Breaking: Good news-bad news. After heated negotiations with AMC, Breaking Bad has been renewed... for a 16-episode final season. The decision comes as the award-winning drama is hitting a creative and ratings high-point. But some critics are expressing gratitude that the esteemed drama — about a chemistry teacher who, after being diagnosed with cancer, begins dealing meth to provide for his family — is receiving a firm end date, because they see it as an opportunity for Breaking Bad's writers end the series on a high note. Should we be celebrating the impending end of what’s often called "the best drama on television?"
This is "a gift" to fans: The TV graveyard is littered with series that were "drawn out long past their sell-by date, ending on a protracted and sour final season," says Michael Crider at Screen Rant. That's why this "definitive and intentional timetable" is good news. Breaking Bad's creator even called the firm end date "a gift." While it's sad to see Breaking Bad go, at least viewers will be treated to a "complete (and hopefully satisfying) story" and a well-considered ending.
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Actually, it might be a curse: The "End Date Theory" theory only has the "whiff of truth," says Darren Franich at Entertainment Weekly. TV writers have the rare luxury of "course correction" — fixing, scrapping, or expanding story lines based on audience reaction. A predetermined ending makes that improvisation more difficult; series like LOST, The Wire, and Battlestar Galactica all made the mistake of committing to boring characters and static plots because they factored into a planned finale. Even "the very best television shows seem to fall victim to narrative paralysis as their absolute climaxes approach."
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Regardless, the business of ending a series is becoming more thoughtful: Breaking Bad is the latest example of a trend for "cancellation-slash-renewals," says Linda Holmes at NPR. The "delicate matter of ending a beloved show" is routinely softened recently by making the announcement with one season still left (see: Chuck, LOST, The Wire). When FX's president canceled well-regarded dramas Terriers and Lights Out after one season, he did so with an openness about his reluctance and regret. Networks are thinking harder about how to frame the end of a series' run. "On television — as on Breaking Bad — there are a lot of different ways to die."
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