Unless you have been hiding inside a gigantic money barrel or taking part in a one way trip to Belize, then I’m sure you have all heard of the ABC show BREAKING BAD, created by the definitive king of the Southern gents, Vince Gilligan.
Vince Gilligan is a modern day Dr Frankenstein. As I’m sure you know, Frankenstein’s Monster was a freak of nature that struggled with a major identity crisis. In the same way, Vince Gilligan’s Monster was a mild mannered, under achieving chemistry teacher called Walter White. Diagnosed with stage 3 lung cancer, White creates the identity of “Heisenberg” to sell crystal meth, provide for his family and escape the banality of the life he lives on a daily basis.
But as a writer, why do I hate BREAKING BAD, you ask? Let’s take a look.
Bryan Cranston. Seriously, the rollerblading buffoon from MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE? What the hell was Vince thinking? Vince Gilligan originally pitched BREAKING BAD as “We’re going to take Mr Chips and turn him into Scarface”. How on Earth is Cranston like Al Pacino? Wait a minute, the TV Execs in cuckoo land actually wanted Matthew Broderick for the role of Walter White. Baby-Faced Broderick? Could be a gangster name, but NO! No way is Broderick Heisenberg. Bryan Cranston overcame the skeptics and IS Heisenberg. He absolutely owns the role. No one could deliver Walts lines like Cranston … Goddamn you writing staff for facilitating that.
Villains, villains and more villains. Throughout the show we are introduced to a veritable cornucopia of bad guys. We have the drug dealers: the ice-cold, murderous, sugar-sweet Todd; Gus Fring; the utterly-butterly insane Tuco; The Cousins and we can’t forget the pink teddy bear. Whenever we saw that pink teddy bear, you knew the brown stuff was going to hit the fan. They call it “foreshadowing”. The bear had half his face burned in the epic plane crash and landed in Walt’s swimming pool. Gus Fring, the anti-Colonal Sanders, had his face destroyed by old man Salamacas suicide bomb, but not before he had his revenge on Don Eladio who ended up face down dead in his **own** swimming pool. Goddamn, that’s some deep-like-the-Titanic writing right there.
The Old Switcheroo. They made the good guy the villain. WTF? Our first image of Walter White is of him in the desert wearing big, flapping Y-Fronts and looking pretty pathetic. He’s recording an apology to his family on a handheld video recorder as the sirens close in. How the hell is this guy bad?
Well, I can answer that in one simple statement: absolutely genius character development. It was around the start of season 4 where the realisation that Walt was now the antagonist of the show hit me like a punch to the gut. I really started to hate him for the things that he had done, but still rooted for him. His quest to provide for his family after his death continued and so did the body count. Goddamn that 8 strong team of writers and their 8 hour brain storming sessions!
Shock & Awe Vs Emotional Attachment. In the Season 2 episode, “Negro Y Azul”, Walt’s brother in law DEA agent Hank Schrader is promoted to the El Paso office. While Hank and several other agents wait on top of a valley for a cartel informant to show up, Hank spots the informant through his binoculars. What happened next was, in all my square-eyed TV viewing years, the greatest WTF moment I have ever witnessed. The informant “Tortuga”, played by Danny Trejo, has obviously been rumbled by the cartel and his severed head had been stuck onto a tortoise. One of the DEA agents takes the head off the tortoise and BOOM! A bomb goes off, as do quite a few agent’s limbs!
I had to pause the DVD and get my head together for a few minutes after that. It’s times like this where you wish you didn’t care about the characters in this show. It’s the genius of the writing staff and the superb actors that force you to connect. Goddamn you, sick writing staff!
Okay, so my hatred for this show may **not** be entirely accurate … I LOVE IT. My main reason as a writer for hating on BREAKING BAD, really?
THEY RAISED THE F*****G BAR!
They have set the bar so ridiculously high for new shows, it has forced me to step up my writing game. But that’s it. They have 8 writers sitting in a room bouncing ideas around and then one lucky writer is chosen to write the episode. I am just one guy.
But I accept the challenge. The gauntlet has been thrown down. If I can write something half as good as BREAKING BAD then, technically I’m as good as 4 of their writers, right?
