08/18/13 6:00am
08/18/2013 6:00 AM

AMC COURTESY PHOTO | The cast of Breaking Bad.

Yes, I know this column is supposed to be local in its focus. And this week’s submission will be, too, insofar as our television set is located in Orient, N.Y.

I have been bitten bad, you see, by the “Breaking Bad” bug. So it’s neigh on impossible for me to focus — this week, at least — on ferry traffic, hot new restaurants or the thrill of watching the North Fork Ospreys win their league championship.

No, this column will be about Walter White, the high school chemistry teacher turned methamphetamine cook who has captured the hearts and minds of millions of TV addicts like myself.

Perhaps more than anyone, the former Joan Giger Walker knows the drill. It begins immediately after the dinner dishes are transferred to the dishwasher. I thank her for the meal, then slink off to the front room of our house, where Walter White and his mates await. Four or five hours later I rise from the couch, somewhat groggily, having gorged on four or five consecutive episodes of this highly addictive AMC maxi-series.

If you, too, have been bitten, you know whereof I speak. If you have not watched, and plan to, stop reading now to avoid any spoilers.

This past Sunday night, Aug. 11, had been marked on my iPhone’s calendar for close to a year. That’s because it was the first of the show’s final eight episodes, and I had to prepare for the occasion by watching most of the 50 some episodes that led up to last year’s finale, wherein Walt’s brother-in-law, Hank, the Drug Enforcement Administration agent, discovers that Walt is the drug kingpin he (Hank) has been searching for all along, said discovery having taken place while Hank is seated on the toilet at Walt’s house. (See for yourself by calling up episode 508: “Gliding Over All” on demand.)

Yes, indeed, “Breaking Bad” is edgy — to the max. But that’s why I (and millions of others, apparently) have fallen so hard for it. It’s unlike anything else on television — in particular “Duck Dynasty” — and not just because the show’s creators have invented dozens of unique methods of “eliminating” characters from the show. (Case in point: a tortoise, carrying the severed head of a Mexican cartel drug lord, explodes and kills several DEA agents.)

Yes, I know, that may have been a little too edgy, but that’s not really what the show is about. What it’s about is the transformation of a highly sympathetic, mild-mannered high school teacher with a diagnosis of lung cancer into a highly unsympathetic, cold-blooded killer and illegal drug manufacturer. And what makes that transition possible, and believable, is the astounding acting of Bryan Cranston, who plays Walter White. He’s won three best-actor Emmy awards over the show’s five seasons and several of his co-stars have been similarly honored in supporting roles.

Simply put, in this self-appointed critic’s humble opinion, “Breaking Bad” has been, is and will be until dethroned at some point in the future, the very best thing American television has to offer.

And if you doubt me, set your DVR for AMC (Channel 43 for Optimum subscribers) at 9 p.m. this coming Sunday, Aug. 18. But first, make 10 pounds of popcorn, empty your bladder, turn off the phones and watch all 54 episodes that have aired to date.

And when you come up for air, give me a call.

tgustavson@timesreview.com