Why FX Originally Passed On Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad

Although certain shows often seem designed for their respective networks, the fact of the matter is that showrunners often shop around quite a bit before landing on a home. Breaking Bad may have seemed like a perfect fit for AMC, but it only ended up there after FX initially passed on it the first time around. According to FX CEO John Landgraf, who was behind the call, the network actually passed on Breaking Bad to avoid pigeonholing itself with yet another series about a white male anti-hero. Landgraf explained:

Of course I wish that I hadn't passed on Breaking Bad. I wish it were a part of the FX brand and legacy instead of AMC's. But I'm also really glad that we picked up Damages. Damages didn't turn out to be as important a show culturally or in television as Breaking Bad was but we made a conscious decision that with three shows revolving around white male antiheroes -- The Shield, Nip/Tuck and Rescue Me -- that it wasn't a big enough ambition to hold the brand in the long run. We have been the first, frankly, to bring a female movie star of Glenn Close's stature to television. We flew to her apartment and convinced her to come to be a part of The Shield ... And even though that show didn't win four Emmys in sequence for best drama and it didn't ultimately win an Emmy as Breaking Bad did, it set the stage for our ambition to bring great female actors [to TV].

John Landgraf's comments to EW almost seem silly in retrospect (particularly when we consider the cultural phenomenon that Breaking Bad ultimately became), but the rationale made sense at the time. With shows like The Shield, Rescue Me, and Nip/Tuck defining FX's content back in 2008, Breaking Bad definitely would've felt like more of the same edgy material for the network. The cabler instead opted to gamble on a dark legal drama anchored by a female lead, and the acclaimed Damages was born by a desire to break the mold.

John Landgraf has a point there, as well. Although Damages never reached the critical or commercial success of Breaking Bad, it became a beloved series during its run nonetheless, and it paved the way for plenty of female-driven series along the way. Without Damages, it's very likely that we would've never seen shows like The Good Wife or Homeland, and what's more, we might not have seen the mass wave of movie stars taking up temporary homes on TV in the past eight years. Landgraf's botched Breaking Bad decision was inevitably something worth celebrating.

Of course, FX missed out two-fold when we consider the fact that Breaking Bad led to the critically acclaimed spin-off, Better Call Saul as well. Both series have gone on to define AMC's non-Walking Dead success over the years, and it's almost impossible to imagine how the network would've carved out its high-drama niche without their respective successes. Draper-schmaper.

I seriously doubt that John Landgraf is going to start actually complaining about how things panned out anytime soon. Even without Breaking Bad, his network has been on an absolute hot streak lately. FX was responsible for three of the six highest-rated scripted cable series in 2016, and it doesn't seem likely that such momentum will slow down anytime soon, with more Atlanta, American Horror Story and more on the way. Breaking Bad or no Breaking Bad, FX has become a powerhouse.

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Conner Schwerdtfeger

Originally from Connecticut, Conner grew up in San Diego and graduated from Chapman University in 2014. He now lives in Los Angeles working in and around the entertainment industry and can mostly be found binging horror movies and chugging coffee.