While Walter White no longer carries on, his legacy continues to influence TV viewers and content creators.

Everyone is looking for the next Breaking Bad but is there television life after Breaking Bad?

If so, it definitely didn’t come in the forgettable follow up series Low Winter Sun. Did that show actually finish one season? I know I didn’t finish with it.

Much like its chemical counterpart and grounding in the principles of chemistry, Breaking Bad was a slow burn, simmering long before it sizzled in popularity.  I will admit, I was a Breaking Bad late bloomer. I had just binged on Netflix for the first time with Dexter and Breaking Bad followed. I started watching the show as the realtime season three came to a close.  I was instantly hooked and I couldn’t get enough. Not since The Sopranos had I so eagerly awaited the next episode.

Vince Gilligan masterfully created a series that simultaneously created viewer tension, frustration and satisfaction from start to finish as viewers watched Walter White evolve from a desperate high school teacher to the methodical drug kingpin to the murderous Heisenberg.  The show consisted of first rate writing and execution from Gilligan and his crew, along with incredible acting from lead actor Brian Cranston and his on-screen colleagues.

After huge let downs with series finales (or lack thereof) with shows like The Sopranos, Dexter, Oz and DeadwoodBreaking Bad promised fulfillment where they had failed.

If, as a viewer, you could withstand the frustration and oft felt anger toward Walt, then it was as near a perfect show as there has ever been, including the finality of the last episode.

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During the tenure of Breaking Bad, I was also watching Boardwalk Empire, The Walking Dead, Downton Abbey, Falling Skies, The Newsroom, Homeland, Justified, Sons of Anarchy and Game of Thrones.

Boardwalk Empire lost me with the death of Jimmy (when Michael Pitts left the show), but I stayed a peripheral fan due to an allegiance to the work of Steve Buscemi.  Its Breaking Bad retitle: Breaking Kneecaps. I tried to stay with The Walking Dead as long as possible, but somewhere in the middle of the third season I became the watching dead and put a bullet in the brain of the dead, yet to return.  Its Breaking Bad retitle: Breaking Boredom.

Downton Abbey can take credit for being the greatest show about paperwork ever (article to come), and it had two really good seasons, and it’s been mediocre ever since. I don’t know if I’ll return for this sixth season, or is it the fifth? I’m not actually sure. Its Breaking Bad retitle: Breaking Pencils.

Falling Skies had promised but never fulfilled its potential — a combination of both mediocre writing and passionless acting. Its Breaking Bad retitle: Just Bad. The Newsroom has all the elements of what should be a great show but somehow just doesn’t live up to the expectations and standards of its lead character. Its Breaking Bad retitle: Breaking News (that should have been obvious).

Homeland would have been a stellar entry into the hour long drama annals if the show had closed with the Brody story. Damien Lewis was able to bring compassion to a character who should have been hated (and was at times), but when Brody ended, so should the show have concluded. Claire Danes’ Carrie Mathison isn’t enough to carry Homeland. Its Breaking Bad retitle: Breaking Point.

During the first three season, Sons of Anarchy could have easily been titled Breaking Anarchy. The shows shared similar struggles and themes.  However, in the long run, Breaking Bad chose a world grounded in the reality of its character, where SOA went beyond, wading in blood and other bodily fluids, turning its world into one of complete extremes.  While still entertaining, it could now be called Sons of Gratuity at this point.

Justified is a good ol’, overcoming evil, western. It is well-acted and well-written. It is entertaining and delivers an often predictable but very satisfying payoff.  Justified is just what it should be.  And, like SOA, will be ending at a very good time, while it is still a strong series and very popular. Its Breaking Bad retitle: Breaking Just Right.

Game of Thrones is probably the only other show I look forward to on a regular basis, especially once SOA and Justified close out.  With those two gone, and the others officially off of my “need to watch” list, I have a lot more time on my hands. Its Breaking Bad retitle: King Breaker.

So back to my original question, is there television life after Breaking Bad?

I don’t know. Breaking Bad was so good and set the bar so high, that when I step back and really look at everything else on TV, it makes me realize just how low the bar was. And, it was low … very low.

What comes next? How about Breaking Expectations?


by Brian Barsuglia


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