Breaking Bad

Common Sense Media says

Morally ambiguous show is all about crime, iffy choices.

Age(i)

2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17

Quality(i)

 
Emmy

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Although Walt's actions are (at least initially) motivated by his desire to provide for his family, the show's take-aways are pretty grim overall. Good and evil are constantly muddled, bad things happen to "good" people for no reason, many characters do horrible things in the name of revenge, and there's no reward for doing the right thing.

Positive role models

The main character is a terminally ill chemistry teacher who decides to make methamphetamines as a way to earn cash quick for his family -- you can sympathize with his motives, but his methods are questionable at best and rapidly deteriorate as the show progresses. The people who surround him inevitably get caught up in the repercussions of his decisions, often to their detriment. Some characters make racist comments about Mexicans.

Violence

Frequent graphic violence. Shooting and threats of shooting; other physical scuffles, beatings, and attacks; explosions (some with horrifying results); poisonings; accidental deaths. In one first-season episode, in an attempt to defend himself, Walt creates phosphine gas and poisons his attackers; later, the consequences are shown, and Walt and Jesse must dispose of one of the bodies -- which turns into a disgusting, bloody mess.

Sex

In one scene, a bare-breasted woman leans out a window, but her breasts are blurred out on the network version, but not on the DVD or streaming versions. Walt and his wife have some intense sexual encounters, but nothing graphic is shown -- it's all implied.

Language

Audible language includes words like "ass" and "bitch," while "f--k" and "bulls--t" are muted on the network version, but not on the DVD or streaming versions. References to male anatomy, including "dick" and "prick." A character flips some others the bird.

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

The show revolves around making and selling illegal drugs; some characters are addicts. Walt is touted by the dealers as an artist for his skill at making methamphetamines. Also drinking and prescription drug use.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Breaking Bad isn't intended for kids; its intense, morally ambiguous characters and storylines are a much better fit for mature audiences. The main character starts out as an essentially good person who's driven to extreme negative behavior (manufacturing methamphetamines and more) by depression and desperation; over the course of the show, his good side becomes less and less evident. There's a good bit of swearing (though "f--k" is muted on the network airing, but not on the DVD or streaming versions), frequent violence (sometimes extremely graphic), and some sexual content (a woman is shown topless, but her breasts are blurred on the network version, though not on the DVD or streaming versions).

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

Walt White (Bryan Cranston) is a high school chemistry teacher working a second job to support his family: his pregnant wife, Skylar (Anna Gunn), and his teenage son, Walt Jr. (R.J. Mitte), who has cerebral palsy. Desperately hard up for money and constantly put down by those around him, Walt reaches the breaking point when he's diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. He connects with former student Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) to start making and selling methamphetamines in order to raise money for his struggling family.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

All of the characters in BREAKING BAD are flawed (many very deeply), and they all make mistakes and, sometimes, baffling choices. The line between good and bad isn't clear; in fact, nobody comes off looking particularly good here, including Walt's DEA agent brother-in-law, Hank (Dean Norris), who's brusque and often insensitive. Some episodes move a bit slowly, while others have more momentum -- sort of like Walt himself, as he tries to cope with the mess his life is becoming.

Cranston's phenomenal performance is the best thing about the show. Forget the spacey, clueless dad of Malcolm in the Middle. Walt may be tired and beaten down, but Cranston manages to bring enough dignity to the man that it's possible to believe him when he's acting like an idiot and being socially responsible at the same time (such as when he narrowly escapes the bad guys, then tells his drug dealing partner, "We have to clean this up").

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about why it's interesting to explore what happens when good people go bad. Is Walt's behavior justified? How do you think you'd react in a similar situation?

  • Do you think the media is the right forum to explore this kind of negative behavior? Why or why not?

  • What's the impact of these anti-heroes on the greater culture? Do kids who don't watch the show know who these guys are?

TV details

Cast:Aaron Paul, Anna Gunn, Bryan Cranston
Network:AMC
Genre:Drama
TV rating:TV-MA
Available on:DVD, Streaming
Award:Emmy

This review of Breaking Bad was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Parent Written byjst555 March 24, 2013
AGE
18
QUALITY
 

Be vewy, vewy careful

I am a 20 year old college student and I've recently watched a few seasons of breaking bad on netflix to see what the hype has been about (I know, late bandwagon hopping). The story is compelling, the characters and their inner conflicts are fascinating (albeit, often frustrating); however, I strongly disagree with its 14+ rating, and frankly don't understand how so many parents think its ok to allow their young teen children to watch this. The line between "good" and "evil" is far too blurred and arbitrary that a positive message regarding "drugs are bad" is lost in translation. I'm 20, and far from a prude (I mean, I see drug usage all the time; I'm in college man), but if I were a parent I would never let my kids see this. I couldn't watch anymore after viewing a disturbing scene where Jesse and his girlfriend try heroin through injection.I just don't believe that a teen under eighteen (even then, a little iffy) should watch explicit drug use. If you want your kid to learn that drugs are bad, why do you have to expose them such a violent, sexual, and drug-laden television show? Is it that hard to just have a serious discussion about the topic? Am I just getting old? Ha. And p.s. i'm not a parent (thank God), just made a mistake in registering ;)
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Parent of a 17 year old Written byJgeorge December 13, 2012
AGE
7
QUALITY
 

Amazing Show!!

It tells us that meth is bad, cancer is bad, killing is bad and greed is a bad thing. Its never to early to learn that stuff
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Parent of a 15 year old Written bydmje December 8, 2013
AGE
16
QUALITY
 

Great TV for Teens Over 15 with Parent's Knowledge & Follow Up Discussions

My mature, intelligent 15yo son independently watched the first 2 episodes on NetFlix, told me about it & said he wanted to continue watching the series. He doesn't watch much TV as he is a busy teen & doesn't have much downtime. I knew the basic storyline & had heard the writing, directing & acting were done well. I surmised that it contained a lot of violence, swearing, drug & alcohol use, and sexuality - all of which I am not an advocate of for any teenager. I realized, though, that each trait to some minor degree was either already part of his world or he was probably questioning it. We have a strong mother-son relationship. We discussed these issues & my concerns and agreed that he would not watch any further until I had a chance to watch the first 2 episodes. After watching them, we talked again & agreed that if this was a show he wanted to watch we would watch it together & discuss it afterwards. Though he is uncomfortable watching people having sex on TV with his mother in the same room, he agreed to my request. Our back up plan in to watch it separately & then talk about it. I think it is important that every parent (from day 1) know their child's maturity level, social tolerance, interests & emotional intelligence. Using these as a fluid gage, keep the lines of communication open. This is not a series I would normally watch. But because my son is interested in watching it, I will gladly do so, discuss what we see & help answer his questions so he will make informed decisions about his life. Wish me luck.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking

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