Is Breaking Bad the Greatest Television Show of All Time?

On Sunday, September 29th, the very final episode of Breaking Bad will air.  After 62 episodes, the journey of a high school chemistry teacher who slowly transformed into a drug kingpin and criminal mastermind after being diagnosed with lung cancer will come to a close.  At that point, we’ll have a lot more clarity to debate the question that has been raging throughout the run of the show since season 3: is Breaking Bad the greatest television show of all time?  For my money, the answer is yes.

Among most seasoned TV watchers, the battle for the greatest TV show ever is one between only two shows: Breaking Bad and The Wire.  These are my top 2 shows as well, and I’ve always considered The Wire to be entirely in a league of its own.  However, once Breaking Bad came along, it became clear that there was finally a real contender to the proverbial throne of television.  Both shows do almost everything perfectly: they contain a large cast of fleshed-out characters (although Wire definitely has a larger cast of characters), rich themes that pervade through every aspect of the show, stunningly paced plots, and fantastic cinematography.  Both shows have things that they do better than the other, but there are two things that give Breaking Bad the edge for me: the technical quality and Walter White.  Breaking Bad is shot more beautifully than pretty much anything I’ve ever seen on television.  The landscape shots are incredible to look at, and on top of that, every single shot is immensely thought-out and contains layers of meaning that only become clear when someone watches the show more than once.  Breaking Bad also contains the single greatest character arc in TV or film history, and that is Walter White.  Walt is the “protagonist” of the show, but he slowly turns into the antagonist of the show.  The transformation is very compelling, with all of the motivations Walt have making complete sense.  The audience is certainly stunned as the things Walt does to protect himself become more and more despicable, but all of it makes for the greatest television watching experience one can have.  When Sunday rolls around, it’ll be the last time we all can experience a new episode of the greatest show ever created.

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