A Cord Cutter’s Bad Break

It was hard to escape the return of Breaking Bad last night. Netflix streamed the first eight episodes of the fifth season at the beginning of the month. There were a number of high profile events around town, including a panel discussion at the Film Society of Lincoln Center and an exhibit the Museum of the Moving Image. And AMC had scheduled a marathon. With all these chances to catch up with the series, it seemed like everyone was watching the first of the final eight episodes. We had a "media event" on our hands, but it wasn’t history, it was just TV.

Although I cut my cable in 2010, I never felt left out of the Breaking Bad party. In fact, having started watching the series right after the first season was released on DVD, it felt like the audience was pretty small. But last night, it was the talk of the town, and of Facebook and Twitter. I wanted to watch the premiere, but my options were limited:

  • Watch at a friend’s place.
  • Watch at a bar.

We opted for the second choice because it was closer to home. It was a mistake.

Breaking Bad at TBD

I’m not blaming the bar for hosting a TV night. It is a great way to attract business on otherwise slow Sunday night, and I won’t name it because I don’t believe it’s their fault, even if watching Breaking Bad there was not a good experience.

Watching at the bar sucked. First, there was the setup. The television sets scattered around the bar were of poor quality. There was also a projected screen, but it was set to the incorrect aspect ratio: 4:3 for a program intended for a 16:9 screen. It looked terrible. And since there were so many people there, the sound was turned up so loud that it was distorted. I couldn’t decipher the dialog.

Second and more important was the classic New York problem: there were too many people. It was nearly impossible to find a place to park a bicycle on the street, let alone find a comfortable spot in the bar. I resorted to standing in a small pool of people. All these patrons, however, deserve a lot of praise. As crowded as the bar was, everyone was absolutely silent when the program started.

Having watched every almost other episode of Breaking Bad asynchronously, I couldn’t get into watching it at the bar, standing against a window, barely following the story because I could neither see the picture, hear the dialogue or get used to the commercials. I left at the third ad break.

This morning I bought a season pass for Breaking Bad on iTunes, as I had done since the fourth season, and I invited a small group of friends who also don’t subscribe to cable/satellite TV to come over to watch.

We cord cutters have to stick together.

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