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Today and tomorrow, Brett will be running down her list of the five TV shows with the highest-quality writing. Remember, though–small doses. TV will eat your brain and poop it out.

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5. Breaking Bad

If you haven’t bothered to watch Breaking Bad because you thought a show about dealing crystal meth just “isn’t for you,” then I have to explain that this show is about so much more than drugs. It’s about one man’s plight to retain his humanity and restore order to his family in the face of the ultimate mid-life crisis—terminal cancer. Breaking Bad is hands-down one of the best written shows on television, well thought out, brilliantly plotted, and at times utterly heart-wrenching. Created by Vince Gilligan (The X-Files), the series spins a mad web of lies, betrayal, trust, and deception throughout its first three seasons, giving its two leads (Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul) such complex, riveting material to work with that it’s no wonder both actors have received Emmys. Indeed, they deserved those awards: they’re freaking fantastic to watch.

What it’s about: Chemistry-genius-relegated-to-high-school teacher Walter White (Bryan Cranston) has just been diagnosed with incurable lung cancer. As if a mid-life crisis weren’t bad enough, Walter decides (after witnessing a drug raid) that the crystal meth biz would be a lucrative endeavor  that would equip him with much-needed cash to support his family once he’s gone. Ergo, he teams up with former student  and drug dealer Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) to create and sell meth. A bunch of stuff goes down that I don’t want to give away, but let’s just say alliances are formed, boundaries are crossed, people are murdered … and oh yeah, ever wonder what happens to a body when it’s soaked in hydrochloric acid?

Why you should watch it: The cinematography alone is astounding for a cable T.V. series. Truly, this show brings a slice of the big screen to the small screen, each episode being like its own mini-movie. Not only is the show extremely well-written, it’s well directed, well acted, and overall one of the best shows on television to date. It’s got action, it’s got drama, it’s got a little bit of everything. Plus, unlike The Wire, it’s not depressing as hell. Sure, on the surface it’s about crystal meth, but it’s really about the ties that bind us: family, mid-life meltdowns, love and survival. I’m telling you, check it out and you will not be disappointed.

When it airs: Sundays on AMC starting in 2011

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4. Battlestar Galactica

Seriously, this is one of my top three favorite shows of all time. I know it sounds like something for only geeks and nerds who play with Boba Fett action figures in Mom and Dad’s basement, but honestly, this show isn’t even predominantly science fiction. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it’s a drama that just happens to be set in space. It’s an epic series full of surprise twists, character drama, and moral questions. Think of  it as a sexier, smarter, cooler Star Trek.

What it’s about: Humanity has just been obliterated. A race of sentient beings known as the Cylons have nuked humankind’s home planets, wiping out all life except for those who were off-world at the time. Thus, a rag-tag fleet of space ships (including the military ship called the Battlestar Galactica) is forced to go on the run from the pissed off Cylons who are dead-set on destroying the remainder of humanity. There is no hope left it seems, until Commander Adama (Edward James Olmos) promises his fleet that he knows of a fabled planet called “Earth.” Of course he’s actually just pulling it out of his ass, but hey, gotta support the troops, right?

Why you should watch it: Think Lost was good at unraveling a series’ mythology? Then  obviously you have not been watching this show. The main mythology of the series is so delicately spun, so brilliantly plotted out that it will leave you jumping at plot twists you could have sworn you never saw coming. Thought it was brilliant when Dexter killed off Doakes? Well let me just say, almost every episode of Battlestar is like that. Honestly, this is how a series mythos should be done. Because Battlestar knew it would end after four seasons, it was able to plot its mythology out accordingly (as opposed to Lost or The X-Files whose lack of a definitive end date caused the series to make less and less sense as time went by). Battlestar has a complex ensemble cast of characters whose stories are equal parts compelling, unpredictable, and expendable (meaning no character is safe from being killed off). Unfortunately, the show was often overlooked by the Emmys and Golden Globes because it originally aired on the SyFy network (trust me, if it were on AMC, it would have been nominated), but no doubt it was an award-worthy show.  I’m telling you, if you’re looking for a mystery/action-adventure/drama show, this is your stop.

When it airs: Though its run is over you can buy it on DVD.

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3. Community

I’m a pretty big fan of Joel McHale, so I was noticeably unimpressed when his new NBC sitcom first aired. It was mediocre at best. However, if Parks and Recreation were the winner of last year’s “Most Improved Sitcom” award, then Community would hands-down be this year’s recipient. The show has displayed extensive growth in its second season, and apparently its writers have begun to do something right, because this is actually one of the few comedies I look forward to watching each week. And let’s face it–something has to take the place of the lackluster The Office.

What it’s about: Jeff Winger (McHale) returns to community college, befriending several fellow misfits in his Spanish study group. Most notable of those misfits being the elderly Pierce (Chevy Chase), the questionably autistic pop culture guru Abed, his best friend Troy, the good Christian woman, Shirley, and Jeff’s sarcastic, embittered love interest, Britta.  Together this group of misfits encounters obstacles such as zombie outbreaks, runaway space simulator mobiles, and the antics of wacky Spanish professor Ken Jeong (from The Hangover).

Why you should watch it: Community’s greatest asset is its clever references to pop culture. Whether it be parodying every astronaut movie ever made or every action adventure movie ever filmed, its knowledge of pop culture is astounding and the main reason I’ve come to love this show. If you’re a pop culture geek, then check out Community, especially its “Paintball” episode, which is a particular standout.

When it airs: Thursdays on NBC at 7.

ANY CHARACTER HERE
ANY CHARACTER HERE

Stay tuned for Brett’s top two picks, coming tomorrow. Any guesses? Leave them in the comments section below. Anyone who names the #1 show gets a cookie. For real, yo.

ANY CHARACTER HERE
ANY CHARACTER HERE

As a contributing member of both The New Movement Improv Theater and the Austin Screenwriters Group, an immense fondness for and love of pop culture starting from an unhealthy age has equipped Brett Fowler with the skills necessary to avoid facing reality. One day she hopes to finally end her six-year-long “journey of self-discovery” at the University of Texas at Ausin and funnel her liberal arts degree into a screenwriting career, or at the very least, gainful unemployment.

In her spare time (when not making preparations for the inevitable zombie apocalypse), Brett enjoys volunteering at the local animal shelter, watching marathons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Battlestar Galactica, and, of course, writing.

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