour and a half watching some kid flick about lumps of clay didn't really appeal to me. My son, however, knew what he was talking about. Turns out, "Mary and Max" is a true gem, full of beauty and wisdom. If you're looking for something on Instant some night, be sure to keep this one in mind. It's the story of Mary Dinkle (voice of Toni Collette), an Australian 8-year-old with an alcoholic mother, an emotionally awkward father and a facial birthmark that makes her an outcast at school. Mary has no friends her age, and is kind of a weird kid (she's got a pet rooster, for instance). Given that, it makes perfect sense to her when she finds a New York City phone book at the local post office and decides to write to a random person to try and find a pen pal. By luck, the person she writes to is Max Horowitz (voice of Philip Seymour Hoffman), an autistic man living alone in New York — a man who is just as lonely and awkward as Mary. They begin to correspond via mail (these were the days before Internet, kids. Get someone over 35 to tell you about them), bonding over their love of chocolate and TV. The result is a lifelong friendship of the strangest sort, with each helping the other overcome the anxieties that have kept them prisoner to fear, and the troubles that plague them their whole lives. A gentle, funny, lovely little film, "Mary and Max" isn't a kid's movie; it's a lovely piece of cinema. It's definitely worth the time.