Breaking Bad came out around the same time as another what-would-you-do series, Hung which tailed off (sic) in the first season and I imagined Bad would go the same way. The premise seemed obvious, and cancer storylines are depressing. (1970s TV characters were usually felled by a heart attack which finished things quickly.)
When I finally caved I discovered what I liked most about Breaking Bad was that the premise was obvious. The second thing I loved was the scripts. Series creator Vince Gilligan discussed the writers' approach to the show to Robin Kelly:
"I look for good visual storytelling. We take pride in our dialogue, but TV and movies, this is visual storytelling. It's the difference between a play and a screenplay. A stage play is all about the dialogue, and I've seen and read some wonderful ones, but that's not what we're doing here. We're telling a story through the images. I specifically look for visual writing, which is to say not the dialogue on the page, but the action lines, the scene description. How much is the writer getting across through a look, through a bit of body language, the omission of an action or the action itself? Versus a writer who gets everything across verbally. Because in real life, very often we don't say what we mean; very often we say the opposite, or we don't say anything at all."Series DOP Michael Slovis talks about the arc to the LA Times' Josh Gajewski:
"The other thing that 'Breaking Bad' has in its favor, which is very interesting to me, is time... There is no need to rush anything in 'Breaking Bad' because it's an ongoing story, so you don't really have to re-explain things visually or storytelling wise, so we have time to actually let people move through spaces, down halls, into homes, in a very sort of European storytelling way."In an interview with J.C. Freñán for Slant Gilligan talked about the difference between writing for movies and TV:
Slant: You've worked in both television and feature films. Do you have a preference for either one?In 2010 Gilligan talked to Slate's Noel Murray about ending season three:
Vince Gilligan: I would have to say television, because once you are on a writing staff, or once you create a television show, for as long as that show exists you know that you're writing, you know that your work will get produced. The same can't be said for writing for features, unfortunately. Write a movie script, you can put your heart and soul into it for months, for years, and peddle it around Hollywood and ultimately it may well go nowhere. I've experienced more heartbreak in the movie business than in the TV business.
Slant: Is there anything about the format of serial television itself that influences the way you write, that you have a preference for? Is it easier to write a one-off film than it is to sustain a season at a time?
VG: They're both hard, but I suppose that the saving grace about writing a television show is that you don't have to wrap up everything plot-wise at the end of every episode, and you can leave certain questions unanswered. You can leave certain emotional issues not quite completely tied up. In a movie, on the other hand, you have to tie up every loose end that you have set for yourself, and you have to wrap things up emotionally in a very satisfactory manner, and you have to complete the plot in that two-hour segment of time that you're allotted. Endings are just very tough for a writer, at least speaking personally.
My writers and I sit around and dream this stuff up and then we see it executed a week or even days later, and it's a wonderful feeling and it's magical. Especially in moments like that one, which was a great example, because I had high hopes for that scene and then seeing what Adam Bernstein the director did with ['Half Measures']... He exceeded my expectations. That moment was thrilling to watch in the editing room for me. I've never had children but it must be akin to the pride you feel watching your children grow or be born or something. I don't know. I don't have that background in my real life. But it's an intense pride. And it's not a pride of "I did this," it's a pride of "we did this," because it really is a group effort. There's no one person doing it all in television or in the movies. It's always a collaborative effort and anyone who tells you otherwise is awfully pumped about their own contributions to the endeavor. But it's a great feeling, a great collaborative feeling, and it's wonderful.