Breaking Bad is easily one of the greatest television shows of all time, if not a stellar piece of modern American art. It features Bryan Cranston giving a performance for the ages as Walter White, a sad-sack high school teacher who finds out he has cancer. Worried about what will happen to his family if he should die, Walt uses his chemistry skills, a beat-up RV, and the help of a ne’er-do-well former student to cook up the best (and bluest) meth in all of New Mexico.
But hey, everybody knows the plot to Breaking Bad. That’s no secret. Of course, just like at the counter of Los Pollos Hermanos, there’s a whole lot going on behind the scenes of this award-winning show. And if you want to go from being a mere fan of the series to a hardcore Heisenberg, then it’s time to get cooking. From shocking character choices to the show’s lasting legacy, here’s the stuff that only true fans know about Breaking Bad.
A ton of networks passed on Breaking Bad
Once primarily a repository for old movies, AMC launched Mad Men in 2007 and Breaking Bad in 2008, positioning itself as a major “peak TV” player alongside the likes of TNT, HBO, and FX. Oddly enough, all those networks turned down Breaking Bad. “The two executives who I pitched it to were on the edge of their seat, they were loving it,” creator Vince Gilligan told the Television Academy Foundation about his TNT experience. At the end of his breathless description of the first episode, the suits “[looked] at each other, and they [said], ‘Oh, God, I wish we could buy this.'” Evidently, they were scared off by the fact that Walt cooks meth, so they “half-heartedly” asked Gilligan if he could make him “a counterfeiter instead. (No dice.)
While Gilligan says the HBO executive he met with “could not have been less interested,” FX actually bought the series, only to reverse course. “We had three dramas with male antiheroes,” FX president John Landgraf told KCRW’s The Business, referring to mid-2000s hits The Shield, Rescue Me, and Nip/Tuck. “The question was, are we defining FX as the male anti hero network, and is that a big enough tent?” According to E! Online, FX decided to branch out and greenlit the Courtney Cox drama Dirt, instead. After all these rejections, things were looking bad for the show. “It was dead as a hammer,” Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan told The Hollywood Reporter. As a last resort, his agent sent it to AMC, which was looking to expand its original programming slate. And the rest, as they say, is history.