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C'mon Hollywood: Don't lose "the cook" after Breaking Bad

09.24.2013by:

In the coming weeks and months you’re going to be inundated with commentary about AMC’s Breaking Bad. There will be article upon article (much like this one) attempting to praise, pan, examine, and pay tribute to Vince Gilligan’s epic show about a good man who “broke bad.” For a show as unconventional, distinct, and suspenseful, it’s my hope that Hollywood will try to replicate its bravery rather than its formula, continuing this newfound tradition of delivering kick ass programming that kicks the shit out of conventional Hollywood films. In short, this is the “don’t f*ck it up” article.

The journey of Breaking Bad as a TV show can be linked to the same journey that Walter White took to become Heisenberg. He started small, cooking in an RV in the desert, working his way up and building word of mouth with a superior product; the illustrious 96 percent pure (or better) blue meth. Likewise, the show started small, a gamble, that didn’t look like it would pay off until people began to notice. Word of mouth spread quickly, and suddenly Breaking Bad was the best “high” on TV and fans waited anxiously for their next fix from week to week (unless they binged on Netflix or DVD).

We’ve gone through a phenomenal revolution with television in the last ten years, with many great shows matching or surpassing the content we’ve come to expect in feature films. It truly has been (and continues to be) the golden age of television and fortunately there are new shows popping up regularly that continue that trend. However, I think Breaking Bad is going to leave an empty void that many will clamor to fill. We’re going to need a new pusher and hopefully they won’t supply a knock off of the “blue stuff” if you will; way less potent and without that familiar color.

The beauty of Breaking Bad speaks for itself. Multi-layered, character driven (and then some!), suspenseful as all hell, and every bit as addictive as the drug it revolves around (minus the meth mouth!). That’s a hell of an accomplishment any way you cut it. And, it’s rare, even by today’s standards. The thing that separates Breaking Bad from the rest of the pack is that there is a definitive, gradual journey of the main characters, rather than a slow drag that suddenly shifts in the final throngs of the last season. We’ve watched Walter White, played brilliantly in career-defining brilliance by Bryan Cranston, go from mild mannered schoolteacher to diabolical drug lord with the slow, gradual momentum of changing seasons. It’s been a marvel to see unfold.

We followed this character, burying his secrets (including bodies and cash) with lies, deceit, and malice, while trying to convince everyone that it was for nothing more than family, something that many of us can relate to. By tapping into the humanity of this villain in the making, we are challenged. We are given a choice. Do we like this man or loathe him? Do we want him to win or lose? Usually, the answer is clear and obvious. For something like, say, Justified on FX, we want Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) to win each and every time. There’s no real conflict there (unless you’re playing devil’s advocate). With Walter White there’s heavy, burdensome conflict and that’s what makes the show so damn irresistible, frustrating, and weighing on your mind long after you finish watching. It’s a formula the every show should be attempting to emulate.

There are other shows toying with this paradigm; Sons of Anarchy on FX follows an outlaw motorcycle club filled with villains, as did the recently wrapped Dexter on Showtime, HBO’s Sopranos, and many more. We kind of love the villain, because the villain is simply more interesting. The villain has made a choice, one way or another, to be bad (or at least not squeaky clean good), usually for “goodness” sake (but usually for greed’s sake). Flawed characters are at the heart of every great protagonist (hero or villain), because they echo the human condition. We can relate. We can empathize. We can sympathize. We can judge, even if we shouldn’t. For me, these types of qualities make me it a hell of a lot easier to justify binge watching 40 plus hours of a show. It needs to make the Earth move a little.

Which brings me to my point. Don’t lose the cook, Hollywood. Don’t give us a rehash or try to capture something that isn’t there once the doors close on ol’ Walt and Pinkman (we’re already getting more Saul, so don’t push it). For once, the machine is well oiled and there’s a steady stream of “product” coming out. We’re getting a “high” that shows there’s more to our entertainment than cheap thrills, bad acting, hackneyed plotting, and dispensable characters. You broke bad, Hollywood, and you did good this time out. Now, don’t sour it by losing momentum on the next great thing or by trying to remake, reboot, or recapture the legacy that was Heisenberg. We don’t want another show like Breaking Bad. We want another show that’s as good as Breaking Bad. Time to find a new recipe and get back in the kitchen.

“Let’s cook.”

Extra Tidbit: What existing property, comic, novel, series, etc. do you think has the potential to be the next great show? I would personally love to see Jason Aaron's DC Vertigo comic Scalped go to series. If you've never heard of it, I couldn't recommend it more. One of the best adult comic series ever made.
Source: JoBlo.com

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3:28AM on 10/01/2013
I feel so bad for everyone involved with Dexter
I feel so bad for everyone involved with Dexter
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+0
6:54PM on 09/25/2013

It's never gonna happen...

