The Rockford Files had the Firebird. Magnum P.I. had the Ferrari 308 GTS. Knight Rider had the black Trans Am. The BBC's Ashes to Ashes had the Audi Quattro.
Lots of great television shows will highlight an awesome car or two, even if they aren't necessarily "car shows." Though you may not realize it at first, Breaking Bad — AMC's uniquely American story about a cancer-stricken high school teacher who goes into business cooking and selling meth — deserves to be on that list as well.
And when you really take a close look at Breaking Bad, you'll realize it might just have the best selection of cars on television right now.
Granted, the story of Breaking Bad has nothing to do with cars. It's about drugs and desperation and violence and what it's like to fall into darkness. The cars exist only for transportation, a means of getting from point A to point B, and occasionally to aide the commission of crime.
But Breaking Bad's cars are interesting on two fronts. First, it's an extremely eclectic lineup. I have been watching it for years, but I never really thought about the cars until one our readers, a fellow named Leighton, emailed us. Here's what he said:
I was watching Breaking Bad the other day and as Walter White raced through the streets performing perfect power slides in his Pontiac Aztek, I started thinking about the awesome cars of Breaking Bad - Jesse's Toyota, The red Wagoneer, Gus's Volvo wagon. Really every car is interesting. There's not a Camry in the bunch.
And he has a good point. You won't find any Ferraris or old-school Audis on the show, but none of the cars are boring. They may not be sports cars, but most of them have interesting histories or are visually appealing in their own unique way. A couple are even perennial Jalopnik favorites.
The other reason the show's cars are great is because each character's ride of choice suits them extremely well, both on a superficial level and a deeper one. That Aztek says more about Walter White than you might think, as does Jesse Pinkman's old Toyota Tercel wagon. After a while, it becomes clear that a lot of thought went into which car got paired with which character.
Without further ado, let's look at the amazing cars of Breaking Bad and the increasingly unsympathetic assholes who drive them. I may have missed a couple, so feel free to add in yours in the comments.
What are your favorite cars from the show?
(Warning: I tried my best to stay away from spoilers, but some small ones may be ahead. Read at your own risk.)
Walter White's Pontiac Aztek
Long the butt of many a joke in the auto industry, the Pontiac Aztek finally got its day to shine on Breaking Bad. This is such a great choice of a car for Walt on so many levels. When the series starts, Walt is kind of a pathetic, ineffectual man who struggles to get respect from anyone. His life never turned out the way he wanted to. He's reasonably happy, but he never lived up to his true potential. You know he bought that battered old Aztek used because he got a good price on it and hasn't really taken care of it. It's appropriate for his lame, suburban existence.
Then Walt gets cancer. And then he starts cooking meth and selling it to pay his medical bills and ensure his family's viability when he's done. And then he becomes a crime boss and a killer. Breaking Bad isn't really about drugs, it's about Walt's plummet into a moral abyss.
And that's why the Aztek is so fitting. The car was lambasted as a perfect example of groupthink and managerial bad decisions at General Motors. In many ways, it can be seen as a symbol of their downward spiral into near-death during the Carpocalypse. Deep down inside, it represents something ugly, not unlike the path Walt follows as the show goes on.
Walt later goes much more sinister with a black Chrysler 300C SRT8 after the Aztek gets wrecked.