Thursday, December 18, 2014

Vince Gilligan, Mitch Hurwitz, Tim Gunn Talk Breaking Bad, Arrested Development, Project Runway

Tim Gunn, Vince Gilligan, Mitch Hurwitz, Photo courtesy of the CT Forum.
The creators of "Breaking Bad," "Arrested Development" and the host of "Project Runway" got together for a chat about Today's Great TV at a recent program sponsored by the Connecticut Forum at the Bushnell.

WNPR's Colin McEnroe moderated the engaging conversation between Tim Gunn ("Project Runway"), Vince Gilligan ("Breaking Bad") and Mitch Hurwitz ("Arrested Development") which ranged from how their shows were created to what it's like working with Betty White (Hurwitz was a writer on "The Golden Girls").

Some of the highlights:

What motivated the creation of their shows:

  • Hurwitz: Executive Producer Ron Howard wanted to use digital video tape to show lots of different parts of a family's life.
  • Gilligan: Suffering a midlife crisis at 40 and wondering where his next paycheck would come from after his writing gig with "The X Files" came to an end, a friend in a similar situation kidded that they both could start selling meth out of the back of a van... What if someone actually were desperate enough to do that, Gilligan thought, and what would be his motivation....
  • Gunn: Producers were looking for a consultant for a reality show about fashion and contacted the dean at Fifth and Pacific (now Kate Spade and Co.) who previously was chief creative officer at Liz Claiborne, Inc. and on the faculty at Parsons New School of Design. The Emmy-Award winning co-host and mentor of Project Runway never thought he would end up on camera.
Any problems with the networks interfering with creativity?
  • Gilligan: Sony and AMC have been excellent partners. They did object to the episode where Walter watches Jessie's girlfriend die, saying, "You've gone too far here." He watched her die any way.
  • Hurwitz: Received polite commentary from time to time, once about not being able to use the term "balls." The network suggested "nads" instead. The day after the show won an Emmy, the network president suggested it was time to bring it under control...
  • Gunn: Had concerns about the intellectual property of the designs. He originally turned down doing a second season when he discovered unacceptable terms in the contract offered to the winner of season one. The designer's rights to their designs eventually were recognized.
What role does morality play in these shows?
  • Gilligan: He didn't start out with a moral theme, but "I lost sympathy for this guy along the way. He's a sociopath," he said of Walt, a "guy who is doing terrible things." In Breaking Bad, Walt goes from protagonist to antagonist. He goes out on his own terms, but his outcome is determined within minutes of the pilot episode.Walt is now the world's to judge.
  • Gunn: The very nature of runways means people will be jumping into cruel and punitive situations. There can only be one winner.... Gunn cited an episode of "zippergate" when real women, rather than models, were on the runway and a faulty zipper exposed a sensitive area. He intervened to keep the woman from being embarrassed.
  • Hurwitz: The morals of this family are not very good.... greed, dysfunction and incest get airtime... but they need and love each other. Mike (the character portrayed by Jason Bateman) needs to be controlling, money kept them from growing. You can't be rigid in storytelling. Eccentricities are allowed.
So what was it like working with Betty White?
Hurwitz: She was "so dear, special and sharp." Most people don't realize that her hair comes from a cotton candy machine, he quipped.

A personal note:
I'd love to see Hurwitz and Gilligan team up on a project. Hurwitz knew exactly how to push Gilligan's humor buttons and there was obvious respect between the two for each other's work. A show those two hooked up on would be a riot. Remember you heard it here first.

More information:
For information on other programs coming up at the CT Forum, visit
-- Lauren Yarger

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Lauren Yarger with playwright Alfred Uhry at the Mark Twain House. Photo: Jacques Lamarre)
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