Egyptian Drama Under Fire for Ripping off 'Breaking Bad'

Breaking Bad Still - H 2015
Courtesy of AMC

Viewers have pointed out remarkable similarities — from the plot to the look of the characters and some of the scenes — between 'Weld El-Ghalaba' ('Son of the Poor') and the hit drama.

Breaking Bad — commonly listed among the greatest TV shows ever made — has undoubtedly spawned a few imitators over the years. But it's unlikely any look quite like Weld El-Ghalaba.  

The Egyptian series — which translates as Son of the Poor in English — launched recently on pan-Arab broadcast giant MBC to coincide with the month of Ramadan, a period heavy in small-screen drama across the Middle East as families flock to their TVs. 

But rather than praise the acting of its lead star Ahmed El-Sakka — a major name in Egyptian cinema, especially in action roles — audiences in the region instead were quick to point out some major likenesses between his character and that of Bryan Cranston's Walter White. 

The plot of Weld El-Ghalaba follows an Egyptian man who lives on the border of the poverty line and decides to earn an honest living by having two jobs: one as a teacher at a public school during the day, and one as a taxi driver in the evening. Yet, through his struggle to make ends meet, he falls into the pit of drug trade.

Sound familiar? 

While the storyline may seem somewhat similar to that written by Vince Gilligan, it was the show's poster, the look of the characters and even some of the scenes that became a source of debate and derision on social media. 

"Even the injury is in the same spot," commented this user.

One director, Rifqi Assaf, attempted to analyze one of the most discussed scenes, in which the two leads stand over a table covered in bank notes, from a filmmaker's point of view. 

"In Breaking Bad, it's a bottom shot filmed with a normal lens that shows the money stacked on top of one another. The characters are standing in an empty basement with no expressions on their faces," he wrote on Facebook. "On the other hand, in Weld El-Ghalaba, they're standing in a manner that shows weakness. It's also a top shot filmed with a wide lens."

The Hollywood Reporter has reached out to Breaking Bad producer Sony Pictures Television for comment.