Imagine passing up the opportunity to air Breaking Bad on your TV network. Well, a lot of TV executives were forced to deal with that regret after the AMC series became a ratings juggernaut. When series creator Vince Gilligan first created the neo-western crime drama, he greatly struggled in getting his show made. AMC eventually jumped on board with the series headlined by Bryan Cranston, and it went on to become one of the best series in history.
Breaking Bad first debuted in January 2008 and introduced the world to Walter White (Cranston), a seemingly normal father who decided to secretly cook meth so he could support his family after being diagnosed with cancer. Season 1 was shortened after a writer’s strike, but the series returned for a follow-up season in March 2009. Once Walt and his partner Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) truly dove into the drug trade, the stakes grew higher and the series found its footing. Breaking Bad also successfully gained the attention of fans and critics before dominating a number of big awards shows throughout its run; the series came to an end with season 5 in September 2013.
The idea for Breaking Bad came to Gilligan during a phone call with a friend while he was unemployed. Gilligan envisioned a heroic figure slowly transforming into the plot’s villain. The pitch described Walt’s transformation as “Mr. Chips becoming Scarface,” but he found it difficult to pitch the idea to networks. Gilligan wound up writing an outline and pilot to shop to cable networks but his journey was not easy. The creator met with Showtime, but the network was forced to pass because they were already airing Weeds, a show they thought was too similar to Breaking Bad‘s plot. In fact, Gilligan has since stated that he wouldn’t have moved forward with Breaking Bad if he was more familiar with Weeds. The idea was then pitched to HBO, who weren’t keen on featuring a meth dealer, and TNT, who also passed. Gilligan ended up finding an interested party — but it wasn’t AMC.
FX Had A Chance At Breaking Bad But Made A Risky Choice
Breaking Bad was pitched to FX in 2005 and the network jumped at the chance to develop the project. The two sides started discussions regarding the pilot, but during that time, FX was committed to the Courtney Cox-led drama Dirt. There was only one slot open and since the network already had several shows with men with anti-hero personas at the center, FX decided to pick Dirt over Breaking Bad. The choice would go on to bite FX since Dirt was cancelled after just two seasons and the popularity came nowhere near the level of Gilligan’s series.
When Gilligan was still struggling in finding a home for Breaking Bad, AMC was looking to bolster their original programming alongside Mad Men. Gilligan’s agent met with AMC’s director of original programming but there needed to be a formal pitch. After various meetings, Gilligan didn’t have much hope left; however, he won over the AMC executives who were highly intrigued by Breaking Bad. The network then acquired the rights from FX, which wasn’t an easy task. A year later, the project entered production and the rest is history. Breaking Bad has since built an everlasting legacy and spawned a spinoff, Better Call Saul, and a sequel film, El Camino.