‘Breaking Bad’ off to healthy start

Fifth-season premiere on AMC draws 2.9 million

The fifth season of AMC’s “Breaking Bad” got off a strong start Sunday with 2.9 million viewers, making it the most-watched episode in series history.

That was a 300,000 increase, or 14%, from the fourth-season debut. In the 18-49 demo, Sunday’s episode garnered 1.9 million, up 34% from a year ago.

Including the 11:30 p.m. repeat, the two telecasts earned a combined 3.5 million viewers.

There was plenty of competition in the 10 p.m. timeslot: USA Network offered the premiere of miniseries “Political Animals,” A&E saw strong traction with western “Longmire” and HBO presented the fourth episode of “The Newsroom.”

Numbers would have been higher but AMC is currently in a carriage squabble with Dish Network and net has been pulled from the satcaster.

Network has decided to split the fifth, and final, 16-episode season into two parts: The final eight episodes will air in 2013.

Show, from Sony Pictures Television and filmed in Albuquerque, N.M., stars Bryan Cranston as a chemistry teacher turned meth dealer. Others in the drama ensemble include Aaron Paul, Anna Gunn and Dean Norris.

Show was created by Vince Gilligan, who exec produces with Mark Johnson and Michelle MacLaren.