Skip to main content

The Manual may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.

How the 2007 writers’ strike saved ‘Breaking Bad’

Here's how Breaking Bad almost looked a lot different!

Image used with permission by copyright holder

The WGA writers’ strike could last well into late summer, according to CBS News. Plenty of TV shows — from late-night talk shows to scripted series like BillionsSeverance, and Stranger Things are already being affected — and a lengthy strike would mean a dramatically different television landscape in the coming months. The outcome of this strike is undoubtedly important, but there might be a little part of you that’s wondering how your favorite show could be affected — after all, plenty of us remember the shows that were canceled as a result of the 2007 writers’ strike. Well, if your favorite show is anything like Breaking Bad, the strike might actually be a good thing.

Breaking Bad is undoubtedly one of the greatest antihero dramas in the history of television. Charting the moral descent of a meek man, Walter White (Bryan Cranston), into a ruthless and ego-maniacal drug kingpin, the AMC show was a daring and beautifully acted spectacle. Part of the reason the program was able to separate itself from the competition was due to its patience and willingness to let storylines breathe and develop across many seasons. The payoff after the lead-up was always a climactic explosion with many different parts coming together in unison. But what if I told you that the only reason Breaking Bad was successful was because of the 2007 writers’ strike held by the WGA (Writers Guild of America)?

The first season of Breaking Bad was supposed to run for nine episodes. Creator Vince Gilligan had massive plans during the ninth episode of the season, plans that would have ruined the future of the show as we know it. Gilligan knew that the margins for success were thin for his little cable drama about meth and a cancer-ridden teacher. He originally thought that a season one finale that featured huge plot turning points would convince audiences and his bosses to give the show a longer leash. Ironically, this would have backfired with catastrophic results.

Two of the most important supporting characters in Breaking Bad are Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) and Hank Schrader (Dean Norris). Jesse was Walter’s second-in-command in the drug trade, a former student of Walter’s who gradually fell into depression and drug addiction in the face of adversity. Hank was Walter’s DEA agent father-in-law who attempted to track Walter’s drug empire without knowing his family member was the criminal behind the enterprise.

Gilligan planned on writing one or both of these characters out of the first season finale as a way of creating a wake-up call for Walter. While the idea was sound in nature, it would have dramatically changed the way the ensuing seasons of the show panned out. Jesse and Hank are arguably as important to Walter’s journey as any other characters on the show. Without them, the slow-burn character development and the relationships that formed the backbone of the drama in the series would have never existed.

Fortunately, the writers’ strike gave Gilligan a lot more time to stew on potential plot points, and he decided it would be better to force the audience to be patient and wait for the story to gain more steam, keeping Jesse and Hank in the process. This is potentially the greatest instance of negative intervention (the writers’ strike), symbolizing a blessing in disguise in TV history. The heartbreaking way Jesse’s character took shape and the juxtaposition of Walter and Hank’s morals throughout seasons two through five would have never happened, and Breaking Bad would have simply been a decent show rather than a GOAT one.

With the current 2023 writer’s strike still going on right now, we have to wonder what shows will be forever changed due to the work stoppage. Some lucky show might just become the next Breaking Bad due to the time off that will allow creators to rethink their entire stories!

Editors' Recommendations

Shawn Laib
Shawn Laib is a freelance writer with publications such as Den of Geek, Quote.com, Edge Media Network, diaTribe, SUPERJUMP…
How to beat stress and sleep better, according to a pioneering scientist
These tips may help you get your z's and feel better
A family in bed

It's not an exaggeration to call Conor Heneghan, the father of modern sleep science. After his mid-'90s Ph.D. through Columbia University in electronic and electrical engineering, he spent the next decade developing the technology and algorithms used to detect chronic illness in slumbering patients through radio waves and electrocardiographs (known as EKGs). But over that time, he watched the machinery shrink, and by the mid-aughts, the hardware became small enough that, like a chicken in every pot, the future might find a miniature computer on every wrist, silently tracking biometric data.

Despite his decades on the hospital side, he was wooed into the wellness space in 2015 by Fitbit, where he continues to research sleep for the original fitness wearable company, including for its new Charge 5.

Read more
The 11 best Hulu Original movies to stream now
From documentaries to thrillers and comedies, Hulu has it all
Zack Mulligan in Minding the Gap

When you think of Hulu, movies aren't likely the first thing that comes to mind. After all, Hulu is first and foremost, a TV streamer, and the service is constantly releasing new shows and limited series that get plenty of attention from both critics and general audiences. Quietly and in the background, though, it has also developed a fairly impressive lineup of Hulu Original movies and TV shows. The Hulu movies come from a wide variety of places: Some were developed in-house, while others were acquired out of festivals. Not every Hulu movie is great, but many of them are better than you might have expected.
The best of Hulu's original offerings stand up with the movies produced by any other studio. There are a few genuine masterpieces and a few other great movies that you can watch over and over. These are Hulu's 11 best original movies.

Prey (2022)

Read more
The 11 best Tom Cruise movies, ranked
Tom Cruise is still providing great movies almost four decades into his career
Tom Cruise in Top Gun: Maverick

The term "movie star" is thrown around a little loosely these days. Actors appear in one big blockbuster, and suddenly they're thrust into celebrity status for the foreseeable future. There are very few performers who have stood the test of time and created hits for decades. Sometimes, though, it works out. Tom Cruise fits this definition as well as any actor who's ever lived.

Cruise puts his all into his performances and movies, doing a majority of the stunts himself without a body double and funding his films through his own production company. While he may not have the Academy Awards of Jack Nicholson or Al Pacino, he's been arguably the defining actor of the action genre since the mid-1980s.

Read more