‘Breaking’ a good habit

'Carnage,' 'Power' get extensions

WELL, I usually don’t accept expensive bribes and thank you’s from people in showbiz. But I am sitting here proudly wearing my “Breaking Bad” wristwatch which came from the show’s lead actor — the talented Bryan Cranston — with this delightful note: “How dare you write such terrific things about our show!” I am really proud of this watch which says “Breaking Bad” right on the face.

I have seldom seen such an engaging, shocking, surprising, violent and adult drama on television, I keep touting “Breaking Bad” as if I am an evangelical TV watcher. (It’s right up there with my other enthusiasms, which are for AMC’s “Mad Men” — I had better luck pushing that one — and for HBO’s “Big Love,”about a Mormon household trying to hide its polygamy.)

Not to ruin “Breaking Bad” for you if you’ve never seen it, this TV drama tells the story of an Arizona high school chemistry professor in love with his wonderful wife and expecting a baby. He discovers he has lung cancer and sets out in a desperate way to earn big bucks against the eventuality of his death. (The professor’s family also has an appealing young son who has been crippled by cerebral palsy and his brother-in-law, who just happens to be a big deal, loudmouth DEA agent.)

I suppose you can guess somehow what our run-of-the-mill hero does to make money, but I won’t get into plot here. I am hoping you’ll now go to your local store and buy the DVDs of the first season episodes of “Breaking Bad.” Or go to the trouble to download seasons 1 and 2 from iTunes.

The show ended its second season the other night with happenings so dramatic, unbelievable and yet unhappily believable that they defy TV expectations. (Talk about the law of unintended consequences! Let’s just say your heart in your mouth won’t be a bad description.) I leave it up to you to figure out your reaction to the singed one-eyed teddy bear in the swimming pool.

The acting of Bryan Cranston, Anna Gunn as his wife, the son — a sympathetic R J. Mitte, in-law cop Dean Norris and his dizzy klepto wife, Betsy Brandt, is all above and beyond first rate. And let me not forget the catalyst young actor Aaron Paul as Branson’s choice “helper” in his money-making attempt.

Season three premieres on AMC in the first quarter of 2010, but that’s a long wait and I simply can’t imagine how the writers will carry on with this impossible story. Viewers did pick up in season two.

Three-times Tony nominee Kelli O’Hara will join with Andrea McArdle, Audra McDonald and Bebe Neuwirth in a benefit concert for Phyllis’ “Women’s Health Initiative” at New World Stages on June 15. Do a good deed in a naughty world — call 212-221-7300, ext. 133.

JOEL GREY, “Cabaret’s” unforgettable maestro, is always showing us new aspects of his talent. The other eve he showed off a book of his cell phone photos titled “1.3–Images from My Phone” at a party in Michaels. Deb and Hugh Jackson, artist Ross Blecker, Barbara Walters, Lauren Bacall, Bebe Neuwirth, Gloria Vanderbilt, Michael J. Fox all showed because I don’t think Joel has any enemies; only fans.

WHEN WILL we find out what Oprah, Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg, Ted Turner, George Soros and a few others equally philanthropic were talking about several weeks back when the gang met to brainstorm about how to handle their charitable giving? These richies got together at a private residence on the exclusive Upper East Side of Manhattan. We have our fingers crossed — waiting to know, wither goest they?

HAPPY TO report that my favorite play of the season, “God of Carnage,” will keep its sterling cast of Jeff Daniels, Hope Davis, James Gandolfini and Marcia Gay Harden and extend their Yasmina Reza play through Nov. 15. Come to New York and see this rollicking comedy!…ALSO HAPPY to report that Michael Feinstein and Broadway’s sizzling hunk Cheyenne Jackson have extended their duet show, “Power of Two” — six more shows added. This talented pair is at Feinstein’s at Lowe’s Regency. Call 212-339-4095.