From chemical reactions to audience reactions: Why Breaking Bad has it covered

There have been few, if any, TV shows that have captured my attention like ‘Breaking Bad.” I adore(d) Walter White, Walter, Jr., Jesse Pinkman, the late, great Tuco, the late, great Gus and, of course, Hank.

Based upon Nielsen ratings, it seems like I’m not alone in my infatuation with the award-winning show. Here’s a guest post on Breaking Bad’s finale episode from Nicole Hall, (Peppercomm’s answer to Heisenberg)…..

y-FWgAvSGE5_U.480x360Everything from Walter White’s blue meth to Vince Gilligan’s perfect goodbye has a reputation to uphold and requires a strict recipe with many variables. Creating a finale may not depend on cooking temperature or methylamine measurements, but it still should be carefully calculated. Several monumental shows have recently met or are nearing their end, but didn’t evoke anywhere near the emotional caliber of Heisenberg’s demise. So what are the ingredients for cooking up such an anticipated sendoff?

  • Don’t overstay your welcome: This is something my mom always reminded me of as a kid when I wanted to stay at a friend’s house for dinner after getting there in time for breakfast. When you have people stay for too long, you start to not care about having a fresh pot of coffee for them and find yourself relieved—not sad—when they leave. When a TV show drags on, like The Office, watching the finale is more of an obligation than a thrill. Breaking Bad had reached its peak, and we were all at the edge of our seats after every episode. Sure, Vince Gilligan could have kept the audience momentum for another season or two, but the bottom line is that it left at a point where it would be missed, not just over. Bryan Cranston said it best: “I think Vince Gilligan…didn’t have to dilute any of the storylines by going too long. You never want to see a show get the reaction like, ‘Breaking Bad, is that still on the air?’ You want people to say ‘I miss that show.'”
  • Tie up all loose ends: People died. People were freed. Problems were solved. Questions were answered. We were all (mostly) satisfied with everyone’s fate and can talk about whether or not we agree with what DID happen instead of wondering what MIGHT happen.
  • Social media is a must: #GoodbyeBreakingBad and #BreakingBadFinale were trending even before the final episode began and that activity exploded after the credits. I unfortunately wasn’t able to watch the episode live and had to record it, so in order to not encounter any spoilers (I found out the hard way when Opie died on Sons of Anarchy before I could watch), I avoided Facebook and Twitter until I was able to see it uninterrupted. All of the 140-character activity only increased the hype of the show’s final moments and even sparked non-followers to start from Walt’s teaching days on Netflix.
  • If it bleeds, it leads: This one certainly doesn’t apply to all cases, but for Breaking Bad, it was essential. For a show with a reputation of shock value and innovative scientific solutions, it had to end with something that once more exhibited Walt’s deadly combination of genius and thirst for blood.

Keeping in mind volatile audience attitudes, social media and other external variables, nothing is guaranteed. But the above key ingredients are necessary to create a perfect reaction worthy of Heisenberg’s reputation.

What ingredients do you think are necessary to create a positive response from your target audience?

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