Breaking Bad — Killer TV No 1

Here is the final entry in our Killer TV top 50. It’s been fun revisiting favourite series.

Below is the full list of 50. Are any of your favourites not here? Leave a comment and let us know…


AMC, 2008-2013

‘Nah, come on, man. Some straight like you, giant stick up his ass at like what, 60, he’s just gonna break bad?’ – Jesse Pinkman

Bryan Cranston, Anna Gunn, Aaron Paul, Dean Norris, Betsy Brandt, RJ Mitte, Bob Odenkirk

Identikit: A humdrum chemistry teacher turns to crime to provide for his family when he is diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer.

WHAT an unlikely premise it must have appeared to US cable network AMC! A low-grade chemistry teacher in dullsville Albuquerque discovers he has cancer and decides to make and sell methamphetamine to provide for his family (his wife’s pregnant with their second child). From that idea came one of the most dazzling, profound and blackly funny TV dramas ever. Through five seasons creator Vince Gilligan (once of The X Files) offered a compelling portrait of a man, Walter White, going bad and giving in to his dark side. This journey from decent man to criminal radically subverted TV’s traditional formula of flawed characters learning life lessons. Gilligan summed it up: “The goal was to turn him from Mr Chips into Scarface.” Walter’s transformation is wild but convincing, with the teacher having missed out on making a fortune earlier in life, so that when he faces death he’s determined to use his talents to cash in before it’s too late. Bursting with superb, three-dimensional characters, sublime acting and bravura visual storytelling, Breaking Bad rarely failed to pack an emotional punch. Sometimes it was bleakly violent, sometimes heartrending. An episode in series three called One Minute was breathlessly suspenseful and moving at the same time, a typical powerhouse piece of drama with Dean Norris (as Hank) putting in an affecting performance as the shaken DEA man, unknowingly facing assassination and confessing to his wife that he may not be the man she thought he was. This coupled with a gallery of nightmarish psychos (Tuco, Gus Fring, the Cartel’s hit-men cousins) and memorable characters (such as lawyer Saul ‘Better Call Saul!’ Goodman) makes Breaking Bad an undeniable modern classic. It’s unlikely AMC could out-resource the BBC or ITV, but the (comparatively) fledgling network produced an unforgettable series with a scope and ambition UK channel honchos can’t even dream of.

Classic episode: Grilled – crazed Tuco takes Walter and Jesse prisoner in the desert. Tense, with a bloody finale.

Music: Main theme by composer Dave Porter. Fine music throughout the five series, with The Ballard of Heisenberg by Negro y Azul particularly fun.

Watercooler fact: The pink, burnt teddy bear, which is seen throughout series two as a harbinger of the plane crash at the end of the season, appears in black-and-white flash forwards. Only the bear appears in colour, in tribute to the little girl in a red coat in Schindler’s List.

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