By: Bill Cushing – October, 2013
When Breaking Bad premiered in January, 2008 on AMC, there was very little fanfare. The reviews were good, even excellent to be sure, but the show barely made a blip in the ratings. The show’s main character of Walter White was played by Bryan Cranston, who previous claim to fame was starring the sitcom Malcolm in the Middle. The rest of the cast was even lesser known than Cranston. Aaron Paul, playing Jesse Pinkman, was the show’s other main character.
The show centered on Walter White, a high school chemistry teacher who is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. Fearing that he would die and leave his family with nothing, he hooks up with an old student of his, Jesse Pinkman, to produce and sell methamphetamine. He uses his chemistry knowledge to create a remarkably potent and soon to be highly sought after, product.
The show’s creator, Vince Gilligan, described the show as “Transforming Mr. Chips into Scarface.” Walt’s fascination with his “talent” and the need to be the best at it, cause him to become a power hungry, ego-driven, criminal mastermind.
As the show progressed, the buzz grew, and viewers began to take notice. Binge watching the show on services like Netflix proved a big boom to the show. Cranston would win 3 Emmy’s (so far) for his role, and Aaron Paul would win 2. The series has also won a Best Drama Series Emmy award at this year’s ceremony.
I’m not going to give up too many details here, for those of you who are in the middle of watching it or who plan to watch the series. Suffice to say, that as the show drew to a close on September 29, 2013, it had become a cultural phenomenon.
Ratings for the 5th and final season of the show have skyrocketed. For example, the 4th season finale drew 1.9 million viewers. The final episode drew 10.3 million viewers, an astounding 442 % increase.
Walter White, or more precisely, Cranston’s portrayal of him, became an iconic television character. A character everyone rooted for at first. Rooted for him to make a future for his family, and to beat his deadly cancer. As time went on, and Walt began to get darker, and more evil, fan’s feeling changed. You weren’t sure whether you hated Walt for what he had become, or still loved him for what he was, and the reason he did it in the first place.
Unlike many other series, the show left nothing open to interpretation in its closing moments. The episode gave closure, not only to the characters, but to the fans as well. It was an epic, satisfying, conclusion to what many consider to be the greatest drama series of all time. Maybe the most important show of all time as well. The show has set the bar for the next generation of television creators, showing them what’s possible and daring them to do even better.
There will certainly be good shows in the future, but none as good, as well written, or as well acted as Breaking Bad, and the future of television will be better because of its existence.
Thank you to Breaking Bad for giving us 62 hours of the most riveting television drama ever created, I’m so glad I went along for the ride. If you haven’t already, buckle up and take the ride too.