How Breaking Bad Got It Right And Why It Can Change TV

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Walt and Jesse

Variety's final points focus on the Breaking Bad lead-in not guaranteeing big numbers for Low Winter Sun, the trajectory of certain characters (minor or recurring characters like Saul who stuck around longer than originally intended), and the idea of "more being more" (as opposed to less being more). On the former point, which addresses the Breaking Bad lead-in not ensuring big ratings for Low Winter Sun, it may have been an issue of people being too amped up after each episode of Breaking Bad to want to settle in for another show right after -- putting Talking Bad on right after Breaking Bad and ahead of LWS might have solved that issue -- or else, that Breaking Bad viewers just weren't into Low Winter Sun. I'll raise my hand to both points there. The first thing I wanted to do after watching Breaking Bad was talk about Breaking Bad. And I didn't want to watch Low Winter Sun. So, while LWS surely did benefit from its lead-in, it wasn't enough to kickstart another hit for AMC.

As for "More is more," we can't fault the network for wanting to split up the final season in order to extend this hit show an extra summer. And given the significant bump in viewers between Season 5A and 5B, it's hard to deny the success of such a strategy. Of course, it means AMC will likely repeat it (see: Mad Men's final season). That seems to benefit the network much more than it does viewers, unless the show itself directly benefited from the delay somehow. There is the extended gratification argument, which is the outlook I took back in the Spring of 2012 when we were still digesting the news that the series' last season would be split. Still, it's a step away from Netflix's approach -- a full season all at once, watch it however you like -- which is certainly more viewer friendly. That said, it worked out really well, so we may be seeing other networks take a similar approach.

I'll wrap this up with my own point, and that's that more is not always better. Six seasons is more than five seasons, and seven is even more than that. Then there's eight, which is how many seasons Dexter had, and well, we all know how well that turned out. (If you don't, it may be because you stopped watching seasons ago.) As much as we might say we want our favorite shows to go on forever, most of them don't keep getting better and better with each season. At some point, they peak and after that, they might plateau for a little while before dropping off in quality if they stay on the air. Granted, there's no telling exactly when a show will peak, but for Breaking Bad, I'd say there are arguments to be made for Seasons 4 and 5. It's hard to rate the final act of a story against its middle and I might need to rewatch the entire series all the way through before I decide exactly where the show hit its absolute high point. Regardless, Breaking Bad ended when it needed to, and while AMC won't be able to make much more money off it now that it's over, the series certainly bolster's AMC's brand and it will for a while. Breaking Bad wasn't on HBO or CBS. It was on AMC, and people will remember that, especially when AMC introduces more original programming.

There may not be another show like Breaking Bad for a while, though I expect other series to try. Still, the AMC series proved to be a shining example of what a great TV drama can be when the right calls are made, and a lot of that has to do with swimming with the current of today's TV viewing habits. Hopefully the industry's taking notes.

Read Variety's list here.
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