‘Breaking Bad’ Drawn Into Political Dramas in Capital

WASHINGTON — AMC’s Breaking Bad may have brewed its last batch of fictional blue methamphetamine, but the show lives on in the hearts and minds of many, including here with the head of the Media Institute, the Parents Television Council and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.).

Last week, USA Today published a commentary on Breaking Bad from Patrick Maines, who heads the Media Institute, a First Amendment think tank supported by broadcast and cable companies. Maines called the show “perhaps the best show that’s ever been on television,” then went on to posit that one of the reasons that the best dramas are gravitating to cable is because broadcasting content is much more regulated and violence, even when “a necessary ingredient in the excellent telling of a good story,” is riskier territory.

He cited Showtime’s Dexter, which featured both sexual situations and violence. “In 2007, CBS announced that it was considering broadcasting reruns of Dexter over the air,” Maines said. “In response, a conservative group, the Parents Television Council, warned CBS affiliates to pre-empt the show, and threatened the show’s advertisers.”

Maines’s piece drew fire from the PTC. In its TV watchdog blog, the group said: “The only content regulation of the broadcast medium is of obscenity, indecency and profanity at certain times of day, while none of which [sic] address violence. What’s more, the FCC indecency rules haven’t been enforced in the past five years, despite more than 100,000 Americans urging the FCC to act.”

The PTC accused Maines of “[taking] to the pages of USA Today … to praise violence in media.”

“In my USA Today column I said that PTC threatened the CBS stations not to broadcast Dexter reruns, and that PTC also threatened any advertisers of those reruns,” Maines said. “Both claims are true and verifiable. PTC, on the other hand, says I ‘praised violence in media,’ something that is false and equally verifiable.”

Over on Capitol Hill, the fight over the continuing resolution and resulting government shutdown drew metaphors aplenty, from terrorists to locusts to, well, a certain AMC show that had bowed out the night before.

“I think Tea Party Republicans saw Breaking Bad’s dramatic depiction of reckless behavior last night and thought they could put on a better finale,” Markey said. “They could create more drama. They could cook up even more toxic ideas. They could break this government in every bad way possible.”


A Media Institute op-ed citing Breaking Bad as a reason to drop content restrictions on broadcast TV drew fire from the Parents Television Council.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.