Essential Viewing: Breaking Bad – catch up on TV’s best show before season 4 this weekend

July 2011 is about two things for me. One, my little brother getting married this past weekend. And two, Breaking Bad is back!

For my money, Breaking Bad is simply the best thing on TV. Its unparalleled quality of acting is beyond most other TV-grade programs. It’s modern, shocking, bizarre and seriously, darkly hilarious.

As with many great shows, it hasn’t received the level of exposure it deserves, especially outside the US. When talking to people about it I sometimes lose them when they ask me what it’s actually about, because the initial premise sounds like some depressing middle-aged sitcom: Gifted chemical scientist Walter White gets shafted out of a business deal and turns to lowly high school chemistry teaching. Gets terminal cancer; doesn’t have long. Has family to support (including a baby on the way) and no way to ensure their financial wellbeing after he’s gone. It’s all pretty dire - and so far so dull, right?

Perfect storm: The characters and their relationships in Breaking Bad are superb

But this is no pussy-ass daytime TV; here’s where it gets good: Using his chemical savvy, he somehow winds up in the business of developing kick-ass illegal drugs and teams up with an unlikely distribution partner, former student Jesse, in the hope of buying a future for the family he loves.

This is explosive and innovative stuff, and the most gripping, entertaining TV thriller years. The first three seasons take you through a story arc that never gets boring, and in more recent episodes takes us places we’d never have predicted at the start of the show.

Breaking Bad is absolutely essential viewing, and before season four starts this Sunday, July 17 (in the US, on AMC), if you’re unacquainted there’s still time to get the first three seasons and take the whole week of work to catch up.

Unfortunately for UK folks, distribution has been piss-poor. “FXUK” picked up the first two seasons but the third is nowhere to be seen. Brits: do not accept thirt-rate entertainment availability. Do what has to be done to enjoy the best TV in the world! has the first three seasons here, and it looks like Amazon UK has some stock too. But if you like your viewing a little more immediate (and want to watch season four as it’s shown in the US), we’ve heard BitTorrent’s a viable option (and the first two seasons are on iTunes).

This great montage video won’t spoil seasons 1-3 for you much if you’ve not seen any of it yet, but gives you a little of some of the program’s “lighter” flavour…

Don’t watch this Season 4 trailer unless you’re already up to speed on seasons 1-3:

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