The key advantage television has over film is time: It can explore both characters and ideas in ways that are simply impossible in a two-hour movie. Shows like The Sopranos, Deadwood, Mad Men, Friday Night Lights, and The Wire simply would not work on the big screen. The result is a close visual approximation to a novel, which, unlike derivative miniseries (e.g., Roots, Shogun, Lonesome Dove), was intended from the outset to be on television, and which, unlike soap operas (even of the posh BBC/Masterpiece Theatre variety), lets actors and writers fully realize their potential.
This new art form is on impressive display in AMC’s Breaking Bad, whose final eight episodes begin airing in August. It is the best show currently on television, and perhaps even the best ever. Moreover, it deserves special respect from conservatives. In a sense, it already gets that respect: It’s relatively popular in red-state America. As David Segal noted in the New York Times in 2011, Breaking Bad gets nearly the same ratings as Mad Men, but New York and Los Angeles aren’t even in its top ten cities. This prompted Segal to dub the show’s creator, Vince Gilligan, TV’s “first true red-state auteur.”