Fifth And Final Season Of Breaking Bad To Debut July 15th

We’ve got good news and bad news for Breaking Bad fans today. Hitfix is reporting that the hotly-anticipated fifth and final season of AMC’s acclaimed drama finally has a premiere date, and you don’t have to wait much longer: it begins July 15th, with an expanded 16-episode order to boot. That’s the good news.

The bad news? You won’t be getting those 16 episodes all at once. As fans have speculated for months now, the season will be broken into two 8-episode halves, with a break in the middle. The break is just a little longer than we anticipated, as AMC intends to hold the second half for summer 2013.

Cable drama fans are perfectly accustomed to year-long breaks between seasons, but splitting a single season in half is a relatively new idea that could prove frustrating. BBC’s Doctor Who split its recent sixth series in two with a three-month break in the middle, and AMC’s own Walking Dead series had a two-and-a-half month break during its second season. The only clear precedent for a wait as long as Breaking Bad‘s is the final season of HBO’s The Sopranos, which also took close to a year off in the middle.

One wonders why AMC didn’t just order two regular seasons given this premiere strategy, but the reasons are likely contractual. It’s easier to sign the cast and writing staff on for one season and split it up then to negotiate multi-year agreements.

In any case, it’s good to know more Breaking Bad is just around the corner, even if the show’s spectacular implementation of cliffhangers assures that the mid-season wait will be killer.

To me, Breaking Bad is a show that has just gotten better and better over its first four seasons, with its most recent run earning a hallowed place in the TV drama pantheon. Creator Vince Gilligan and company tied off a lot of loose ends in last year’s finale, but with Walter White now out of danger and unopposed, there are any number of intriguing paths for the final season to follow. July 15th can’t come soon enough.