Though Bryan Cranston is best known these days for his work in drama, the Breaking Bad star still loves a good laugh — especially one from a show that feels very familiar to him.
"Not since my days on Malcolm in the Middle have I seen a show that can make you laugh out loud and at the same time resonate on some deeper level [like Modern Family does]," Cranston tells TVGuide.com. "Extremely difficult to do because if the audience smells a 'message' in an episode — game over, show loses. This program has it all... wonderful writing, fantastic actors. Bravo."
Modern Family isn't the only show the three-time Emmy winner, who can next be seen in March's The Lincoln Lawyer, turns on for a few chuckles. Sharing his TV watchlist with TVGuide.com, the actor says he also tunes in to The Daily Show with Jon Stewart ("intelligent, funny, current"), 30 Rock ("at the top of their game in smart, sophisticated, adult humor. Maybe that's why it's always been a ratings-challenged show. Can a show be too smart? Not for me."), Mr. Show, the '90s sketch comedy series starring Bad co-star Bob Odenkirk and David Cross, and Family Guy.
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"OK, so anyone who loves this show is destined to go to hell," he jokes. "But hell hath no fury like this jaw-droppingly funny show. Seth McFarlane and his team have ignored walking the fine line of: What is too far and what is not far enough? They always go too far. And though I cringe at times at the audacity of what is presented, I am secretly smiling through the attack on my conscience. Family Guy is a ride through the scariest, funniest, most surprising fun house of any carnival in the world."
Cranston has been in that fun house: He voiced an animated version of Malcolm's Hal, on the Fox series five years ago, but would now like to show off his vocal talents on Glee should the chance ever present itself.
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"I watch amazed at how these performers are able to do this week after week: singing, dancing, acting. Wow, really impressive, but scary to think about doing it yourself," he says. "I would choose this show to be a guest performer for that very reason. It scares me. It would be great to challenge that fear and perform at that high level with very little time to rehearse. It reminds me of hosting Saturday Night Live. Working without a net is thrilling, nerve-wracking, and addictive."
Of course, Cranston enjoys the deeper stuff too. Fellow AMC hit Mad Men — which is "consistently well-written and performed" — is another staple in his TV diet. "The show has the courage to dispense the story on its own time, not succumbing to the pressure of our society's fast-paced, quick-cutting TV standard," he says. "The art direction is superb. The hair, costumes, and other departments, take us back to that rich and alluring era."
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All those shows, however, pale in comparison to an annual TV viewing event of his that dates back to his childhood.
"Once a year, and only once a year, CBS would air The Wizard of Oz on a Sunday night. There were no recording devices at home and you couldn't own the film in any format, so it became a television event," Cranston says. "My brother and sister and I would gather around our black-and-white console TV in our pajamas and watch in awe — this national treasure of motion picture art. To this day, I like to visit that film once a year. Despite knowing the story, songs, and nearly every moment by heart, it still gives me comfort... and all is well."