Talk TV

Breaking Bad: the best US show not airing on TV in the UK

News and gossip from the world of TV

By Lorna Coops 16/07/2012 13:52

Acclaimed drama Breaking Bad is the creation of Vince Gilligan, who'd previously worked on The X-Files. It tells the story of Walter White (played by Bryan Cranston - still best known here for sitcom Malcolm In The Middle), a high school chemistry teacher who discovers he is dying of lung cancer.


Desperate to pay for his treatments, and secure his family’s financial security, Walt forms an unlikely partnership with former student-turned-drug dealer Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), using his scientific knowledge to make the best crystal meth on the market. However, he is soon trapped in a sinister world of drugs and crime.

Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul

The fifth season of the AMC show (the same home as Mad Men) premiered in the US last night to rave reviews: Entertainment Weekly's Ken Tucker said it was "satisfying and tense and funny and witty and ruminative."


Reuters hailed it as a "a brilliant mix of character-driven drama" and The Hollywood Reporter applauded its "five consecutive seasons with no significant slip."


Writing for The Slate, June Thomas praised Breaking Bad for "its precision plotting" while Maureen Ryan of the Huffington Post simply brands it as "one of the great shows of television's Golden Age."


In addition to much critical acclaim, Breaking Bad has won numerous awards including the American Film Institute's TV Programme Of The Year, six Emmys (with three of those going to its star for Best Actor), two Television Critics Association Awards and two Writers Guild of America Awards.


Yet for all the accolades and gongs, Breaking Bad isn't currently scheduled on any channel here in the UK; it's a US import Brits - on a significant scale - refuse to love.


We have embraced controversial dramas such as The Sopranos, Game of Thrones and Dexter. Heck, we're even fond of desperately unfunny imports Two and a Half Men and 2 Broke Girls. But Breaking Bad has been rejected as firmly and swiftly as spam.


Watch the trailer for Breaking Bad season five

Back in 2008, digital channel FX picked it up and launched a campaign to heighten awareness. At its height, Breaking Bad achieved consolidated ratings of around 120,000 viewers. Purely for illustration, contrast this with Falling Skies which premiered with nearly 450,000 viewers in overnight ratings alone. 


A year later, the show was snapped up by Channel 5 for sister channel 5USA with season one given - wait for it - the 11pm time slot.


Season two fared even worse; there were times when it aired after midnight over the Christmas period. How on earth can any series grow viewership at that time of the night? Little wonder it didn't dent 5USA's top 10. I certainly wasn't surprised when the broadcaster passed on season three.


Sadly, in both cases, Breaking Bad failed to find an audience. However, I will argue until the cows come home that 5USA's treatment was woeful - utterly disrespectful of the programme and its fans.


The question many would love answered is simply this: why has Breaking Bad not succeeded in the UK? After all, drama series revolving around amoral characters, drugs, profane language and a high body count are not exactly unique to telly viewers these days.


I've heard assertions about Breaking Bad varying from "unlikeable characters" and "depressing central premise (Walt's cancer)" to "excessive violence". Yet all of these objections can just as easily be applied to The Sopranos (first aired on terrestrial Channel 4) or The Wire (which received a complete run on FX and BBC2, and is now a fixture on Sky Atlantic).


In addition to its bizarre scheduling, fans also point to a lack of notable promotion by 5USA.


With the fifth season now under way in the US, the prospect of a TV run on this side of the Atlantic is even slimmer. Who'd invest in what's likely to be a pricey show that has already performed disappointingly on two channels?  


Breaking Bad's dedicated fans (and we are a fanatical bunch) will carry on watching regardless - on DVD, on streaming service Netflix or via "other means" (if you get my drift).


Irrespective of all the conjecture and arguments, there are no easy answers to this conundrum; Breaking Bad appears destined to become one of the best US shows rejected by TV viewers here in the UK.


* Breaking Bad airs every Thursday on Irish language channel, TG4


MSN TV editor Coops


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16/07/2012 14:45
Season four was quite simply the best season ever of any tv series.
16/07/2012 15:14

Best TV show i ever did see, looking forward to starting season 5 tonight. Every person i know has watched it thinks it is brilliant but so many people have never heard of it...shame really they are missing out because our tv networks would rather show horrendous reality television or continuous re-runs of old shows instead of genious works like BB.

16/07/2012 14:23

Same situation in Germany, who's seen it loved it but with these "hidden" airing times no wonder.


27/07/2012 16:47
I'm addicted to breaking bad.  It's an amazing series i started watching 2 months ago.  I'd never heard of it before until I looked up something to watch.  I'm British and would like say thank god for the internet or i would never have had the opportunity to watch this amazing show.
25/08/2012 09:16
I love the mentality that dictates "it's american therefore it's ****"; true 90% of U.S television IS very poor but the cream of the crop (Boardwalk Empire, Game of Thrones, Mad Men, Homeland, etc) are vastly superior to anything we currently produce - have you guys actually seen British television lately? Shows like Doctor Who and Sherlock, that are entertaining but ultimately vapid bag all of the glory because, frankly there's nothing else - it's embarrassing, especially when you consider that our television was the envy of the world until the mid-nineties.  

