Quality TV's Appropriation of Fan Culture

Curator's Note

Hall H, any self-respecting geek knows what this term means. Even those of us who have not had the good fortune of making the pilgrimage to the nerdvana otherwise known as San Diego Comic-Con understand Hall H’s significance.  Typically, only the most anticipated Hollywood action/sci-fi/fantasy films are allotted the largest and most premium space at the convention. But, for the past two years AMC’s Breaking Bad drew capacity crowds as they teased the show’s final season. 

Usually, only beloved genre shows such as Doctor Who enjoy prominent positions at the con. Nevertheless, Breaking Bad has been embraced by fandom. As the moderator of the 2012 SDCC Breaking Bad panel proclaimed “All Hail King Heisenberg!”  And yet, I cannot help but wonder, to what extent has Breaking Bad’s acceptance into all things nerdy actually been a strategically executed plan that was as brilliant as anything Walter White could, himself, devise?

Take for example, Breaking Bad’s official Tumblr blog. The site is filled with solicited fanart. A simple scroll will reveal hundreds of fan created works of Walt and Jesse that could rival the most creative Star Trek or Twilight pieces. It is certainly not unheard of for fandom to embrace texts that are devoid of aliens or vampires.  A recent Variety article noted how networks need to operate to cultivate the sort of “rabid” fandom that has grown up around CBS’s utterly middle-brow NCIS.  Wired magazine recently asserted that, in what they call the Platinum Age of Television, buzz will come to mean much more than ratings. It seems AMC is succeeding in using tools of fan/industry interface to create that buzz.  And to assist in generating even more conversation, AMC is now running an after-show hosted by Nerdist co-founder Chris Hardwick. Talking Bad enables fans to nerd out with Hardwick, celebrity fans of the show such as Samuel L Jackson, and Breaking Bad cast members. Chris Hardwick calls Talking Bad necessary “therapy” to help fans recover from the gritty intensity of the show. I call it AMC’s ingenious way of using fan culture to extend the Breaking Bad brand.  


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