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Breaking Bad Case Study

Rob Miller | Monday August 18, 2014

Categories: A Level, AQA A Level, AQA A2, OCR A Level, OCR AS, Eduqas (WJEC) A Level, WJEC A2, WJEC A2 Media Studies, Key Concepts, Audience, Genre, Ideology, Institutions, Representation & Stereotyping, Hot Entries, Television, American Quality Television (AQT)

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Institutional Factors

Breaking Bad has, in a short period of time become iconic, ‘must see TV’ that in terms of genre conventions can be categorised as Crime Drama but also as AQT (American Quality Television). The programme has eclipsed the status of critical and commercial success and become widely accepted as one of the ‘greatest television programmes of all time’ in a range of polls canvassing a broad demographic – it entered the Guinness Book of Records in 2014 as the highest rated show of all time. Synergy has been evident with Breaking Bad, reflecting the increasing convergence of television programmes into a range of online platforms reflecting in turn declining traditional television audiences. Netflix sold Breaking Bad and Breaking Bad sold Netflix as an increasingly successful distribution platform.

click on image to enlarge

Based on a simple, initially single stranded high concept narrative premise, Walter White is a Chemistry teacher who is diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer after his 50th birthday. He is given less than two years to live and decides to turn to crime, specifically making crystal meth (which he is very good at doing) as a way of securing his family’s finances. The crime narrative soon becomes complex and multi stranded and also character led but throughout each season however, Walter’s cancer is an omnipresent secondary narrative – in season one his family push him to visit the Doctors to undergo chemotherapy while in season two it is revealed his tumor has shrunk by 80%. Season three sees his wife Skyler wanting a divorce, threatening to reveal how he dealt drugs to pay for his costly cancer treatment while in season four and five Walter remains in remission but planting narrative enigmas in season five seeing him developing a rasping cough. Five seasons reflect two years of real time and he is seen celebrating his 52nd birthday, two years after his...


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