Life & Culture

Breaking Dad Amazon Prime review: A mediocre story stretched too thin

The documentary’s title writes cheques that the story can’t cash


There are many differences between the US and UK. Though we share a history and a language and huge parts of our culture, we are not the same. In America, the stakes are higher, the drama more extreme, the personalities involved that much more chaotic. And nowhere is that truer than in the genre of True Crime. The US is a rich basket of serial killers, human traffickers, drug kingpins and crime bosses, nearly all of them more extreme than anything we see on these shores. There could be no Sopranos in Essex, there will never be an Ozarks in the Lake District and indeed, there can be no Breaking Bad in London.

The derivatively named Breaking Dad is a documentary that promises a lot but delivers very little. Mostly told through talking heads, the story is fundamentally a small one that didn’t need to be stretched into two episodes. Through anecdotes from a police officer and people close to him, the story of Richard Lubbock unfolds without many shocks.

Lubbock, a Jewish man from Stanmore, of East End Stock, grew up in a normal-ish Jewish family, before joining his father’s coin dealing business. Getting into drugs through the South African party scene, Lubbock tells how he dealt with his secret homosexuality for years - a tangent that is given much more time than his descent into the outer reaches of the East London criminal underworld. There’s even a brief cameo from a Brighton Progressive rabbi, who explains the groundbreaking revelation that sometimes people struggle to come to terms with their sexuality.

But back to the drugs. Essentially Richard was investigated over a long time by the met, busted and went to jail. Given that Breaking Bad is a show that featured 269 deaths, several thousand tons of meth and more armed police than a small army, it’s fair to say that the title of this documentary writes cheques that the content can’t cash. This is not a tale of gangland turf wars or even a tortured genius tinkering in a lab to perfect an illicit drug. It’s a fairly small-time caper about a man who dealt meth in Limehouse. Would I be shocked if my dad was a secret party animal that dealt meth? Sure. But would I make a two part documentary for Amazon Prime about it? Probably not.

I think there’s a tendency to treat every vaguely interesting tale as material for a flashy documentary, but often this can feel forced. Giving something the Netflix treatment can be overkill if the fundamental story isn’t that crazy. With the insane demand for these types of shows, and commissioners that have bottomless budgets, it’s not surprising that mediocre documentaries like this make it through the net. But that’s no excuse for the lazy production choices to use the most generic music I’ve ever heard and ram every other scene full of stock footage of people taking drugs.

The overwhelming feeling I got after watching Breaking Dad, is the lack of any kind of feeling. Breaking Bad was a thrill ride from start to finish, Breaking Dad is a snooze fest. The one cop talking head is so dull that I actively forgot what he was saying mid-sentence multiple times. Crystal Meth was never an epidemic in this country the way it was in the States, there were no hill billy crank labs popping up all over the country - it was and is remains a very niche drug, used less than nearly any other Class A.

In 2013, just after Lubbock was jailed, it was used by 17,000 Brits, a tiny fraction of the total amount of drug users - almost exclusively in the gay party scene, where it was combined with GHB.

Long story short, US crime epic this is not. It’s a small-time story stretched to two episodes for reasons that are beyond me. Richard Lubbock’s story is interesting and deserves a better telling than this.

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