TV shows never used to have exit plans. Even the great ones would simply disappear, with little preparation.
Now that has changed. Cable dramas are handed long lead times for their finales -- four episodes for "The Big C," a season for "Breaking Bad," two seasons for "Dexter," etc. After being gone for 11 months, "Breaking Bad" returns Sunday (Aug. 11) for its final eight episodes. Here's the story I sent to papers:
By MIKE HUGHES
It all started with an unlikely pitch to a 3ePcable network.
Vince Gilligan recalls using “the glib line, 'We're going to take Mr. Chips and turn him into Scarface.'”
Somehow, he got a go-ahead. Now – after four-and-a-half seasons, 54 episodes, seven Emmys and 35 other Emmy nominations – “Breaking Bad” returns after an 11-month break, to air its final eight episodes.
What will happen to Walter White, the mild-mannered chemistry teacher who became a drug kingpin? “Walt … spreads his joy throughout the last eight episodes,” said Bryan Cranston, who plays him. “I think everybody will be satisfied with the ending, where we hug it out.”
He's joking, something he does well. Cranston knows comedy and had three Emmy nominations for “Malcolm in the Middle”; then came this heavy drama. “I wanted this role really bad,” Cranston said.
It started with Walt at 50, unable to afford cancer treatments. “His emotions were calloused over by depression,” Cranston said. “Learning of his imminent demise allowed that volcano to erupt.”
So he linked with Jesse Pinkman, once one of Walt's worst students and then adrift. Jesse's future seemed limited. “Vince wanted to kill him early in the first season,” said Charlie Collier, AMC's president.
Gilligan changed his mind as Jesse became endearing.”He's a drug dealer, he's a murderer,” said Aaron Paul, who plays him. “But for some reason, you really care for him. You want to protect him.”
The actors settled neatly into these odd souls. So far, Cranston has won three Emmys, Paul has two; the show's other two Emmys went to editor Lynne Willingham.
Now there are 13 new nominations, including Cranston, Paul and Anna Gumm … who plays Walt's oft-disapproving wife. “She became kind of a villain to people who really, really identified with him,” Gumm said.
Also nominated is Jonathan Banks ...whose character (Mike the hit man) was killed by Walt. Walt has done a lot of that lately, alienating his family and frightening his colleague.
As “Bad” returns, Paul said, Jessie is “terrified of this man. He just wants nothing to do with him. He wants to … stay out of the business, if he can.”
He probably can't. People aren't saying what happens now, except that it will last eight weeks, will have fierce jolts … and will probably not end with a group hug..
“Breaking Bad” return, 9 p.m. Sunday (Aug. 11), AMC.
First episode reruns at 11:30 p.m. and 1:30 a.m., then at 7:57 p.m. the next Sunday, Aug. 18, leading into the second episode.
After Sunday's episode, AMC has an exceptionally strong debut at 10:04 p.m.; that's “Low Winter Sun,” with a Detroit cop scrambling to hide his crime.