AMC has renewed "Breaking Bad" for a final batch of 16 episodes that will conclude the Emmy-winning series' run.
Production on those 16 will commence early next year, though AMC has yet to commit to plans on how to air them. Several published reports about the renewal have suggested the 16 might be split into two mini-seasons aired over two years or some other extended period.
But regardless of that not-small detail, this brings closure to what had become yet another messy, public behind-the-scenes negotiation between AMC and one of its top shows. A couple of weeks ago, published reports suggested that AMC, as part of a sweeping campaign to control costs, was trying to get the final season shrunk down to between 6 and 8 episodes, even though "Breaking" creator Vince Gilligan expected one more standard-length season to conclude the story of Walter White and Jesse Pinkman. (Once upon a time, he'd said he saw this as a four-season show, but his plans have expanded since then. Either way, he never said it was a show that was designed to run forever.) There were even suggestions that if the negotiations fell apart, Sony would then shop the show to another network (maybe FX, which had originally developed Gilligan's script), which would in turn require Gilligan to keep the show going for several more seasons to make it worth the new network's while.
Fortunately, most of these situations tend to work out with the show staying where it is, and so "Breaking Bad" will end where it began - though whether it ends in 2012 or 2013 remains to be seen.
UPDATE: AMC put out the official statement about the renewal, including this comment from Vince Gilligan:
“It’s a funny irony -- I’d hate to know the date of my own last day on earth, but I’m delighted to know what Walter White’s will be (episodically speaking). This is a great gift to me and to my wonderful writers. It’s knowledge which will allow us to properly build our story to a satisfying conclusion. Now, if we don’t manage to pull that off, we’ve got no one to blame but ourselves.
“‘Breaking Bad’ has been a dream job these past four years. Working with the best cast and crew in television has no doubt spoiled me for future projects. I’m lucky to get to work with them on sixteen more episodes, and I will always be grateful to both AMC and Sony Television, who from the beginning, believed in our show and supported me creatively and professionally. We have been able to take risks with ‘Breaking Bad’ which would not have been possible on other networks.”