Ten years ago, this week, the pilot episode of Breaking Bad aired on the AMC channel for the very first time.
That opener sure packed a lot of action into its 58-minute running time.
Chemistry teacher (and part-time car washer) Walter White gets diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, is inspired to cook meth by his DEA brother-in-law Hank, and then joins forces with his former pupil Jesse Pinkman to make enough of the drug to leave some money for his family.
Oh, and he ends up killing a drug dealer by driving him around in a poisoned Winnibago, while just wearing a gas mask and his underpants.
As we watched White’s trousers flying through the air of the New Mexico desert, few could have guessed that this weird little show would end up being so influential.
But in many ways, Breaking Bad forged a new golden age of TV.
How influential was Breaking Bad?
Before 2008, TV shows were things you watched whenever they came on TV, then you had to wait for next week to see how the story panned out.
With Breaking Bad, people started to watch the whole series on DVD (or more often, streamed over the internet) right the way through.
Binge-watching became an actual thing.
The audience’s love for Breaking Bad inspired a new generation of scriptwriters to create slower-moving, deeper examinations of characters with interesting narrative arcs, in a way that the 100-minute feature films of Hollywood never could.
TV executives also took notice of the new trend, and quickly started to throw unprecedented levels of funding on the small screen, and we have all benefited from the result.
Without the binge worthy nature of watching the antics of Walter White, Pinkman and Saul Goodman, would Game of Thrones ever have been commissioned?
Would Netflix and Amazon ever have started to produce their own content if it hadn’t been for Breaking Bad?
Would we ever get to see so many great shows which focus on the anti-hero, like Narcos, or Preacher?
We think not.
Heisenberg is still in our hearts
As well as redefining what a TV show could be, Breaking Bad also inspired an inevitable glut of merchandising, from Lego meth labs to iconic yellow hazmat suits for Halloween, to Heisenberg t-shirts.
The series even spawned an online casino game which you can find at Gambling Metropolis slots, and thousands of tourists every year visit Albuquerque to see if that pizza is still on the roof of the house.
And although scriptwriter Vince Gilligan swears that Walter White really did die in that neo-Nazi meth lab, and there will be no season six, Breaking Bad fans can still get a fix of the dark underbelly of New Mexico life by following Better Call Saul, a kind-of-prequel which explores the backstory of criminal lawyer Saul Goodman.
While Breaking Bad was essentially a study of how a protagonist and good guy can morph into an antagonistic meth king, Better Call Saul focuses on how Jimmy McGill tries to become a better person, but ultimately fails.
With filming for season 4 of Better Call Saul underway, and Mike Ehrmantraut, Gus Fring, Crazy-8 and Tuco Salamanca already having made appearances, we wonder how long it will be until Walter White walks into Saul’s tacky office on the strip-mall and the two series meet up.
What do you think about Breaking Bad’s 10th anniversary?
Will you binge-watch the whole series once again?
Let us know in the comments.