Why Breaking Bad Is Better Than Everything Else on TV

Watching a press screener of Breaking Bad's Season 4 opener after being away from the series for more than a year may have been a bad idea. I'd forgotten just how absolutely absorbing the show is, how every cog in the machine is refined to perfection, how it makes the rest of television look like utter shit. And now I can't help but think that in the last year, everything I've watched has been a joke compared to this rough cut of standard-definition programming I was lucky enough to see.

Breaking Bad is so far ahead of everything else on television, it's ridiculous. And that's still the case even with strong competition from my new second-fiddle shows: the finally-found-its-way Fringe, the newly recharged Justified, and the joyfully complex Game of Thrones.

An so in honor of this Sunday's Season 4 premiere, here are five things about Breaking Bad that, to me, earn it the title of The Best Show on TV:

1. The protagonist is constantly changing.
Breaking Bad isn't so much a series made up of individual chapters as it is a long story interrupted by 9-month (or in this case, 13-month) breaks. Unlike with other shows, which usually see a main character overcome some sort of obstacle by the end of a season, there's no reset button on Walter White—his story continues to grow linearly as he slowly transforms into a shell of the man we first met in Season 1. By the end of the series' run, expect Walt to be unrecognizable. And incredibly badass.

2. It's a tragedy that deals with consequences and morality...
At its heart, Breaking Bad is about the decisions its characters make and the consequences that result—and no one on the show is immune from the cosmic force of karma. Walter is constantly bailing out his sinking ship, emptying one bucketful at a time while two more bucketfuls pour in. Jesse, meanwhile, is now suffering the fallout of Walter's actions. The point is, consequences on Breaking Bad don't just linger for a single episode or a three-episode arc; they become permanent scars on the psyches of each character as they play out for the long haul.

3. ...but it's still funny.
A show about a middle-aged chemistry teacher who gets diagnosed with inoperable cancer and decides to manufacture methamphetamine in order to create a nest egg for his family so they won't starve after he dies isn't exactly a typical cure for the blues. Breaking Bad uses unexpected humor to disarm viewers. The show knows when it needs to ease off the gas pedal and check your blood pressure before stomping on the accelerator once again.

4. It's immune to the pressures of Hollywood and "the business."
The writers huddle together in a room in Burbank, the show shoots undisturbed in unglamorous Albuquerque, and AMC—a network that understands the need to let creative people do their thing—is relatively hands-off. This, more than anything, is the formula behind Breaking Bad's success. When a showrunner sets out to create for himself instead of the masses, it yields the best, truest results. Creator Vince Gilligan has full control over his baby.

5. Instead of doing one thing well, Breaking Bad does everything great.
Because every single aspect of the show is under so much scrutiny—not from AMC or viewers, but by everyone involved in the show—the bar for writing, directing, acting, and everything else is set very, very high. There's a prideful group behind Breaking Bad, and it shows. And as good as the show started, it appears to be getting even better now that the entire crew knows what it can do.


If you haven't started watching Breaking Bad, do yourself a favor and check it out from the beginning. I can't stress how important it is to start from the beginning. We may not be able to wait for you, but I have a feeling that once you start this addictive drama, you'll catch up soon enough.

Breaking Bad returns for Season 4 this Sunday, July 17 at 10pm on AMC.


Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom

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Jul 20, 2011
If there was any doubt, the season 4 premiere put it to rest.
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Jul 18, 2011
The best show on Television, BAR NONE. If you haven't watch this show, what the hell is wrong with you.
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Jul 22, 2011
well said
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Jul 18, 2011
I started watching this show when it was 2 episodes away from the S3 finale. Needless to say, I caught up with the rest of the world about a week later. I don't like to rate things, but this is definitely up there, along with The Wire, The Shield, Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Oz, Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire.
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Jul 18, 2011
No other show has made me say "Holy $&^!" out loud. Breaking Bad has made me say it many times.
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Jul 18, 2011
i'm 22 and i love this show. I don't think liking this show has anything to do with age per se more as it more has to do with what a person expects from their tv show. most people just wanna kick back and kill a few brain cells. this show is not for those people. this is a show that pulls the viewer in and shows them a side of life that they probably won't see in real life. this show is asking the viewer if they would do the stuff that the characters have done. that is why it is so good, because it doesn't just entertain; it's an experience and that is a mark of a great work.
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Jul 18, 2011
Megarockexe: I'm 25, i've been watching the show since the beginning and i can tell you that i love it and enjoy it very much. If you didn't watch it, you can't talk about it.

I agree with you Tim. After watching season 3 finale i felt like it was the best finale of 2010. Probably this season, the show will be the best on tv.

