Breaking Bad will return for 16 more episodes on AMC before bidding farewell.
The news follows weeks of behind the scenes squabbling over terms of the Sony-produced drama’s renewal. Though few believed it would ultimately come to it, the studio was putting out feelers to rival cable networks about carrying the series in the event that it couldn’t come to an agreement with AMC over financing.
During a second quarter earnings call Thursday, AMC Networks president Josh Sapan praised the studio and alleviated concerns about the project moving networks. “We think Sony’s done a spectaclar job and they’re a great partner,” he said, “so we’re actively working on a new [agreement] wth them.”
Breaking Bad, which will commence production in early 2012, has become an awards magnet for AMC, garnering six Emmys, including three consecutive wins for lead actor Bryan Cranston. (Due to the lengthy hiatus, the series is out of contention for this year’s Emmys.) It averages 4.3 million viewers, hardly hit figures but nearly double what Mad Men delivers for the network. The current season –the show’s fourth– is delivering 28 percent more total viewers and over 45 percent more viewers in the coveted 18 to 34 demographic compared to last season.
What’s more, the series has proved an important piece of AMC’s growth as an original series destination. Despite recent growing pains, the net has built a meaningful portofolio of critically acclaimed series, including Bad, Mad Men and The Walking Dead, to help differentiate it from the cable clutter.
“Watching this story evolve into the complex, compelling, and intense roller coaster ride that it has become has been an incredible creative experience for everyone at AMC,” said AMC president Charlie Collier in a statement Sunday. “While it is sad to even contemplate the end of the series, we are so happy to have had the chance to go on this ride, and truly look forward to presenting the rest of this amazing story.”
Creator Vince Gilligan expressed the mixture of appreciation and relief that comes with being able to wrap a series on your terms. “It’s a funny irony — I’d hate to know the date of my own last day on earth, but I’m delighted to know what Walter White’s will be (episodically speaking). This is a great gift to me and to my wonderful writers. It’s knowledge which will allow us to properly build our story to a satisfying conclusion. Now, if we don’t manage to pull that off, we’ve got no one to blame but ourselves.”
As one of those writers, Sam Catlin, recently told The Hollywood Reporter, “It’s always tempting to keep it going, especially since we all know that this could very well be the best job we’ve ever had, but we would all hate to overstay our welcome and be the show that just kind of lingered.”
He added, “We’ll make the mistake of leaving too soon and not too late is my guess.”