TV Critic Alessandra Plays Economic Cassandra

"Breaking Bad," a new show about a chemistry teacher in Albuquerque who becomes a meth addict, is airing on AMC Sunday night, and was reviewed by Alessandra Stanley on Friday, allowing Stanley, the Times' TV writer yet another ill-advised turn into sociology.

"The series has a slight vein of black humor, but it is very, very dark: 'Thelma & Louise' as seen by Dostoyevsky.

"The gloom is understandable, of course. The economy and the political landscape today are weighed down with the steady lowering of middle-class expectations. The young know better than to assume that they will be better off than their parents; the old cling to the railing, fearful of falling beyond the reach of pensions and Social Security payments.

"And crime is a particularly tempting fantasy. Be it the new movie 'Mad Money,' in which Diane Keaton plays a bourgeois housewife forced to work as a janitor when her husband is laid off, or 'Breaking Bad,' films and television increasingly tap into that sense of economic and social backsliding, finding humor and pathos in the white-collar world's undignified struggle for dignity."