@silkspectrexx
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Jul 18, 2011
Currently watching season 3 and I've enjoyed the show but I definitely wouldn't call it the best show on tv or the best show ever as some are. Its above average but I can't really get behind the extremely slow pacing and Walter's constant personality changes. One episode he doesn't want to have anything to do with Jesse and gives him a measly $600 to live off of. A few episodes later he essential commits manslaughter because he thinks its the right thing for him. Then he doesn't want Jesse selling the meth because its his recipe even though he never intends to cook ever again. It comes off as drama for the sake of drama.
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Jul 18, 2011
Even after reading this list, I still cannot understand why it's as good as they claim it is. I've never watched these type of shows but maybe it's just not in my age-range? I can't imagine anyone younger than 25 enjoying these shows.
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Jul 17, 2011
While i wont argue that this is the best thing on tv, please tim cant you take over writing the true blood reviews again :)

Can easily do that + breaking and falling skies, dont be a slack !!
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Jul 17, 2011
These 5 reasons are almost exactly how the Japanese create Anime.
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Jul 17, 2011
I just started watching from the beginning 2 months ago and I'm on season 3 right now with my dvr all set for season 4! This is an amazing show and I'm so glad that I'm watching it!
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Jul 17, 2011
@phil-phil- Thank you!! Breaking Bad has gotten better with each season, and I imagine that will only continue..... I'm thinking it will be a 5-6 season arc, so they have another couple of seasons or so to top The Shield (I concur)... I also could see Breaking Bad ending in a downward spiral for Walter White, making the last season and overall ending tragic in nature like, guess who? The Shield.
Also, to add to your Walt/Vic comparison, Vic had 1 and then eventually 2 children with autism. Walt has a son with a disability as well. Obviously he is older, but the parallel is still there. They also both have problems with their wives (because of their lies and illegal behavior), and end up divorced. However, they both love their families tremendously and want what's best for them.
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Jul 17, 2011
because Walter's evil personality " Heisenberg " and he is really really badass. Season 2 Ep 10 Heisenberg : " Stay out of my territory "
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Jul 17, 2011
Breaking Bad is like Mad Men it is completely unlike anything else you might watch on TV so it constantly surprises you in not knowing what to expect. The problem with most shows is people are bored by the formula.
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Jul 17, 2011
Breaking Bad is like Mad Men it is completely unlike anything else you might watch on TV so it constantly surprises you in not knowing what to expect. The problem with most shows is people are bored by the formula.
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Jul 17, 2011
Breaking Bad is certainly one of the two best shows on television ever. The second being Friday Night Lights (am still in denial of the cancellation).
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Jul 17, 2011
My brother has been haunding me to start watching this show, but I just don't know... I tried watching The Shield, and I really could not get interested in it. Four episodes in I already didn't know anymore what was going on and couldn't care less, so I'm afraid that'll happen with Breaking Bad too.
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Jul 17, 2011
never watched it.. if i don't like somebody in the show i most likely won't watch it, and the premise didn't interest me either.
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Jul 17, 2011
@headclub: I'm right there with you. The Shield's been my favorite drama for years but Breaking Bad's seriously giving it a run for its money and a close second at this point (if BB sticks to its landing, I could see it topping it). I'd say they are cut from a VERY similar cloth in terms of the main themes and character/relationship developments. The Walt-Jesse relationship has so many interesting parallels and contrasts to the Vic-Shane relationship I'd even go as far to call them companion series. And both have moments that have stuck with me in a deeper way than most other dramas.
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Jul 17, 2011
Tim, you couldn't be more right. It is exceptional television that has raised the bar forever. Before I watched the show, I didn't even imagine a TV show to have the quality of writing that we see on Breaking Bad.
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Jul 16, 2011
It's all a matter of tastes. Breaking Bad is for sure on the Top 5 of best shows on tv right now, being such Top 5 way above all the other shows. But it's not "better than everything else on tv". There's no such thing.
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Jul 15, 2011
Now I can't wait for the new season to kick off! Great article, thanks :)!
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Jul 15, 2011
@lostcause78: i Love fringe to death... The season started great and ended well but in between this season some time felt a little dragged. Started to feel like a chick-flick with all the olivia-peter-bolivia love triangle, and i dont like that every time something freakish happen they had to tie it with some experiments William and Walter did when they were young, it started to feel annoying.
They put too much emotional crap in it this time...
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Jul 15, 2011
Glad I stuck with it, while seasons 1 and 2 were really good, season 3 was mind blowing. That really hooked me. I agree it's the best show on tv but I would add Sons of Anarchy, Justified and Dexter to that list in no particular order.
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Jul 15, 2011
So hugely agreed it's unbelievable. It makes everything else look childish and poorly made by comparison. By far the best show on TV. BY FAR.
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Jul 15, 2011
@DavidJackson8 & aldaros23: I watched season 1 and dint hooked me but this site gives it so much coverage that I thought I was missing something so I gave another chance… now Im really hooked :)