Only time will tell. I’m off now to see if a pink teddy bear with no face has landed in my garden. Goddamn you, Vince Gilligan!
MORE: Anthony Hopkins Writes A Gushing Fan Letter to Bryan Cranston
BIO: Ian Martin is a screenwriter and all round film fanatic hailing from sunny Kent. He started out working in props and set dressing and is now building a portfolio of screenplays to take to market. A self confessed screenwriting soldier using words for ammunition and rejection for protection. Ian will be at London Screenwriters’ Festival 2013 (here is his LSF Connect Profile) and you can connect with him on Linkedin, here.
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Even though I undestood your point and your article, I think the most important point was not addressed here.
You forgot the most important reason why to hate it (well, not hate, that’s a big word, just not-like) and that is: it’s the most boring show ever produced… and I’m afraid there’s a big gap between BB and the second most boring.
You have to give it up for the marketing team though. Creating a previous fake fanbase so everyone could relate and become a fan was brilliant. I mean, the majority of the people is insecure, and they would definitely need to lie and say “it’s the best show ever” even when presented with hours of nothing happening.
Bravo for marketing. Booo for writers.
Effective Marketing can definitely account for many successes in the industry, but in terms of *ensuring* audience love of a show or movie, not to mention shares on Facebook, talking with one another, etc? I’d have to disagree. Marketing may get people through the door and account for the £; it doesn’t mean those viewers will go away filled with admiration or enthusiasm for the storytelling; on that basis there would be no such thing as “word of mouth”. What we have here is the age-old assumption audiences are easily hoodwinked. They’re not. We may not like or agree with what audiences want from a show from a show or movie, but that doesn’t mean anything at the end of the day. Audiences vote with their feet and their wallets and their computers. If we want a hit show or movie, it is a good idea to actually listen to them, rather than write them off as stupid.
And following up on Lucy’s comment with a new thought, at least to me – because marketing can only lure us in, and not keep us (long,) if the show is not that good, then we might have one of the reasons, why TV in general is at the forefront of the art and industry especially concerning the writing – they have to keep writing good stuff to keep a series going more than a season. While film and theatre is single shot experiences.
I have to agree with John; it really isn’t that great a show. In fact, I think it’s one of the worst I’ve ever seen, mainly because it is rather insulting to its audience and it holds a lot of promise with very little delivery in the end.
– It does indeed contain countless moments that are just plain boring.. just endless, predictable or unpredictable but still boring events. We get that there is an every day life… don’t overdo it
– Pretty much all of the non-verbal expressions of emotion, ESPECIALLY the ones that are feelings of unease (like every single time Hank touches on a subject related to Mr White’s funny business) are so incredibly overdone that only a person with a severe case of social-emotional agnosia would not begin to see the pattern or at least become a bit suspicious. The camera zooms in on his face as he zones out, clearly disturbed by the subject. Yes… we get it.. he’s feeling uneasy. Once again: don’t overdo it (all the damn time)
– The role of the annoying wife is also overdone: compare her to Cersei Lannister for instance: you probably hate her, but you don’t hate the scenes she’s in. Scenes with Skylar White are mostly just a pain to watch.
– Also, it’s really clear where they decide to all of a sudden invest in another character, showing you more (boring) aspects of their lives.
– Jesse’s stupidity is really predictable and not the least bit entertaining
– The forced ways of making sure Walt and Jesse keep ending up back together are just really, really bad
So what keeps you watching? Some aspects are quite good. Pollos Hermanos is a good character. Hank is funny at times. There are some science events that make it interesting (though not necessarily more credible; see Mythbusters special), and every now and then it has those moments that, albeit momentarily, stop you from wondering why the hell you are watching this show. Does marketing play a part? Probably. Is that all? I don’t know.. many people watch soaps; that doesn’t mean those shows are really good either. Why people have compared this show to shows like The Wire? I don’t have a clue.. it’s nowhere near as good. You wanna watch a show that moves in a slow pace without being boring, try True Detective for instance. Now there’s a show worth talking about!
I like soaps, lol