Broken Bad

I’m not sure it would be fair to say I’m obsessed with Breaking Bad. True, I watched Sunday’s episode three times. And yes, I’ve read about a hundred stories about the show this week. Oh, yeah — and I called Best Quality Vacuum at the phone number (505-842-4205) glimpsed on a sign in the show, and yes, it’s really actor Robert Forster doing the message for the “vacuum repair shop.”

But obsessed? Nope.

I’m fascinated by the way popular culture explodes the significance of TV shows. For example, the largest TV audience ever (excluding Super Bowl broadcasts) was the finale of MASH, which was watched by more than 125 million people. This Sunday’s finale of Breaking Bad will have a tiny audience compared to that, but when you look at the media attention it gets, you’d think that everybody watches. They don’t.

Look at Mad Men. It’s one of the most critically acclaimed and written-about shows in recent years, but the truth is that most Americans have probably never seen it, even once. Ditto, The Wire.

Everything gets tremendous attention these days; the internet has spawned a world where tiny things and events receive a flood of attention far out of scale with their real influence. It’s a long way from the days when we had one national newscast a night and the paper landed on your front stoop in the morning. Now it’s like you’re being hit in the face with the paper, all day long.

But I’ll miss this, bitch:

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