@usmanmnr: so true! just like The Shield ruined all cop shows for me lol
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Jul 15, 2011
Great article. Glad to see I'm not the only one who LOVES this show!
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Jul 15, 2011
Lol. I meant subjective....either way...
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Jul 15, 2011
Not only is better then anything else on TV right now, it is in the running for being the best thing to ever be on TV.
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Jul 15, 2011
usmanner: What are you talking about? Fringe has had it's best season by far, strange time for a "hardcore fringe fan" to start thinking it mediocre.

BB is a good show, I enjoy it. But wouldn't call it better than Thrones or Fringe, but I'm a sucker for those genres and BB is the better of all the rest.
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Jul 15, 2011
This show is truly one of the best ever. If you haven't seen it START FROM THE BEGINNING! START FROM THE BEGINNING!!
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Jul 15, 2011
Good stuff as usual Tim.// Though, I don't like comparing genres.... I will confess that Breaking Bad is the best of its kind-- by far. Probably no. 2 all time behind The Shield. (As an aside Tim, since we watch ALL the same shows, I was curious if you watched the Shield and what you thought of it, if you did)....// I put Game of Thrones in a category all by itself, then Supernatural & Fringe and shows of that ilk in another, and Breaking Bad and The Shield in another. but I also know that my categories are extremely objective. Anyhoo, Breaking Bad=Freaking Good.
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Jul 15, 2011
Great to see TV.com praise Breaking Bad like this. It's more than deserved. More people should watch this amazing show. It puts everything else to shame. Go people, go! Buy the dvds, watch them on demand, do something!
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Jul 15, 2011
totally agree... the best show out there... and one of the best ever made...
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Jul 15, 2011
Shows like Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad are bad for TV. These shows make everything else look stupid. They should be banned from the networks so that we can easily watch crap like Vs and The Event. Now i cant watch anything else, because i know TV can be that good.

I am a hardcore Fringe fan but i dont think it deserves to be in the category of GoT and BB. Fringe was really mediocre this season, even Dexter didnt feel that good this time around. Havent watched Justified but i am intrigued to watch i now...
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Jul 15, 2011
love the show, and agree that this is the best show on tv. just magnificent
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Jul 15, 2011
love it,great great show
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Jul 15, 2011
100% agree.
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Jul 15, 2011
This is the rightest thing I have ever read!
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Jul 15, 2011
It's definitely the best show on television...CURRENTLY. The Wire, Six Feet Under, Deadwood, The Sopranos were all up to par with Breaking Bad (the former two exceeding Breaking Bad IMO). It's definitely the best NETWORK show of all time, though. It gets an HBO/Showtime vibe without being gratuitous, and manages to have very heavy themes in the network setting.

And let's not forget, if it weren't for Dexter and Weeds as a base, Breaking Bad may have never existed. The first season of BB takes a lot from those two shows.

I'm gonna start the second season tomorrow...I heard it gets a hell of a lot more epic and interesting the further in it goes.
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Jul 15, 2011
Im such a huge fan of this show I find it a waste to see it week by week. I always wait till the weekend of episode 13 (finale), watch it all in one go and time it so that I see the finale live.
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Jul 15, 2011
I'm still startled to hear people say they haven't seen Breaking Bad. Despite being off for over a year, it's still my favorite show. Justified is a close second.
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Jul 15, 2011
it's been 13 months since AMC aired an episode of breaking bad .. LOL i can't wait until sunday :)
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Jul 15, 2011
lol i love how much coverage the show gets on this site.
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Jul 15, 2011
We watched all the previous seasons and finished just this past week. I'm still dying for the premiere.
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Jul 15, 2011
Watching all of season 3 again on Sunday before the new episode airs :)
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Jul 15, 2011
You guys had to wait for 13 months?! I finished watching the whole show for the first time last week and I really cant wait until Sunday! I dont know how you did it! ;P
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Jul 15, 2011
Well said!
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Jul 14, 2011
It's so addictive, it's Criminal. I bought all the DVD's in anticipation for this Sunday.
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Jul 14, 2011
I love Breaking Bad so much. I can't wait for Sunday, I've missed it.
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