‘Breaking Bad’ Showrunner Vince Gilligan Called Pitching HBO ‘The Worst Meeting I Ever Had’
It’s hilarious now to think about anyone turning down the opportunity to have Breaking Bad on their network.
The massively popular drama is still popular years after the series finale aired. The series was nominated for a whopping 59 Emmy Awards and won 16 times plus nominated for 7 Golden Globes and won twice. Even now, Breaking Bad is considered one of the best television dramas ever created.
And yet, showrunner Vince Gilligan had a hard time convincing any network to run it. He recalled the very embarrassing meeting with HBO where he claims the network exec was so rude, she didn’t care if he personally “lived or died.”
Vince Gilligan conceived ‘Breaking Bad’ during a midlife crisis
Like Walter White, Gilligan was stuck at a crossroads in his life and career. He got the idea for the groundbreaking series Breaking Bad while talking with a friend who was in a similar situation.
The 53-year-old director explained to Vanity Fair, “[A friend and I] were just joking around on the phone about what we should do next: Should we be greeters at Wal-Mart? Should we put a meth lab in the back of an R.V. and cook meth and drive around the southwest? And that image…I don’t know, it just stuck with me.”
Eventually, the veteran X-Files writer wrote a pilot and shopped it around to the networks. But they weren’t too excited at the prospect of a series about suburban drug dealers.
HBO execs rudely passed on ‘Breaking Bad’
Breaking Bad isn’t the only hit series that HBO decided to pass on. They also famously turned down Sons of Anarchy and The Walking Dead.
However, the funniest thing about Gilligan’s meeting with HBO was just how badly it went. In a later Foundations interview, the award-winning director called it, “the worst meeting” he ever had.
“The woman we’re pitching to could not have been less interested — not even in my story, but about whether I actually lived or died,” Gilligan recalled. “My agents could never even get her on the phone afterward to even say no.”
In retrospect, that network exec probably regrets her rude treatment of a future star director.
Showtime also rejected ‘Breaking Bad,’ but for a different reason
Several other networks besides HBO turned down Breaking Bad before AMC finally gave them the green light. However, Showtime had a valid excuse for saying no.
According to them, the series was too much like their own show about an average middle-class suburbanite who starts making money hustling drugs. That series was called Weeds.
And Gilligan didn’t know about it, otherwise he never would have pitched Breaking Bad in the first place. “If I had known of Weeds weeks or even days prior to that meeting, it’s likely I wouldn’t have had the will to go on,” Gilligan recalled. “I would have said to myself (and I’ve said this a lot), ‘Damn! All the good ideas are already taken!’”
Breaking Bad fans are very glad Gilligan never heard about Weeds. Can we imagine a world without Walter White?