Breaking Bad is a Milestone in TV History

Posted: September 24, 2013 in Uncategorized
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By Blake Whitmore, RMU Student

Ever since I was little I have watched a lot of television, but I always just saw it as research. I dream of being a television writer or screenwriter for film, so watching television and analyzing characters and stories is just preparation. I enjoy deeply analyzing everything I watch. Anything from Family Guy and South Park to Hannibal and Game of Thrones is worthy of deep analysis of how and why it works.

breaking-bad-logoRecently I was talking to my mother about Breaking Bad; she hasn’t seen any of it. When I said it was coming to an end my mother responded, “Why? I thought that show was so good.” I smiled, because I agree entirely that the show is great. I explained to her that despite the show being possibly the greatest show of all time, show creator Vince Gilligan is smart in ending it now.

Breaking Bad has changed television in a way that I can’t even put into words how important it is to the medium. I know I am not the only one going on and on about Breaking Bad, and some continue to argue The Wire is still the best television show, but Breaking Bad did something Lost, The Sopranos, Mad Men, Dexter, and even The Wire never did.

There is a general outline people follow when writing screenplays for television and film. The outline varies based on whether it is a half hour sitcom, one hour drama, or film, but generally pretty similar points are always hit. The major point that is always hit in sitcoms and some one hour dramas like, Law & Order and Warehouse 13, with a lighter feel is the reset button. At the end of every episode an event happens to kind of reset the show. A problem is usually solved within one episode and then another will present itself at the end to set you up for the next episode. As for most one hour dramas, the characters change a little over the course of the series due to the over arcing story that spans the season or longer, but overall they are still recognizable by the end.

Tony Soprano was incapable of change. The cast of The Wire wanted to change, but in the end the system proved to be too big. Dexter Morgan is still a serial killer and the cast of Mad Men are still conniving their way through advertising . Then we meet Walter White. Vince Gilligan took things to an all new level for television.

In Mad Men and Dexter the premise does stay entirely the same, which most shows have to, and the characters have changed only in subtle ways that seem, well normal to an extent. Walter starts out as a chemistry teacher with cancer that struggles to support his family, so he decides to cook meth with a bumbling former student. Now he is a drug lord, mass murderer, and a very terrifying man. The change is so drastic that the show is almost unrecognizable from the pilot now.

It is a transformation similar to Michael Corleone in The Godfather, but even more drastic and detailed. Granted, The Godfather is about three hours long, but after the finale of Breaking Bad there will have been 62 episodes and that’s just a little more than 49 hours that we have spent with Walter and Jesse.

Walter’s transformation is comparable to literary classics of The Great Gatsby and the fellowship from The Lord of the Rings trilogy, but the key is that this was television, the medium everyone scoffed at and turned up their noses. People have always thought higher of film and books, but television is coming into its own. Looking at this year’s Emmy nominations I could only stand in awe of how far television has come. Breaking Bad was nominated alongside Game of Thrones, Homeland, House of Cards, and Mad Men for best drama series. Breaking Bad ultimately took home the Emmy for Best Drama Series.

Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan and the cast on stage after winning the Emmy for Best Drama.

Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan and the cast on stage after winning the Emmy for Best Drama.

Back to my mother’s question of why to end such a brilliant show; well, there hasn’t been much of a reset button on Breaking Bad. It has constantly been moving forward at a rapid pace. The characters have all drastically changed and so has their environment and the circumstances. This chapter of Walter’s life is coming to an end. Rather than drag out into more story like The X-Files and Supernatural , which both clearly went past the originally planned storyline, Vince Gilligan has decided to end the story and I respect him for that decision. The show ends this coming Sunday in what I am sure will be an epic finale.

Thanks to Breaking Bad, Vince Gilligan, and the other shows nominated for Emmys this year, television is no longer a medium to underestimate .

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