×

‘Breaking Bad’s’ Crowning Night is an Ode to Quality

The AMC series has mostly itself to thank for its pop-culture explosion

Other than “Behind the Candelabra,” anointing “Breaking Bad” as TV’s best drama felt like about the only sure thing on an Emmy night that was largely filled with surprises. Yet the show’s crowning moment is the sort of rare success story that promises to be analyzed more closely than a batch of Heisenberg’s product in the click-driven build-up to the show’s Sept. 29 finale.

Frankly, the fact “Bad,” once one of those little shows that could, would wind up creating such a wide pop-culture footprint is a triumph all its own, as well as a testimonial to the power of word of mouth, which — more than any other single attribute — has contributed to the show’s explosion.

TV Review: 65th Primetime Emmy Awards

Series creator Vince Gilligan might have graciously credited Netflix with his program taking off — in the same way he acted surprised when its name was called at Sunday’s Emmys — but the distribution service was only the conduit, one of the tools that enabled the series to catch fire.

No, the “Breaking Bad” experience can best be conveyed anecdotally through the story of a friend of mine, one who has nothing to do with the entertainment business. A few years ago, I casually mentioned that if he wasn’t watching the show, he should consider giving it a try, and that the strike-shortened first season was a relatively small investment — a mere seven episodes.

SEE ALSO: ‘Breaking Bad’ Knife Fight Was ‘Cathartic’ for Anna Gunn

A few weeks ago, he told me he and his wife were eagerly devouring this final flight, having caught up and watched every hour.

“Breaking Bad” is hardly the only show to develop a loyal core following. But the reason it grew so exponentially has everything to do with the addictive nature of the series — storytelling so provocative and unpredictable as to have sent an inordinate number of those who take a bite into a binge-feeding frenzy.

Success, as they say, has a thousand fathers, but that level of satisfaction — more than the new gadgets and toys at our disposal — ultimately explains why “Breaking Bad” has blossomed into the media darling and ratings powerhouse it’s become.

SEE ALSO: Jeff Daniels Talks Best Actor in a Drama Shocker

Meanwhile, viewers who tuned in for the penultimate episode almost found the show catching its breath (Alert: SOME SPOILERS AHEAD) in the wake of recent events. Yes, the writers continue to put Walt (Bryan Cranston) and Jesse (Aaron Paul) through hell, before a closing tease that finally brought us to the tantalizing shot depicted at the season’s outset — when a very different looking Walter White, with hair, pops open his trunk and surveys the great big honking gun inside.

A month ago, I suggested the ending doesn’t really matter in the way it might for other serialized dramas, because the show has been all about the trip — the transformation of Walt, as Gilligan has stated, from Mr. Chips into Scarface.

SEE ALSO: Emmys Draw Largest Audience in Eight Years

No doubt there will be diverse and passionate opinion about next week’s episode, praise and disappointment. The media tend to build these things up in advance, mostly so we can nitpick and tear them down.

But Gilligan and company have already struck a powerful blow for quality and its commercial viability — advancing the notion, hardly viewed as a given in TV circles, that something so irresistibly good will eventually find an audience, through whatever channels are available.

Make a great show, in other words, and let the chips fall where they may.

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • Christian Serratos as Rosita Espinosa - The

    'Walking Dead' Star Christian Serratos in Talks for Selena Series at Netflix

    Christian Serratos is in negotiations to star in the upcoming Netflix series based on the life of Tejano music star Selena Quintanilla, Variety has confirmed with sources. The series was announced back in December and is described as a coming of age story following Selena (Serratos) as her dreams come true and all the heart-wrenching [...]

  • Songs for Screens Powered by Mac

    Songs for Screens: 'American Horror Story' Makes 'Suddenly Last Summer' Sizzle Again

    FX Network’s “American Horror Story” returns for a ninth season next month, and promos for the next chapter of the anticipated series, dubbed ‘AHS 1984,’ have been airing frequently across cable television throughout August. In the short yet effective spot (see below), the Motels’ melancholic, moody “Suddenly Last Summer” plays as aerial footage of an [...]

  • Wanda Sykes, Mike Epps to Star

    Wanda Sykes, Mike Epps to Star in Multi-Camera Comedy Series for Netflix

    Wanda Sykes and Mike Epps are headed to Netflix. The streamer has ordered a multi-camera comedy series starring the two comedians titled “The Upshaws.” The series centers on a working-class Africian American family in Indiana struggling to make it work and make it right without the blueprints to do it. Sykes will executive produce and [...]

  • Vader Streams Shuts Down

    Vader Streams Shut Down by Hollywood Studios

    A coalition of Hollywood studios and streaming companies announced on Tuesday that they have shut down Vader Streams, which was once a popular source of pirated TV content. The service went offline in early May under mysterious circumstances, leading to speculation that the operator had either absconded or been forced out of business. The Alliance [...]

  • Søren-Sveistrup

    Netflix Teams With 'The Killing' Creator for Crime Thriller 'The Chestnut Man'

    HAUGESUND, Norway  — Further expanding its Scandinavian footprint, Netflix has announced its second Danish original series, “The Chestnut Man,” a police thriller based on “The Killing” creator Søren Sveistrup’s popular novel. The streaming giant will team with Sveistrup’s SAM Productions, minority owned by Studiocanal, part of Vivendi Canal Plus Group, to deliver this noir-influenced literary [...]

  • Writers vs Agents Packaging War WGA

    ICM Blasts Writers Guild Over Withdrawal of State Lawsuit

    ICM Partners has slammed the leaders of the Writers Guild of America over its decision to withdraw from its state court lawsuit in favor of refiling the action in federal court. The agency, which was sued in April by the guild and eight WGA members over charging allegedly illegal packaging fees, issued a statement Tuesday [...]

  • succession

    'Succession' Renewed for Season 3 at HBO

    “Succession” has scored an early Season 3 renewal at HBO. The news comes as the critically-acclaimed drama series is just two episodes into its second season. Season 1 of the series was recently nominated for five Emmy Awards, including for best drama series. “We are elated that ‘Succession’ and its exploration of wealth, power and [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content