Tuned In

Which Is Worse: Much Less Breaking Bad, or Much More?

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The story over AMC’s feud with the Sony studio over Breaking Bad broke while I was just getting to press tour, but for those of you who haven’t heard about it: things are getting tense between network and studio over the fifth and ostensibly final season of the show. The makers of Breaking Bad want a full season to wrap things up; AMC—which has been involved in one run-in after another with its shows (linked to money among other things)—reportedly wants Vince Gilligan and crew to wrap things up in a severely shortened season, presumably to save a few bucks.

The conflict has apparently led Sony to explore the possibility of taking the show to another network. Which is where the twist that interests me most would figure in: no network is likely to want to buy a show for a single season. So we’re looking at Gilligan planning two possible futures for Breaking Bad, one in which everything wraps up in a handful of episodes, one in which the story goes on for years more.

Which one would be better? As a big fan of the show, you would think I’d say, “More! More! More!” But I feel that Breaking Bad is like The Shield, a show whose moral complications and cat-and-mouse games can’t go on forever without feeling contrived. I would hope that one final season to end the story of Walter White would give us a Breaking Bad working at its highest level yet, as the last season of The Shield did.

If Breaking Bad goes elsewhere (FX, which originally considered it? Showtime? DirecTV? HBO would not want a show it doesn’t own), then it means figuring out ways to keep Walt in a life of crime, danger and moral decay for years. I’m not saying it can’t be done, but you risk piling on the can-you-top-this twists beyond the point of believability; the reason, I figure, why Gilligan’s preference is five and out.

Obviously five full seasons is my ideal, and I suspect that a forcibly abbreviated last season to save AMC some cash would mar the show’s legacy (and drag down AMC’s brand, by the way). But I ask you, Breaking Badlanders: if you have to choose between a shortened final season five or two, three, or even more years of Breaking Bad (on a network that may just want to drag the show out until the ratings give), which do you pick?