It’s a rhetorical question, as this excellent video proves.
Seems like every time a television series ends, the same question pops up: what are the greatest TV finales ever? But for some reason the opposite isn’t true: when new series start, you never see an abundance of “best pilots ever” lists.
If you had asked me that latter question up to January 20th, 2008, I would have told you Twin Peaks has the best pilot in TV history, but that was pre-BB: pre-Breaking-Bad. Because as anyone who’s seen that pilot knows, it is instantly captivating, confounding, intriguing, and obsession-inducing, all thanks to a whip-smart script from creator Vince Gilligan that balances a simple if unexpected premise with a complicated sense of morality. This week, that script goes under the erudite microscope of Michael Tucker in the latest video from his Lessons from the Screenplay YouTube channel.
I know I have a tendency to get hyperbolic from time to time, but I don’t think any of you will hold it against me if I call Breaking Bad as perfect as television gets. It is nothing less than one of the greatest – if not the greatest – character arcs in the history of the medium, and it’s as narratively unpredictable as you could hope for while still adhering to a taut storyline (as opposed to something like, again, Twin Peaks). It is a fully-realized, fully-developed, fully-engrossing series, and everything it would become is sewn into Gilligan’s pilot, which Tucker analyzes like a scientist: precisely, knowledgeably, and seeking new discoveries.
When it comes to Tucker and his work, you guys know I’m a capital-F fan. Lessons from the Screenplay is a school of screenwriting into and of itself and though I’ve said it before and will likely say it again, I believe this is his best, most revelatory work to date. I promise you there’s no better way you could spend 11 minutes and 40 seconds today. A warning, though: if you’re anything like me, this is going to reignite your BB fervor, which could result in a 62-hour binge-fest.
P.S. – Want to read the pilot script for yourself? It’s right here.