• 09.23.13

Real NYT Reporter Publishes Fictional Column Mentioned on Last Night’s “Breaking Bad”

In an affectionate tribute to the almost-finished methamphetamine epic, Breaking Bad, today New York Times reporter Andrew Ross Sorkin published a column that takes place in the fictional universe of the show, and which was mentioned on last night’s episode by name.

Real NYT Reporter Publishes Fictional Column Mentioned on Last Night’s “Breaking Bad”

As of this moment, Breaking Bad is one uncomfortably intense episode away from finishing its high-profile end-run. As the body count chugs along like a mobile meth lab–along with hopes for a satisfactory conclusion–the show is racking up more viewers than ever. One of the viewers from last night’s episode appeared to enjoy it more than most, however, and was inspired to write some fan fiction in tribute. The only difference between this and most other instances, however, is that the viewer was New York Times columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin, and what he has written is a column that previously existed only in the fictional world of last night’s episode.

Skyler White, Walter White, Gretchen Schwartz, and Elliot Schwartz

Consider this your spoiler warning, as it would be impossible to go into any detail into context without giving away plot points. Walter’s backstory is that before he became the suburban chemistry teacher we meet in the pilot episode, he was a founding partner of a technology company called Gray Matter, which ultimately found success without him. Due to reasons too complicated to get into, Walter sold his share in the company for $5,000, while the company went on to have a net worth of over $2.1 billion. The resulting sour grapes drive Walter’s actions throughout the series.

On last night’s episode, entitled “Granite State,” Walter White aka empirical drug lord Heisenberg, is ready to give himself up to the authorities, who finally know his identity, when a news show captures his attention. According to the report, Gray Matter is coming under fire for its previous association with this man who is now revealed to be America’s meth-inclined answer to Pablo Escobar, which gives the partners of that company a chance to downplay Walter White’s contribution as much as possible. They have no idea the danger this bit of quiet falsification has put them in.

However, in order for us viewers to grasp the level of public discourse devoted to this drama, the news report mentions a New York Times article that is critical of Gray Matter, written by columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin, a very real reporter for the venerable publication. Sorkin first made his fandom clear by tweeting his thanks to the show’s creator for the shout-out. Today, however, the reporter topped himself and published an actual column for the New York Times, taking the fictional Gray Matter Technologies to task.

Click to enlarge

“Yes, this is a fictional parody, in case there is any doubt!” reads a warning at the very bottom of the post. It’s the only indication, though–besides having the words “Breaking Bad” in the headline–that this column isn’t a dig at some company with a drug kingpin problem. It’s a blurring of reality and fiction that feels like the opposite of fansourcing. Perhaps this is the future of entertainment, with TV shows and movies begetting validation for their fictional universes in reality.

What fictional documents would you like to see created for real? Sound off in the comments.

[Images courtesy of AMC | Ursula Coyote]

About the author

Joe Berkowitz is a writer and staff editor at Fast Company. His next book, Away with Words, is available June 13th from Harper Perennial.