AMC’s Breaking Bad could have wound up at another cable network, but FX passed on Vince Gilligan’s pilot script.
Back in 2007-ish, FX was seemingly the ideal home for the project, given its slew of dark, edgy antihero dramas, like The Shield, Rescue Me and Nip/Tuck. In an interview with Kim Masters on KCRW’s The Business, FX president John Landgraf explained why he turned down the show, which would later become a critical and commercial hit for AMC.
“We had three dramas with male antiheroes and we looked at that script and said, ‘Okay, so here’s a fourth male antihero,’” Landgraf recalled. “The question was: ‘Are we defining FX as the male antihero network and is that a big enough tent?’”
In other words, Breaking Bad was too on brand for the network.
Added Landgraf: “Look, it was a wonderful script. If I had known Vince Gilligan was going to be one of the best showrunners in television, and Breaking Bad was going to be literally one of the very best shows in television, I would have picked it up despite the concept. But the truth of the matter is anybody who does what I do for a living, who’s honest, will tell you that you’re making decisions based on too little information all the time, and you make good ones and you make bad ones.”
True. We’re zeroing in on this tidbit because Breaking Bad is set to premiere July 15, but it’s extremely common for networks to reject projects that become hits someplace else. Executives just rarely reveal their decision-making process when that happens, so it’s interesting to hear why Walter White didn’t end up on FX. (I still remember hearing the logline for Breaking Bad and thinking, “Cancer patient selling meth? Sounds depressing.”)