In what can only be seen as a sign of the times, the “Breaking Bad” creator has followed his show’s terrific finale with pit stops on “The Colbert Report” and Charlie Rose and company from “CBS This Morning” — the latter possessing a little extra wrinkle, since Rose had a cameo in the program’s penultimate episode. And if there was a quid pro quo involved, well, who’s to blame either of them?
Gilligan (pictured with executive producer-director Michelle MacLaren) is an unassuming, inordinately genial fellow, so it’s hard not to enjoy watching him get this well-deserved moment in the spotlight. Still, it’s also illuminating on a couple of levels.
For starters, the “Breaking Bad” mania underscores that when the media gets hooked on a story, they (by which I mean “we”) have an awfully hard time letting go. That’s particularly true if the object falls within the cultural realm, offering a lighter means of enticing viewers or readers than, say, trying to explain why the House of Representatives is shutting down the government.
On another track, Gilligan’s current halo reflects both the ornate nature of today’s best TV series and an elevation of showrunners to an auteur status they were often denied, particularly vis-a-vis major film directors. Yes, there were always a few producers with high profiles — Aaron Spelling, Steven Bochco, Stephen J. Cannell — but relatively few who would have found themselves in demand on the talkshow circuit, in the way Steven Spielberg might be.
Part of that also has to do with what “Lost’s” Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse unleashed by charting a well-in-advance ending for their show, while conjuring a series so dense and mysterious that only the writers seemed qualified to address it. (Even for those who view the ending as a disappointment, the pair were pretty ubiquitous when the ABC program wrapped up in 2010, including appearances on Jimmy Kimmel’s show.)
Colbert is such a “Breaking Bad” fan he once again periodically forgot about his dumb-as-a-post talk host character, peppering Gilligan with very funny questions (and frequently issuing spoiler warnings) about the series and its conclusion.
Calling Gilligan “the man of the hour,” Colbert cited the show’s ballooning ratings and asked, “Why stop? Are you allergic to cash?” Regarding the ultimate resolution, the producer did say Walter White’s fate “seemed like the implicit promise of the show.”
As for Rose, who has always excelled at making media figures feel like Mother Teresa, he did ask the obvious question — whether Gilligan was resigned to the fact he might never do anything this good again.
“It was lightning in a bottle,” Gilligan agreed.
That it was. And given the odds against doing that twice, it’s nice to see the showrunner get to enjoy this victory lap, as everyone tries to siphon off a few sparks before the glow from “Breaking Bad” inevitably begins to fade.