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It's been nearly 10 years since Breaking Bad aired its series finale. Since then we've seen numerous shows inspired by Vince Gilligan's masterpiece, as well as a spin-off that somehow managed to not only live up to but exceed the expectations set by the original show. Breaking Bad came along during a time when the TV landscape was shifting dramatically. The rise of streaming and the heyday of episodic TV reviews saw shows finding audiences well after they had premiered. That was the case with Breaking Bad, as its massive success largely came from word of mouth, building an audience over time as critics and audiences raved about the show.
We all miss Breaking Bad, and there's really nothing quite like it, but below we've gathered a handful of TV shows that could potentially fill the Walter White-sized hole in your TV watching.
Look, there's no avoiding the obvious choice. When Vince Gilligan and co-creator Peter Gould first announced that they were making a new show with Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) as the main character, it was met with heavy skepticism. This was right on the heels of Breaking Bad ending, and the original pitch — which initially imagined the show as a half-hour comedy — didn't have many fans of Breaking Bad feeling hopeful about what was to come. Thankfully, Gilligan, Gould, and company delivered not only a worthy follow-up to Breaking Bad, but a show that easily stands on its own as one of the best TV dramas of all time. Anchored by remarkably nuanced performances from Bob Odenkirk and Rhea Seehorn and featuring the kind of tension and moral ambiguity that Breaking Bad was known for, Better Call Saul stepped out of its predecessor's shadow and created its own legacy.
David Chase's contemporary mafia drama, which saw Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) and his crew struggling to modernize their operation in a world that had moved on from them, is essentially the template for Breaking Bad and every other antihero TV show that came after. The Sopranos set the stage of the new golden age of television, offering up a thrilling, intellectual, sprawling drama that changed the TV landscape forever.
From David Simon, the creator of The Wire, this miniseries is a nasty bit of business. Across six episodes we follow the corrupt actions of Baltimore's Gun Trace Task Force, as the plain clothes officers roam the streets with abandon, racially profiling, beating, and stealing from the citizens of Baltimore. It's a stirring show, anchored by a tremendous, wiry performance from Jon Bernthal, and featuring one of 2022's best episodes of TV, which dramatizes the aftermath of the killing of Freddie Gray.
No seriously, hear me out on this one. I think there's something fundamentally similar about these shows and the way they tackle ego, grief, and regret. BoJack Horseman begins as a fairly sturdy comedy about a horse whose career in show business is pretty washed up, but over time it morphs into something deeper and darker — and provides an inverse journey to that of Walter White. BoJack (Will Arnett) starts out in a place of disaster. He's toxic and closed off and angry at the world, but over time he tries his best to heal and to become a better person one step at a time. Musing on ideas of community, trauma, and what we owe to each other, BoJack Horseman is a wonderful personal journey (that's also very funny!).
One of the best legal dramas out there, The Good Fight sure does know how to pack a punch. Fueled by powerhouse performances from Christine Baranski and Delroy Lindo, this timely and political legal drama moves at a thrilling pace. Sure, the "pulled from the headlines" storylines are fun, but the real meat here is in the dialogue. Watching Baranksi and Lindo trade sharp barbs with the likes of Michael Sheen, Wayne Brady, Jane Lynch, and Alan Alda is a real treat.
A lot of Breaking Bad is about blurring the lines between what's right and wrong, and FX's Justified is very similar in that regard. U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) is reassigned to his old hometown in Harlan County, where crime and drugs are simply part of the landscape, built into the soil after the decline of local industry. Across six seasons, Justified not only proves itself as one of the best crime shows of all time, but it does so with some real nuance when it comes to ideas of class, crime, and poverty. Justified is filled with outsized characters, but each one of them is layered and complex, and their motivations, while not always righteous, are at least understandable.
If season-long dramatic arcs and sharp dialogue are what you love about Breaking Bad, then you're going to love Damages. Glenn Close and Rose Byrne turn in fiery performances, and there are plenty of twists along the way. Damages, which ran from 2007 to 2012, paved the way for many other legal dramas, including Better Call Saul, showing how the typically episodic genre could tell thrilling, serialized stories.
Breaking Bad built tension like few other shows on TV, but The Americans just might rival it in terms of the sheer number of episodes you'll spend on the edge of your seat. Following two Soviet spies who've integrated into American society during the Cold War, The Americans is a taut, tense thriller that never lets up. The show stars Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys as the married spies, and as the Cold War surges forward with no end in sight and the pressure mounts, the two must balance their loyalty to their homeland with the life they've built with their children. The Americans is a stunning, complex drama that's more than worth your time.
The first season or so of Breaking Bad is all about Walter White operating in a morally gray area. He's making and dealing drugs, but he's ostensibly doing so in an attempt to set his family up financially for when his cancer leaves him dead. While it certainly doesn't boast the same tone, The Good Place is exceptionally well thought out when it comes to exploring the moral conundrums of human existence. Starring Ted Danson and Kristen Bell and taking place in the afterlife, The Good Place draws many complex, emotional scenarios that will force you to ask yourself what it means to be a good person who's doing right by those around them.
Netflix's Ozark might be the clearest attempt to copy Breaking Bad's template. The show positions Jason Bateman's Marty as the Walter White character, though he's more sinister to start, his hands dirty before the plot even gets moving. Marty begins as a man who's simply into a little money laundering, but when both his marriage and his business take a sudden turn, Marty is left falling further and further into shady dealings in order to keep his life intact.