Everybody’s talking about Breaking Bad. (Or not talking about it if, like me, you’re a couple of episodes behind and don’t want to know what happened in last night’s grand finale). The show has been sold to 170 countries and is one of the top 20 phrases searched for on Google. It even prompted shops in Albuquerque to sell blue bath salts, in homage to the programme’s iconic crystal meth.
But how would an idea like Breaking Bad fare in adland? Not well, I fear.
Of course, the first meeting would go brilliantly. The concept would be hailed as different, innovative, brave. The only snag would be a slight similarity with another, pre-existing show (‘Weeds’). The simple compromise would be to turn the lead character into a bank robber, rather than a drug dealer. Result!
The next meeting would also be positive. Literally. Conventional wisdom in our industry is that it’s better to focus on the solution than the problem. So the story would morph into a redemption tale, about a guy who considered robbing banks but rejected this life of crime to become a defender of law and order. Much better.
The third meeting would focus on campaignability. Like most American TV shows, Breaking Bad was conceived as a pilot, so there was no formal storyline for the first series (let alone the following four). This would not go down well with the client, who would insist on seeing 3 or 4 years worth of material, to prove the idea had legs. One casualty would be the character of Jesse, who was not seen as a major player in the original pilot. Ah well.
After allaying the fears on campaignability, it would transpire that there was actually only money for one big film anyway. So in the next meeting, the writers who had just created 3-4 years worth of material would be asked to make the whole thing work in 90 minutes. Or better still: 90 tweets, because as we all know, TV doesn’t work any more.
Production stage now. And somebody would surely ask whether Walt could be a bit more aspirational. Bryan Cranston would be swapped for a hunk, and those grubby y-fronts traded for a smart pair of Calvins. While we were at it, Skyler would be dumbed down a bit, because nobody likes an intelligent woman, right?
Nearly there now. But every idea needs a participative element. So in the final meeting, Vince Gilligan would be relieved of his writing and directing responsibilities – and consumers would be asked to upload their suggestions instead. Then other punters would be allowed to vote on those ideas.
Finally, our idea would emerge into the real world: a series of user-generated tweets about a nice, law abiding guy, doing nothing but good deeds. (Hey, that’s a thought: maybe the idea could be renamed “Doing Good”?). Now we’d just need to watch for the results, wonder why such a great idea never took off, and move onto the next one…