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Ten lessons we learned from TV's Breaking Bad

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Walter White, played by Bryan Cranston, put his chemistry knowledge to nefarious but profitable use.

DOUG HYUN / AMC Enlarge Image

Walter White, played by Bryan Cranston, put his chemistry knowledge to nefarious but profitable use.

NEW YORK -- Sunday's Breaking Bad turned out the lights on one of the darkest shows in television history.

Even as this drama cooked up storylines that celebrated evil and depravity, Breaking Bad gleamed with a bright side, too. There were plenty of positive messages for the viewer who acknowledged them during the series' five-season run.

Here are 10 lessons Breaking Bad leaves behind:

  • Stay in school and study hard: As Walter White demonstrated after he ditched teaching for producing crystal meth, you can make millions from a subject like chemistry that far too many youngsters (including Mr. White's bored students) find annoying and useless. Walt (a.k.a. drug lord Heisenberg) proved otherwise with his storage shed of money.
  • Chemistry has everyday applications: The next time you dispose of a corpse with hydrofluoric acid, all you devoted Breaking Bad viewers will know not to dissolve the body in a bathtub, but instead in a plastic container. You learned this valuable tip in Season 1, when Walt's lab assistant Jesse Pinkman disregarded his instructions and regretted it. The acid memorably dissolved through the bathtub and floor at Jesse's house, leaving a bloody mess in the hallway downstairs.
  • Family is oh, so important: Breaking Bad reminds you that entering the drug trade and messing with the wrong people in it can lead to your wife and teenage son despising you. It can also lead to your brother-in-law getting brutally murdered. You would hate that if it happened.
  • Build a better mousetrap!: Steve Jobs knew it. Jeff Bezos knows it. Walt White serves as a mythical champion of their kind of acumen: Offer a better product with an obvious advantage, and the world (or, anyway, addicts who loved Walt's super-potent "blue sky" crystal meth) will beat a path to your door.
  • Need a lift? Try a makeover: If you're stuck in a rut, like Walter White at the start of Breaking Bad, consider a new look. Shave your head, grow a tidy, I-mean-business beard and fit yourself with a black porkpie hat. Then come up with a new name. Like Heisenberg. In your new identity, people will fear you and you're sure to go far.
  • Keep your vehicles, especially your RV, in good running order: A regular checkup to keep Walt's rolling meth lab in tip-top shape would have spared him and Jesse inconvenience, not to mention mortal danger.
  • Keep a shrewd lawyer on call, especially if you mean to routinely break the law: Sure, he may be a sleazebag and a shameless self-promoter. But a lawyer like Saul Goodman is worth his weight in hundred-dollar bills to a client like Walter White, whom he represented faithfully, if more than often sarcastically. With his mastery of trade practices -- legal and illegal -- Saul was the most impressive TV lawyer since Perry Mason.
  • Obamacare might cut down on illegal drug trade (at least on TV): If financially strapped schoolteacher Walt White had had better health care when he got his cancer diagnosis, maybe he wouldn't have begun cooking meth to help cover his expenses. Leaving his family provided for after his death might have been a non-issue had teachers in his district been better paid. On the other hand, if Walt had found himself in less of a jam, there would have been no Breaking Bad.
  • Finish what you start: It's never good to leave important tasks hanging. Walt is a shining example of a guy determined to tie up loose ends. That was part of why the Breaking Bad finale was so good.
  • Follow your bliss (and be willing to forge a different path getting there): Walter White discovered this lesson. Vince Gilligan demonstrated its wisdom in real life by creating a radically different series. So did AMC execs by airing what turned out to be perhaps the best drama of all time. How many other networks are willing to learn?

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 1, 2013 D3

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