Preacher: The Series
Preacher: The Series
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+2
6:56PM on 09/24/2013
100 Bullets would make an awesome series. Seriously, someone should get on it.
100 Bullets would make an awesome series. Seriously, someone should get on it.
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6:18PM on 09/24/2013

SPOILERS IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN PENULTIMATE EPISODE

"For a show as unconventional, distinct, and suspenseful, itís my hope that Hollywood will try to replicate its bravery rather than its formula"

Breaking Bad is numero uno for me but I wouldn't say that it's brave in any way. It is just well written, well acted, well directed, has good music and maybe most importantly, the character arcs and timing of events are very well designed. Everyone faces the consequences of their actions at some point on this show, crime doesn't pay even for someone
"For a show as unconventional, distinct, and suspenseful, itís my hope that Hollywood will try to replicate its bravery rather than its formula"

Breaking Bad is numero uno for me but I wouldn't say that it's brave in any way. It is just well written, well acted, well directed, has good music and maybe most importantly, the character arcs and timing of events are very well designed. Everyone faces the consequences of their actions at some point on this show, crime doesn't pay even for someone like Jesse. The way they handled Hank's discovery of Walt being Heisenberg, him punching Walt, then teaming up with Jesse was just brilliant. I love that Hank died not by Walt's hands but as a consequence of his (Walt's) constant scheming.

Anyway my point was that although Breaking Bad is a great show but bravery should go to Game of Thrones.
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1:08PM on 09/24/2013
Great article, and excellent point. This often so true when a really good show goes off the air, you see 2-3 shows on the following year that deal in the same area of the previous show.

Extra Tidbit: I'd love to see Deus Ex Machina turned into a series. Ex-superhero runs for Political office. Great comic series. Besides that, I'm open to anything Hollywood wants to put on TV, I'll give any show a chance if the trailer/premise looks good. From there, you have exactly 3 episodes to get
Great article, and excellent point. This often so true when a really good show goes off the air, you see 2-3 shows on the following year that deal in the same area of the previous show.

Extra Tidbit: I'd love to see Deus Ex Machina turned into a series. Ex-superhero runs for Political office. Great comic series. Besides that, I'm open to anything Hollywood wants to put on TV, I'll give any show a chance if the trailer/premise looks good. From there, you have exactly 3 episodes to get me hooked. If you can't do it, see ya!
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+1
11:53AM on 09/24/2013

Extra Tidbit

Powers would be an awesome series if they ever get it up and running.

The Sixth Gun. Old west, plus the supernatural? Yes, please.

Alias (Marvel). A former superhero becomes a PI.
Powers would be an awesome series if they ever get it up and running.

The Sixth Gun. Old west, plus the supernatural? Yes, please.

Alias (Marvel). A former superhero becomes a PI.
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10:53AM on 09/24/2013
I think Breaking Bad is a very special case in the anti-hero world, because, as others have pointed out, Walter White isn't some sort of decent criminal. He's a bastard. A guy we felt sorry for at first, but ended up transforming himself into some sort of meth-cooking Frankenstein monster. Because we knew at a fairly early date things were just going to get worse, like a Greek tragedy, or a slow-moving train-wreck, we kept coming back. It's a very simple story, and though Vince Gilligan and his
I think Breaking Bad is a very special case in the anti-hero world, because, as others have pointed out, Walter White isn't some sort of decent criminal. He's a bastard. A guy we felt sorry for at first, but ended up transforming himself into some sort of meth-cooking Frankenstein monster. Because we knew at a fairly early date things were just going to get worse, like a Greek tragedy, or a slow-moving train-wreck, we kept coming back. It's a very simple story, and though Vince Gilligan and his writing crew threw us a bunch of curve-balls to keep things interesting, the question for those willing to hang on for the ride was how bad is it going to get? Other shows have run a similar course, but sometimes the stakes don't seem as huge, because of all the story strands being supported. Breaking Bad was all about mayhem basically orchestrated by one man, either on purpose or by accident. The only show that seems right now to be trying something similar is House of Cards, where a politician of little remark decides he's tired of being overlooked. It's a world away from Breaking Bad, with a less sympathetic main character, but it too is designed to tell essentially one simple story over the course of multiple seasons.
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10:58AM on 09/24/2013
Agreed on House of Cards. It's almost like a political version of Breaking Bad, although it appears that Kevin Spacey's character was kind of a bastard since...forever. Great show. Look forward to season 2.
Agreed on House of Cards. It's almost like a political version of Breaking Bad, although it appears that Kevin Spacey's character was kind of a bastard since...forever. Great show. Look forward to season 2.
11:40AM on 09/24/2013
He's really a character whose inner Heisenberg was really there all along, waiting to come out. That does make him somewhat unique. I think his difference is less his potential to sink to the bottom, but the environment that shapes what that looks like.

I think we're already seeing AMC trying to push Low Winter Sun as the next Breaking Bad, which is too bad, because the writing isn't there so the cast and a decent premise are being wasted.
He's really a character whose inner Heisenberg was really there all along, waiting to come out. That does make him somewhat unique. I think his difference is less his potential to sink to the bottom, but the environment that shapes what that looks like.

I think we're already seeing AMC trying to push Low Winter Sun as the next Breaking Bad, which is too bad, because the writing isn't there so the cast and a decent premise are being wasted.
12:11PM on 09/24/2013
Agreed on Low Winter Sun, smooveluv. It feels like AMC is trying to just "transition" us into more of the same rather than, as I said above, find a new recipe and start cooking. Perhaps it could take hold in later seasons, but I don't think anyone's really feeling it.
Agreed on Low Winter Sun, smooveluv. It feels like AMC is trying to just "transition" us into more of the same rather than, as I said above, find a new recipe and start cooking. Perhaps it could take hold in later seasons, but I don't think anyone's really feeling it.
10:02AM on 09/24/2013
Everyone loves an antihero and it seems easier and harder to make an antihero more compelling than a straight-up good guy protagonist all at the same time.
Everyone loves an antihero and it seems easier and harder to make an antihero more compelling than a straight-up good guy protagonist all at the same time.
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