Breaking Breaking Bad

Netflix does all it can to understand its customers from what they watch, but I think in my case they will be more than a little confused as I have watched over 70 episodes of Breaking Bad. Yet I have never seen a single full episode of this 62 episode series.

Just in case anyone isn't aware of it, Breaking Bad has been one of the huge successes that Netflix has had with drama series. It features chemistry teacher Walter White, who takes to crime to support his family when he is diagnosed with inoperable cancer. I suppose you could describe it as a dark comedy drama. And behind my unusual viewing pattern is the magazine Good Housekeeping. What else?

For many years now, I have written occasionally technology pieces for the magazine (my first editor was the delightful Aggie MacKenzie of 'Kim and Aggie from How Clean is Your House' and Storage Hoarders fame), and my most overwhelming task has been to do a large scale review of laptops (over an extended period) for their online site. Bearing in mind that GH is not BitCruncher Monthly, I wanted any measures I used to be ones related to the kind of things ordinary users actually do on their laptops. Readers are relatively unlikely to be hardcore gamers or running intensive data manipulation programs. So to assess battery life, rather than use a battery life app, which inevitably takes a very abstract, artificial approach, I decided to test the impact of watching an episode of Breaking Bad with the screen on full brightness.

Watching videos is one of the most battery intense activities many of us make, so this seemed an ideal approach. The downside is that I was dependent on the manufacturers' battery gauges, which aren't always incredibly accurate, but all were given the same 100% starting point, and in the end a subjective measure is arguably desirable because it reflects actual user experience.

So, over 70 laptops have sat on my dining table, each watching the same episode (episode 2) of Breaking Bad. (If you're a burglar, I ought to stress I am no longer doing this testing and don't even own a laptop myself. And they weren't all there at the same time.) Frankly, I am now sick of Breaking Bad. To be fair, I haven't ever sat through that episode end to end. But I've watched the opening two scenes every time as I use them to judge video quality. (There's an excellent closeup of a tap in dim lighting in the first, and the second has both a caption and a wide shot of scenery with a vivid colour range, so it's a good test.) I have seen the closing scene (the one with the little girl and the gas mask) every time. And for some reason I have seen the scene with the bathtub far more than I want to.

People keep telling me I should watch Breaking Bad because it's great. And I'm sure it is. But, honestly, I just can't face it. And anyway, it would probably confuse Netflix's algorithms even more.


  1. I couldn't finish it. It got so squalid. I decided I had to stop watching before Hank got killed.


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