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‘Breaking Bad’ to Wind Down in 16 Episodes…or Live on in Spinoffs?

The Set

‘Breaking Bad’ to Wind Down in 16 Episodes…or Live on in Spinoffs?

More Gale, please! (AMC)

Every TV fan has his or her own story of heartbreak over a beloved series that clung on to life well past the pinnacle of its inventiveness: Titles like "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "Big Love," "Gilmore Girls," "Lost," and even "The Sopranos" come to mind. "Breaking Bad" creator Vince Gilligan evidently learned at least one lesson from his time writing on "The X-Files": It's better to wrap things up while your viewers are still actively interested than to unspool increasingly complex mythology as a preamble to an unsatisfying conclusion. Or so we can surmise from the fact that, after this season, "Bad" will produce just 16 more episodes.

Though this is almost certainly the right decision for the show from a creative standpoint, it presents a problem for AMC. Now not just one but two of its flagship original series are headed toward their final seasons. While "The Walking Dead" was a solid hit for the network in its first season, it lacks the Emmy-baiting prestige of "Breaking Bad" or "Mad Men." On the other hand, "The Killing," which did rack up some Emmy nominations, ended its first season with a finale episode that was almost universally despised by fans and critics alike.

At this point, AMC executives must be getting anxious about the imminent loss of two TV franchises. But there is one way they could keep the "Breaking Bad" brand alive: a spinoff! Or maybe even a BUNCH of spinoffs! Gilligan and his producers have created some truly memorable characters, virtually any of whom has been drawn with enough care and specificity to carry a spinoff series of his or her own. The end of "Breaking Bad" is going to come sooner than any of us think, so there's no time to waste: Here are a few ideas AMC should consider rushing into production TODAY.

"The Boetticher Chronicles": It's obvious from the way Gale Boetticher (David Costabile) has continued affecting the "Breaking Bad" storyline this season — from beyond the grave, no less — that producers have much more Gale material they want to use. Why not reach into the past to see what influences forged the character of a young Gale (Michael Cera), before his path ever crossed that of Walter White (Bryan Cranston)? Where did Gale travel? Why did he decide to become a vegan? What made him espouse libertarian politics? When did he get so good at corner-of-a-notebook animation? And which other songs are in his karaoke repertoire?

"Better Call Saul": The antics of unscrupulous lawyers have made for great TV since the dawn of the medium. But television has never seen a lawyer quite as crooked as Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk). And though "Breaking Bad" will, one can reasonably assume, end with the deaths of Walt and Jesse (Aaron Paul), they will leave behind a criminal element that will require legal representation. Each week, Saul meets a new Albuquerque thug, and finds a novel way to help him or (less often) her to weasel out of trouble — but we also get a glimpse at Saul's home life. Which is just as disturbing as his law practice, if not more so. You can't imagine what that dude is into.

"Whitewashed": Over the years, TV producers have shown us the comedy inherent in such memorable workplaces as a cab dispatcher ("Taxi"), a hotel ("Fawlty Towers"), and a talk radio station ("NewsRadio"). Now that Skyler White (Anna Gunn) has purchased a car wash, AMC has the perfect setting for its first multi-camera sitcom! Between fending off headhunters from the car wash across town to raising her kids on her own to finding time between detailing Infinitis to work on her short stories, Skyler has the potential to be our generation's Alice.

"Rolling Justice": From "Ironside" to "The Bone Collector," audiences of all kinds have embraced the notion of entertainment built around crime fighters living with spinal injuries. In "Rolling Justice," former government-sanctioned investigators Hank (Dean Norris) and Mike (Jonathan Banks) pair up to form an unconventional PI firm that attacks the Albuquerque drug trade using slightly iffy methods. Mike, having returned to the right side of the law, also uses his experience interceding in domestic disputes to help heal the rift between Hank and Marie (Betsy Brandt), or at least get Hank to quit telling her to shut up all the time.

"Management Only, with Gus Fring": If there is a better, stronger, more decisive, less emotional manager on television right now than Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito), I have yet to watch his or her show — and that is why Gus would be the perfect candidate to host a half-hour daytime talk show in which he helps to teach his unique management philosophy to others. I know what you're thinking: Gus is a fictional character, and therefore won't be taken seriously as a business guru. But if this book exists (and it does; my mom read it), TV audiences can embrace Gus's no-nonsense management style. And if they don't...well, he'll deal with them in his own special way.