“Breaking Bad” made its debut in 2008 to an underwhelming 1.2 million viewers — which would have caused many programming chiefs to drop it. But the show dodged cancellation and slowly built a following — especially once the old episodes were made available en masse on Netflix.
By mid-2012, about 2.6 million viewers were watching live episodes; now, as the ending approaches, that total has more than doubled to 6 million, which might be small for a network television show but makes “Breaking Bad” one of the biggest phenomena on cable.
I wonder if any other show on TV has experienced such a strong and steady growth in viewership across its lifetime. The internet and the availability to stream previous episodes and seasons has not only enabled more complex, linear, multi-episode and multi-season storytelling, but it created an environment in which a show like Breaking Bad could survive long enough to accumulate audience and buzz as it went.
If you aren't caught up and are worried about social media spoiling Breaking Bad's series finale this Sunday, you can use this Netflix-branded spoiler foiler for your Twitter account.
I'm not even going to take that risk. I'll be turning off all my devices and sitting with a tinfoil hat on my head on Sunday, waiting until I've finished watching the finale in real time before I talk or interact with another human being.