January 28, 2008 12:00 PM

AMC, Jan. 20, 10 p.m. ET |


AMC, which last year introduced the critically acclaimed Mad Men, now brings us a borderline madman. Walt White (Bryan Cranston) is a put-upon high school chemistry teacher singed to pale ash by the elements of life: He’s humiliated that he has to make ends meet working part-time at a car wash, and now he’s been diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. In a crazy fit of inspiration, he sets up a crystal-meth lab with a former student turned dealer. It’s a brutal business, and the pair soon have to dispose of rivals (and rivals’ corpses). Cranston, best known for expert light turns in comedies like Malcolm in the Middle, plays White with such drab, focused desperation it may take you a while to realize the show is often closer to grubby, grisly comedy. Bad gets good, slowly.

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