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July 29, 2014

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Ice Ice Billy

Warning: Binge watching causes series spill

The final hour of the 40-hour movie "Breaking Bad" airs Sunday.

At this very moment, a segment of non-viewers reading this have just completed an eye roll because, quite frankly, they are sick of hearing about "Breaking Bad" and still think Pinkman is a cartoon mouse with ambitions of global conquest.

So to those, relax. This is not another ode to amazing storytelling, which indeed this AMC series deserves. This is, however, a cautionary tale of binge television watching.

First understand; my 40 hours of watching Breaking Bad occurred all in the past eight weeks, and I would argue that may be the best way to watch it. Living in the desert and thanks to "Breaking Bad," I am now astutely aware of the pitch of the wind, the dust in the air, the magnificent hues cast on the mountains during sunrises and the shadows in every parking garage on the Strip. I see stray dogs innocuously cross streets in foreshadowing ways.

And I rue the day I smarted off to my high school chemistry teacher in 1982.

With all of this, one would think I would have cleansed the palate a bit before diving into another television series. A little after-dinner mint, if you will, to knock that garlic down a couple notches.

But, alas, no.

Comedian Ricky Gervais, who imported to us "The Office," has just brought 7 episodes of his latest series, "Derek," to Netflix.

Derek Noakes works at the Broadhill retirement home. He is kind to worms, toads and dying baby birds. He calls the aging residents his friends. He is a practitioner of kindness and awkward honesty. And the show will make its viewers feel wonderful as it warmly breaks their hearts.

"Derek," the series, is a serendipitous follow up to 40 hours of watching Walter White make William Shakespeare wish meth labs were lucrative in his day so he could write about those who run them. "Derek" is just the antibiotic needed after such a ride on the White train.

But no matter how much joy there is in watching "Derek" always awkwardly strive to do the right things (and he usually does with simple and poignant efficiency), there is a part of me expecting Heisenberg to strap a pipe bomb to Lillie's wheel chair over at the Broadhill home.

This is series spill. Television creep. It's like eating a grape after brushing one's teeth in that they really don't go together, but somehow they've met and it must be dealt with.

As redemptive and heartfelt as Derek is, back in Bad Land something pretty awful is probably going to happen on Sunday night down in the 505. Once Sunday comes and goes, and only after swilling a quart of Scope to better cleanse the palate, I'll run through "Derek" once again. And these episode descriptions that have crept into the psyche are why:

"Breaking Derek," Season One.

PILOT: Derek saves an earthworm; Derek misunderstands Ken when he talks about cooking pudding; Joan's fate is not very promising.

Episode 1: With an eye on Tom, Hannah discovers a stockpile of pudding at Broadhill while the home faces an inspection to determine its future.

Episode 2: The arrival of mysterious Mrs. Shaw in a wheelchair promises trouble for Derek and Dougie; a pack of pudding-crazed puppies invade the home, and stay the night.

Episode 3: Tom suspects there is more to Joan's death than meets the eye; unsuspecting Vicky falls into Hannah's clutches; Ken convinces Derek to do a weird thing to a small animal.

Episode 4: Tom begins to alarm Hannah about Ken's activities; Derek breaks the law to save a baby bird.

Episode 5: Dougie tries to eliminate a bad element from the home, while Derek unwittingly brings back its wrath; a birthday party spins out of control after Ken gives Derek an overdose of pudding.

Episode 6: A small animal comes looking for Derek; Tom finds a recipe for blue pudding while using the toilet.

"Breaking Derek," Season Two.

Episode 1: Dougie leads Broadhill residents to the beach; Tadpole Hitler offers a deal; Derek must deal with the aftermath of the surprise carried on the crabs crawling in the sand.

Episode 2: Hannah gives Derek an ultimatum and Mrs. Shaw spontaneously combusts.

Episode 3: A mysterious ring leaves Hannah defenseless; the small animal turns up wrapped in plastic explosives.

Episode 4: Tom closes in on Kev as Hannah loses sight of Tom; Broadhill reaches an impasse over the ring; Dougie fixes a lamp, maybe.

Episode 5: Ken moves Derek to Hampshire County with a barrel of crisps and vile of Benadryl, where it is unseasonably cold and there is no telephone.

Episode 6: With Dougie having fled to Omaha, Derek gets a new sweater and something catches his attention on the television; Todd Margaret goes to North Korea to sell boxes of pudding; Ken, Hannah and Tom head someplace on the Broadhill mini bus.

Episode 7: The season draws to a close.

And thankfully, so does this blog, because neither series deserves any of this.

Billy Johnson is the president and chief operating officer of the Las Vegas Wranglers and author of the novel “If I Die Tell Steve Martin I Found His Journal.”

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