Inside Breaking Bad: Watch Conan O’Brien’s Extended Interview with the Show’s Cast and Creator

“The Mad Men col­lec­tion at Banana Repub­lic is okay,” joked a com­e­dy-writer friend of mine, “but the Break­ing Bad col­lec­tion at TJ Maxx is to die for.” A fan­tas­tic line, for sure — though I would argue that Banana Repub­lic’s Mad Men col­lec­tion is not, in fact, okay — and one that high­lights just how wide a spec­trum of sen­si­bil­i­ty and set­ting this new wave of crit­i­cal­ly acclaimed cable tele­vi­sion offers us. Over the past half-decade, these two dra­mas, Mad Men set in the ear­ly six­ties’ high-fly­ing adver­tis­ing indus­try and Break­ing Bad set on the con­tem­po­rary New Mex­i­can meth-cook­ing scene, have togeth­er drawn the lion’s share of this acclaim. What’s more, they’ve both done it on AMC, the chan­nel whose pre­vi­ous ser­vice con­sist­ed pri­mar­i­ly of Audrey Hep­burn movies, served to your great aunt. Sure, maybe you’d expect from them a peri­od series some­thing like Mad Men. But the grit­ti­er, more trou­bling Break­ing Bad? How did all involved pull it off?

In the hour-long video above, the astute inves­ti­ga­tor known as Conan O’Brien leads a pan­el dis­cus­sion about the show fea­tur­ing, among sev­er­al oth­ers, cre­ator Vince Gilli­gan and star Bryan Cranston. From his web series Seri­ous Jib­ber-Jab­ber, on which he’s held in-depth con­ver­sa­tions with the likes of his­to­ri­an Edmund Mor­ris and sta­tis­ti­cian Nate Sil­ver, we’ve learned that Conan can do long-form inter­views and get answers to the impor­tant ques­tions. Here we have the impor­tant ques­tion — not least, nat­u­ral­ly, to AMC itself — of how Break­ing Bad became, in the words of var­i­ous crit­ics, a “taut exer­cise in with­held dis­as­ter,” a “feel-good show about feel­ing real­ly bad,” a “superla­tive­ly fresh metaphor for a mid­dle-age cri­sis” and a “com­bi­na­tion of stag­ger­ing and trans­fix­ing weird­ness” that “ele­vates the artis­tic achieve­ments of the medi­um,” ulti­mate­ly becom­ing “one of tele­vi­sion’s finest dra­mat­ic accom­plish­ments.” If these words strike you as hyper­bol­ic, watch the com­pi­la­tion just above that pro­files the long-term trans­for­ma­tion of Bryan Cranston’s pro­tag­o­nist Wal­ter White. Then you’ll want to watch the series, which ends this sum­mer, and add some words of your own.

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on lit­er­a­ture, film, cities, Asia, and aes­thet­ics. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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