Breaking Bad is without doubt one of the greatest television dramas ever.
02/09/2012 17:55
Its a crime that this aint on the TV over here, its pure genius and gets better and better with each episode, season 4 is by far some of the best TV ive ever watched. Its a shame i have to resort to other means to get my fix of Breaking Bad
16/07/2012 19:34
Breaking bad is my favourite show, there's nothing like it except maybe Weeds which is also a brilliant. The reason US telly  can be far better than a lot of British telly is simple, they have far more money to spend on production. The best thing the BBC has done for ages is Sherlock Holmes but they only make a couple a year as it's so expensive to make. I'd like to know what Davie Mac watches, only documentaries and reality tv by the sound of it, as everything else has people pretending in it! If you don't know what your talking about don't comment. And I guess you can't even go to the theatre as there are people pretending to be other people there too, sounds like a dull life to me. I like to watch something that takes me away from reality and keeps me guessing. BB is it. 
16/07/2012 15:39
Absolutely superb.. was most chuffed to learn of a fifth season.. It's on a par with 'Dexter'.. but with humour. Probably the only boxed set I will ever actually part with money for!
16/07/2012 14:59
Great show and acting by Bryan Cranston. The guy is so varied just look at Malcolm in the middle. And to think he started in Dynasty. You have to be good to put that behind you.
16/07/2012 22:41
Its honestly the best show on tv by a long way. Its also irrelevant if its picked up by UK tv or not as its available to all and watched by a very large number of Uk residents anyway in a number of online forms with no risk of legal liability for the content consumer.  TV fell way behind online availability  long ago.  I know so many people who would have their laptop plugged into their tv more than they actually watch a terrestrial broadcast.
11/01/2013 22:44
I love love love this drama its shocking to me as a British viewer that it hasn't done well over here. It's a shame when we do get some terrible american imports forced upon us like the aforementioned 2 and a half men which is one of the worse things I have ever seen.  
17/07/2012 06:47
british public are pretty fickle...if simon cowelll said he watched it then Im sure everyone would! I wasnt a believer until i downloaded first 3 series and then I found myself watching 3 to 4 episodes a night yo!
16/07/2012 16:02
Superb show! Can't believe it hasn't picked up a big UK audience on TV. Davie Mac needs to get his head screwed on correctly though. He seems to think that there should be no acting on TV or in the world, it seems. Ridiculous view. Can't wait for Season 5 though!
11/10/2012 19:48
To be honest I never heard of this in the UK until I signed up to Netflix and seen it advertised on there so it may come down to a lack of promotion. I was hooked on it from the start. Awesome programme but as i can't get season 5 over here i'm gonna have to wait for it to appear on Netflix. :(
04/12/2013 19:18
I bought all the dvds and have  watched  3   episodes a night  for the last 2 weeks , it reminds me of the first time you see the sopranos or the wire you cant stop watching. I think the reason it has not took off in the uk is the first few episodes are slow 
04/12/2013 19:18
I bought all the dvds and have  watched  3   episodes a night  for the last 2 weeks , it reminds me of the first time you see the sopranos or the wire you cant stop watching. I think the reason it has not took off in the uk is the first few episodes are slow 
03/05/2013 15:20

I just finished watching the halfway cut off point in season 5 and now I have to wait till July to watch the rest and it's making me pull my proverbial hair out. Most shows I can wait with anticipation but Breaking Bad is just such a fantastic show I want more.

I got into it this year and watched a season per fortnight or less, cramming an episode in wherever I could. I will watch it all over again at the end of the summer too as it is just superb.

I just wish it get's the chance to be shown in the UK so everyone else get's the chance to experience Breaking Bad and enjoy quality drama of the highest calibre.

17/07/2012 05:29
@ David Sheekey: Since "reality tv" shows are populated by either failed actors, or wannabe actors, and have nothing to do with reality, I don't watch them either. Theatre, I wouldn't be seen dead in. Whether I know what I'm talking about, or not, has no bearing on my choice of whether or not to comment, on whatever I feel like commenting on. If you feel the need to be taken from reality by childish nonsense, then it's your life which must be dull. Mine's just fine without dumbing down to fit into your ridiculous world of fiction.
17/07/2012 23:46
I think the British are just not sympathetic to the current meth problem the USA has cultivated. USA sneezes UK gets a cold (CRACK, METH, IRAQ, GEORGE BUSH, BANK FAILURES, the list goes on....)
Say what you like about Simon Cowell lol he was sent lovingly to the US with a bow and please do not return card.
Shamless was a tongue in cheek humorous drama about the problems in the uk, and look what the yanks did to that.

16/07/2012 16:16
@John Reid: Correct. Acting's fine for kids, the rest need to grow up. I'd suggest it's me who has his head screwed on, and you people who watch other people pretending to be non-existent people are the ones who need your heads looked at.
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  • Lorna CooperLorna Cooper

    Nicknamed 'Coops', Lorna is MSN's TV editor. She has too many TV faves to list, but she loves good telly. Read her opinions on the world of TV.

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