First seasons of great television dramas aren’t usually bad. It’s actually quite uncommon. For example, take some of 2013’s best new dramas. The Americans, Rectify, Hannibal, and Orange is the New Black (if you want to call it a “drama”) all had really great first seasons, and represent most of 2013’s best television.
But a poor first season, isn’t exactly unheard of. Breaking Bad‘s first season had weird quirks and rhythms that were difficult to get in to. The vision and greatness of what the show has come to be wasn’t fully realized, but the season had intermittent moments of brilliance. Another show whose first season was particularly odd is The Wire. It might not seem like it upon rewatch, but the beginning of the first season of The Wire is incredibly confusing. The characters all talk in a weird jargon, and nothing seems to really make sense until a moment in the fourth episode, where it is decided if The Wire is for you or not.
Both of these two dramas represent the medium’s best, The Wire being the best ever, and Breaking Bad being a strong contender for that title. And what’s interesting is their first seasons. Neither are “bad,” but seemed off at the time. FX’s The Bridge is four episodes into its first season, and is having an especially off start to the series. All of the pieces seem to be in place (such as both lead performances, a strong array of supporting characters, and strong names attached to the writing) for the series to be excellent, but four episodes in, it’s just not there yet.
Just because it isn’t there yet, doesn’t mean I’m going to quit watching, because the show exudes lots of potential. First, and foremost it should be noted that the series is adapted from a Danish television series, Broen, which are always great. Adapting it and running the show is Meredith Stiehm, an MVP from Homeland‘s writers room (most notably known for writing the series’ best episode, “The Weekend”). The show’s setting, on the US/Mexico border is quite fantastic, as there are multiple opportunities for great Hispanic characters, something television has always lacked. And in fact, there already is two great hispanic characters played brilliantly by Demian Bichir and Emily Rios. There are also other great performances from Diane Kruger, Ted Levine and Thomas M. Wright (Johnno from Top of the Lake!!!).
It’s interesting how The Bridge matches up to Breaking Bad and The Wire. All of their first seasons (as of August 2nd, 2013) are odd, off-balanced, and sometimes muddled. What’s different is that neither Breaking Bad nor The Wire showed as much potential as The Bridge when they first aired. Sure, The Corner and Homicide were great, but nobody really knew David Simon or Ed Burns by name. Vince Gilligan had written and directed some pretty cool episodes of The X-Files, but no one could have expected Breaking Bad.
The Bridge is extremely lucky that is shows the type of potential it does now. The television landscape today is chock-full of great new series appearing out of every corner, and there is just too much good television to keep track of. The Bridge is lucky, of course because it is airing in the summer, where great television is disparate. Who’s to say that we wouldn’t have overlooked Breaking Bad or The Wire, if they aired in today’s television landscape?
Because The Bridge shows so much potential, I’m going to stick with it for now. It has shown that it can be funny, touching, quirky, thrilling and incredibly mysterious which combine to make a fairly idiosyncratic television show. Even if the show declines in quality, it’ll always have its wacky theme song. I’m thankful that The Bridge airs in the summer, because who knows, it could turn out to be television’s next great drama.