BREAKING BAD. 10 p.m. Sunday, AMC.

WHO HASN'T daydreamed about hitting the jackpot?

If your lottery-ticket calculations in recent months have become more specific - what's it going to take to pay off the mortgage, put the kids through college and have enough left over for a halfway decent retirement? - then Walt White (Bryan Cranston) and you have more in common than you might think.

Even if you're not a terminally ill chemistry teacher turned meth dealer.

Because as AMC's "Breaking Bad" returns Sunday in a Season 2 premiere called "Seven Thirty-Seven," Walt's finally crunching the numbers, setting limits on his new life and trying to make them fit the limits on the old one.

His chances of getting the numbers to work? About the same as you or I have of winning the Powerball. Ever the science teacher, Walt weighs and measures every action, but it's the reactions that too often blow up in his face.

Cranston, in the role that won him a well-deserved Emmy, continues to be just barely recognizable as the guy who played Hal, the often-wacky father from "Malcolm in the Middle," but it doesn't make seeing him this way - as a man who's angry, desperate, dying - any less upsetting.

There's a scene in Sunday's episode between Walt and his pregnant wife ("Deadwood's" Anna Gunn) that feels so real it hurts.

Maybe you think Showtime's "Weeds," in which a young widow (Mary-Louise Parker) peddles pot to maintain her middle-class lifestyle, is a funny show.

I never really have, especially after people started dying, but I could see how the show, which launched in 2005, a time when a McMansion and a late-model car were still considered by some to be inalienable rights, might have had something to say about the culture.

"Breaking Bad," where the dying began almost immediately after Walt began cooking methamphetamine with a former student (Aaron Paul), has never pretended to be a comedy, though the show, from former "X-Files" writer Vince Gilligan, has its darkly funny moments.

A drama on the order of "The Sopranos" or "The Shield," it's not about things - and people - getting better so much as it is about the struggle for survival.

And like "Weeds," it's a show that might, if anything, have a little too much to say about the times in which we live.

From 'Mars' to 'Ashes'

Life here on earth can be hard for "Life on Mars" fans, for whom the cancellation of the American version happens to coincide with the U.S. launch of the sequel to the British original.

And you thought time travel was confusing.

ABC's already told "Life on Mars" producers it won't be ordering more episodes after the current order for 17 runs out, reportedly so they could come up with a series finale - expected to air early next month - that won't leave fans hanging.

If there's good news, it's that our "Mars" and its British twin haven't exactly been joined at the hip, plotwise.

So while sequel "Ashes to Ashes" (9 p.m. Saturday, BBC America) hints at a very specific ending for the adventures of Detective Sam Tyler, who woke up in the 1970s after a car accident, it's not necessarily the same ending we should expect for our Sam (Jason O'Mara).

Got that?

Completists - you know who you are - might want to check out the first-season DVD of the original "Life on Mars," which goes on sale in the U.S. July 28.

Truth is, though, that all you really need to know to get up to speed for "Ashes to Ashes" is that it focuses on a former colleague of time-traveler Sam, Alex Drake (Keeley Hawes), a police psychologist who never believed the stories Tyler recorded about the '70s before his apparent suicide.

Until, that is, she's shot and wakes up in the past herself, surrounded by many of the same characters Sam had been babbling about, including Detective Chief Inspector Gene Hunt (Philip Glenister).

It's 1981, Lady Di's about to marry Prince Charles, the office computer doesn't have a hard drive and Boy George is still, well, boyish.

Alex, who left a young daughter back in the 21st century, is no less anxious than Sam before her to get back to her own time (and even less convinced that what's happening to her is in any way real).

But her gender guarantees that her dynamic with the boss will be a bit different, and it's Glenister, whose Hunt continues to leave Harvey Keitel's in the dust, who's still the best reason to climb into this particular time machine. *

Send e-mail to graye@phillynews.com.