‘Breaking Bad’: 7 Lessons Showbiz Can Learn From the Gamechanging Series
With “Breaking Bad’s” final episode set to air Sunday, consumers and the industry alike are busily discussing the show’s impact on television. The AMC drama has overcome numerous hurdles during its five year run on the net, whether it be production derailment due to the writers’ strike, or more-than-soft ratings during its debut.
Nevertheless, “Breaking Bad” now ranks among the great dramas of television, surrounded by the likes of “The Sopranos,” “NYPD Blue” and “The Wire.” Showbiz could learn a few lessons from the series, especially given its prominence in the digital space. Here are seven:
1. Patience is more than just a virtue
“Breaking Bad” wasn’t always a pop culture phenomenon that broke ratings records for AMC. In fact, the first four seasons of the Vince Gilligan drama — running from 2008 to 2011 — rarely cracked 2 million live viewers. Buoyed by digital syndication, “Breaking Bad’s” word-of-mouth buzz snowballed in 2012 as auds discovered the Bryan Cranston-starrer on Netflix, caught up on the series and began tuning to the Sunday night telecasts. These bandwagon fans have in turn helped the show break the 6.6 million viewer mark, with record highs for the show expected Sunday. “Breaking Bad’s” growth is exponential, as the show boasts four times the viewership it did two years ago. Other net execs, who may be trigger-happy when it comes to cancelling low-rated yet high-quality programs, would be well-served offering their young series not only patience, but faith — a modest performer one season could become your breakout hit the next.
2. Netflix is your friend, not your enemy
Dovetailing off the “patience” lesson, “Breaking Bad” is the first resounding success of a digital syndication model, and one that helped bring the phrase “binge-viewing” into households across America. While TV networks have long treated the streaming service as a competitor for viewers, AMC witnessed a different result when it licensed previous seasons of “Breaking Bad” to Netflix: Subscribers were able to discover or catch up on the series, and encourage friends and fellow subs to do the same. The numbers at times were staggering: Netflix content chief Ted Sarandos disclosed that when Netflix released the 13-episode fourth season of “Breaking Bad” the day before the season five premiere, 50,000 subscribers binge-viewed all 13 episodes in one day. When Gilligan took home the best drama series Emmy this year, he praised Netflix for its role in keeping the series afloat for all of these years and building its on-air viewership.
3. Edge does not necessitate gore
With the recent roll out of Fox’s “The Following” and NBC’s “Hannibal,” networks have brought edgy, bloody programming to small screens across America as they try to compete with the likes of zombie drama “The Walking Dead” and the graphic brutality on “Sons of Anarchy.” However, “Breaking Bad” is proof that an edgy show does not require gore to drive home uncomfortable emotion. While “Breaking Bad” does not shy away when it comes to violence — death, after all, abounds — the graphic nature of the show is in no ways gratuitous, and at times even restrained. During the “Ozymandias” episode, Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) was dragged away by a neo-Nazi gang that had plans to force information out of him. The actual interrogation of Pinkman, however, was not shown. Instead, viewers witness the aftermath — an exhausted, bloodied Pinkman sitting in a pit, his face swollen with lacerations. The thought of “what could have happened” to Pinkman in the end was far more emotionally gripping than a gory depiction of the torture session, as auds minds’ were allowed to wander into their own versions of hell.