Friday, October 18, 2013

[Social Eye] Dissecting TV Show Titles

Today we’re going to take a look at how some of these idiomatic phrases were used before we came to associate them with binge-watching and Walter 'Heisenberg' White, and explore the insights they offer about these critically acclaimed shows.

Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad is the greatest show I have ever seen. Its 5 years of TV at its pinnacle, meandering through. The plot twists are so brilliant, resilient and unexpected, you can literally taste the fumes coming off of this wild thing. Plus, it will also be the blackest comedy you will ever see.
Break the ice means “start conversation,” break bread means “share food,” break a heart means “cause Dictionary of American Slang notes 'break bad' as a Southern regionalism dating back to the 1970s that means “to become hostile and menacing.” Time magazine recently unearthed an example from 1919 with less violent undertones meaning "to go bad." The sense of it seems to be fleeting or transitory, implying a sudden and temporary shift into darkness, but the show’s plot, which chronicles the gradual transformation of a family-man-turned-drug-kingpin, brings to mind other uses of the word break, such as breaking a horse, in which an animal is trained into a certain kind of behavior.
The dichotomy of Walt's character in Breaking Bad.
great sorrow,” and break a story means “publish it first.” But what does breaking bad mean? The mastermind behind Breaking Bad, Vince Gilligan, chose this title because he thought the phrase was widely used to mean “raising hell.”

In my opinion though, the title of the show alludes towards the fact that everyone has both inherent good and evil, it is just the matter of which one of these two gets stronger and breaks out first. In other words, which of these two conflicting character ingredients takes its toll. For instance, Walter White is sort of like a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; he is a caring family guy when he is all gentle and Walt while he can be the face of doom in his unforgiving alter ego of Heisenberg.

Mad Men

Mad Men is synonymous with class. This show does so many things right. Things that many of today's TV shows overlook - the dialogue crackles with brilliance, the cinematography is so great that you can enjoy the show even on mute, the characters are very well done and the music is true to the show. Plus you won't see the 1960s done any better than this.
Many viewers of Mad Men might appreciate the show’s title because it invites speculation about the sanity of its characters and about the mores of an industry in its heyday along with the fact that how sexist the men were back in the 1960s. They were madly treated the women as their inferiors. Of course it also sounds like “ad men,” which is fun. Lesser known is the fact that the phrase is a shortened version of the term Madison Avenue men, referencing the ad executives of that street, which emerged as the hub of the advertising industry in the sexist 1920s (which explains the lack of any reference to Mad Women). Madison Avenue, along with New York landmark Madison Square, was named after the fourth president of the United States and father of the constitution, James Madison. There’s no telling what President Madison would have thought of Don Draper and his coterie.

Arrested Development

Arrested Development is the highest rated comedy on IMDB. It takes a comical look at a dysfunctional family plagued by financial woes. The family is held together by its only mature member, Michael, who tries to rid it of its troubles. I myself didn't like it consistently, some episodes were great, others mediocre.
Prior to the Bluth family’s debut in 2003, the phrase arrested development most often referred to an abnormal state in which development has stopped prematurely, often in the context of psychology or evolutionary biology. Charles Darwin used it in his book Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex: “Arrested development differs from arrested growth, as parts in the former state still continue to grow, whilst still retaining their early condition.” In the television series, the phrase references both abrupt halting of the family business due to allegations of fraud and the stunted maturity levels of the characters. The abrupt cancellation of the show in 2006 lends the title a self-referential sense as well. Fortunately for fans, the show returned this summer on Netflix.

House of Cards

The brilliant Kevin Spacey is in this show! That speaks volumes about its quality alone. It is great and unpredictable with superb writing and a healthy peppering of sarcasm, psychomanipulation along with the power of technology. However you won't like being bombarded consistently by Apple products.
The phrase house of cards is commonly used to refer to a structure or plan that is insubstantial and subject to imminent collapse, as a structure made by balancing cards against each other. Much like the fickle yet strong nature of castles in the sands. Stonehenge is said to be made with “house of cards architecture” because it relies on balance and friction to stay upright. The main character of the television show House of Cards, Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey), also relies on balance and friction in his wildly intricate scheme to gain political power. The breadth of Frank’s machinations echo an insight from professional card stacker Bryan Berg, whose structures have been tested to support more than 660 pounds per square foot: the more cards placed on a tower, the stronger it becomes.

The show descriptions are from my list of top TV shows on IMDB.
The original post appeared on the blog. You can read the unedited version here.

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