Pat Clark

‘Lost’ season finds its footing from get-go

Oh, "Lost," you are so back. Even after reading raves from critics who screened the first two episodes, I was a little worried that this show might not climb back to consistent top form after being gone so long.

As much as I still loved the show last season, I admit I had a glimmer of worry that all those former fans who'd abandoned it would be right and the writing would never regain its first-season glory.

But the season debut was crazy-good, an episode that surpassed even the shows from its first-season peak.

Maybe we're all so desperate for quality because the writers' strike has been robbing us of our favorite shows, but "Lost" opened so good, it's almost shocking. I've talked to several "Losties" since the first new episode, and all were a-twitter with excitement over the new season.

Desperate or not, what a welcome respite from the strike.

Speaking of the strike, how about it finally looking like it might end? I'm so tired of my prime television viewing having sunk to watching people on the Food Network eat dishes that I'll never be able to create.

And, no, I do not want to hear any comments about the impending negotiations between the Screen Actors Guild and the studios and how there could be yet another strike looming.

Consider my ears naively closed.

Fiddledeedee.

A non-Food Network writers' strike respite came a few weeks ago on AMC.

After the cable network scored big time with its first original television series, "Mad Men," it seemed like it would be a no-brainer to check out its second such offering.

But "Breaking Bad," about a sad-sack, financially challenged chemistry teacher who finds out he has inoperable lung cancer and decides to feather his family's future nest by getting into the crystal meth trade, sounded depressing and deplorable.

Maybe it's because the crystal meth crisis hits a bit close to home here in the good old Central Valley, but the idea of watching an entire season of television that features this dangerous drug as a side player was a little disconcerting. My usually high squeamish meter started shaking a bit.

Still, the show was getting rave pre-debut reviews from critics, and it was a safe bet that meth hardly would be glamorized in the show.

So I've been giving "Breaking Bad" a look on Sunday nights and it has been, in fact, a little disconcerting. It's also pretty fascinating TV.

Bryan Cranston stars as Walter, a guy who is festering with pent-up self-loathing over the turns he's allowed his life to take.

A downtrodden Everyman who could have pursued a more lucrative scientific venture but didn't, he's just turned 50 and found out he has terminal cancer. He has a lovely wife, a teenage son with cerebral palsy and a baby on the way. He has a second job at a car wash because his high school teaching salary isn't paying the bills.

He reacts to the news of his cancer — in the pilot episode, anyway — by hiding it from his family and exploding all over his boss at the car wash and later on some teenagers who mock his son's disability at a clothing store.

Both times, you're pretty happy to see Walter finally show some, um, strength.

But he also reacts by plunging into the fast-buck drug trade. Like most great dramas, there are several layers of dark comedy folded in, and the funny moments in "Breaking Bad" come mostly from Walter's oh-so clumsy foray into making meth with a former flunky student.

It's gallows humor, for sure, and certainly not for everyone.

And my squeamish meter continues to shiver. Still, it's a keeper for now.

Scene editor Pat Clark can be reached at pclark@modbee.com.

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