MATT ZOLLER SEITZ: Great shows that understand workplace politics

by Matthew Seitz
September 5, 2011 6:02 AM
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By Matt Zoller Seitz
Press Play Contributor

In honor of Labor Day -- a nostalgic exercise for too many Americans in this age of zero jobs -- here's a list of some of my favorite TV depictions of work. Many of these shows are current; some were cancelled long ago. To greater or lesser degrees, they're all fascinated by the details of the workplace, and the crises and melodramas that take place there.

In alphabetical order, then:

Breaking Bad. (AMC) For all its meth cooking and gunplay, this is ultimately a show about work. All Breaking Bad subplots, no matter how extravagantly noir-ish, always come back to three core issues: (1) the impact of work on a person's home life; (2) the difficulty of starting a small business when you're working for someone else, and (3) the power relationships between co-workers, supervisors and top bosses. In this season, all three aspects have drifted into the foreground of the series, with main character Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and his wife Skyler (Anna Gunn) trying to make their ill-gotten gains appear legitimate to the IRS and the DEA, fast-food magnate and secret drug lord Gustavo Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) trying to defend his turf against south-of-the-border rivals, and Gus and his right-hand-man Mike (Jonathan Banks) struggling to keep the brilliant pain-in-the-ass star employee, Walt, in check while simultaneously trying to turn Walt's one-time protege, Jesse (Aaron Paul) into a loyal company man.

You can read the rest of Matt's piece here at Salon.

A critic, journalist and filmmaker, Matt Zoller Seitz is the staff TV columnist for Salon.com and the founder of Press Play.

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