For and against: Is Breaking Bad the best TV show of all time?

82 comments
Three months after the demise of Walter White, Chris Schulz and Chris Philpott debate whether Breaking Bad is the best show of all time.
Bryan Cranston as Walter White in Breaking Bad. Is it the greatest TV show of all time?
Photo: Frank Ockenfels/AMC
Bryan Cranston as Walter White in Breaking Bad. Is it the greatest TV show of all time? Photo: Frank Ockenfels/AMC

For: Forget about The Wire. Take your Mad Men box sets back to the video store. And don't even talk to me about Lost. It was a convuluted mess of smoke monsters and bomb shelters, and came with the Worst Ending Of All Time. I never want to see or hear about it again.

If we're taking a debate about the greatest TV show there ever is or will be seriously, there's only one contender: it has to be Breaking Bad.

Here's why. For starters, it captured the TV zeitgeist unlike any other show has ever been capable of. I have never been as overwhelmingly addicted to a show as Breaking Bad. During its ridiculously riveting final two seasons, I remember physically shaking with excitement before I pressed play.

And afterwards, I devoured anything and everything that was written about it.

I would scour Twitter for links and photos and parodies and reviews. I learnt whether gigantic magnets really could destroy a laptop in a police lockup. I probably know far too much about how to set up a meth lab in a caravan.

And if I owned a machine gun, you can bet I would have tried rigging it up into the boot of my car in case I ever had to take out a family of gangster redneck Nazi hillbillies.

Secondly, over five seasons and 62 episodes, there wasn't one dud episode. For that we can thank Vince Gilligan, the ultimate perfectionist who must currently have network executives camping outside his house offering him barrels full of money.

How many shows can you say were perfect from start to finish?

The Sopranos, which I'll admit is a very close second to Breaking Bad, still had the odd forgettable episode. Remember that dream sequence after Tony was shot by Uncle Jr? Yeah, it took up an entire hour - and not a very good one at that.

But Breaking Bad never had an off moment. I never felt disappointed when the credits rolled. Like a serious meth addict, I just wanted to know when my next hit would come.

When Gilligan did the odd stand alone episode - like he did with Fly (season three, episode 10) - he made it excruciatingly detailed, and absolutely riveting.

Thirdly, Breaking Bad is flawless. The characters, the acting, the dialogue, the sets, the stories, the baddies, the tightey whiteys, the pork pie hat, the cliffhangers, the quotable quotes, the extraordinary, unrelenting tension, and dear, poor, troubled, tortured Jesse - everything about Breaking Bad is television perfection.

I'm jealous of people who haven't seen it yet. And I'm terrified that we'll never see anything as good again. So bring me my blu-ray barrel box set, because I feel a Breaking Bad marathon coming on.
- Chris Schulz

Against: I'll concede that Breaking Bad rarely, if ever, put a foot wrong; the worst episodes of the show - a couple from the first season, including the finale, come to mind - are still pretty great. The final stretch, from season five's episode 14 - Ozymandias - through the exciting final episode, is as close to perfection as I think any drama show has ever come.

If pressed, I might even say Breaking Bad is my favourite show of all time. The show is easily - no question, don't even bother trying to make a case for anything else - the best show of the year, and I'll be claiming as much in my Best Of 2013 list tomorrow.

I'm not spoiling anything by telling you that it will be in the top spot.

But I can't bring myself to call it the greatest show of all time. It's too soon. I'll try to explain why - may this reasoning satisfy you.

Despite what you might think, Breaking Bad does have flaws. A pair that immediately come to mind are recurring characters: Walt Jr - or Flynn, or whatever the hell he wants to be called this week - is memorable only for his breakfast eating endeavours, despite a courageous and inspiring performance from RJ Mitte, while Betsy Brandt was given less and less screen time over the years for good reason, as anyone who has ever seen The Michael J Fox Show can tell you.

Yes, the show was phenomenal. The cracks in its crystal blue facade, when they did appear, barely registered. But to call it flawless is fanboyism to the highest degree. You'd have to be in some kind of fugue state to think it didn't have problems of its own.

Even if you still believe the show is perfect, don't you have to allow some kind of passage of time before crowning something the greatest of all time? Part of the reason The Sopranos and The Wire are considered the best television shows ever made is that they are as good now, and as well thought of, as they were when they were first released.

Simply not enough time has passed since the end of Breaking Bad. We can't consider it objectively because we're still buzzing from that finale. I still haven't caught my breath after those heart-stopping final few scenes. We need time to pass so that we can properly consider something, chew it over thoroughly, let it permeate our sense of taste.

Sure, Breaking Bad might be the greatest show of all time. I just think it's too soon to say.

Besides, what about the many other great shows that are around right now? Mad Men is often bandied about as a potential greatest of all time, and it heads into a final double-season next year. Boardwalk Empire just wrapped up its best season so far; you get the sense it could actually improve even further - and the same could be said for Game Of Thrones, which finished a spectacular third season back in June.

And what about The Walking Dead? Just kidding.

Breaking Bad was the best show of 2013, no question - and it might one day be considered the greatest show ever made. However, when it comes to making such pronunciations, maybe your best course is to tread lightly.
- Chris Philpott

* What do you think? Post your comments below.

Have your say

We aim to have healthy debate. But we won't publish comments that abuse others. View commenting guidelines.

1200 characters left

Sort by
  • Oldest

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf03 at 25 Oct 2014 04:47:27 Processing Time: 472ms