Colatriano: ‘Breaking Bad’ breaks barriers

Colatriano discusses the grasp the show has had on the public.

Chelsea Colatriano

Chelsea Colatriano‘Breaking Bad” has officially ended and entered the cultural zeitgeist. Even those who haven’t watched the show probably caught wind of its impending end.

The “Breaking Bad” season finale drew in 10.3 million viewers.  To compare, the fourth season finale garnered 1.9 million viewers. Keep in mind, that was an accomplishment at the time.

The show is the game changer of cable TV. Once “Breaking Bad” found its audience, many creators flocked to channels like AMC, where “Breaking Bad” airs, as well as FX. Show-runners were given much more creative leeway instead of having to follow the strict guidelines and tried-and-true formulas from broadcast television.

Someone probably wouldn’t expect to see CBS jump on an idea about a middle-aged high school chemistry teacher who started cooking meth once he learned he was dying from cancer. “Breaking Bad” was one of the few catalysts to initiate the power shift from broadcast to cable networks.

And it worked. According to Ad Age, “the $300,000-$400,000 price tag would put the ‘Breaking Bad’ finale in contention with regular episodes of some of broadcast TV’s most costly shows.”

The show has garnered higher ad prices, so marketers are placed more value on “Breaking Bad” audience members. Therefore, more power was put into the hands of cable networks in terms of creating original content.

The show had not always been this successful. Critics originally considered it an underdog and an unlikely hit. However, there was a boom in viewership. In the past two years, ratings for the show’s finales grew by 8.4 million. According to Ad Age, “the show’s late bloom has been credited to streaming digital platforms, like Netflix, that have allowed viewers to catch up to the series in time for the final season.”

Netflix is the medium of choice for viewers to discover different shows and movies one might not have watched otherwise. With midterms signaling impeding doom, many students probably avoid studying by substituting it with Netflix bingeing.

However, students can justify it because they are in the library until 1 a.m.  Or if they’re a chemistry major, maybe watching an episode of “Breaking Bad” covers a lot of what is talked about during lectures. Unfortunately, not everyone is a chemistry prodigy like Walter White.

Reminder: This is not a public service announcement to turn into a meth cook. Please don’t do that.

However, some students just didn’t finish in time to watch the hyped finale. Good job, Temple. Studying is more important.

Bonnie Baldini, junior theater major, said she has to avoid social media until she finishes the series.

“I’ve been thinking about watching the show since the summer, but when I realized the finale was coming, I was committed to finishing it to experience the huge finale,” Baldini said. “Unfortunately, I missed it but I know spoilers are everywhere, so I won’t be on Facebook or Twitter until I’m finished, which will be awhile since I’m only on season two. Goodbye, world.”

She said spoilers surround her, but that is just a testament to how much people care about the show. According to AMC, 601,370 Twitter users in the U.S.  sent 1.24 million tweets about the finale.

“Breaking Bad” is comparable to the “The Sopranos,” “Lost,” or “Friends” of the decade. Watching the finale felt like I was a part of a cultural event I would tell my children and grandchildren about. I can see it now: I tell them where I was during the finale and they will scoff at me because I watched it on an actual TV while it actually aired over the cable waves.

Chelsea Colatriano can be reached at

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