In 2014, an immensely popular movie called Smetto Quando Voglio (I can quit whenever I want) came out in Italy with exactly the same plot idea: some genius neurobiology guy is not making ANY money teaching neurobiology, so he decides to make better drugs than all the idiot non-scientists currently making drugs, and makes oodles of cash.
Despite this precisely overlapping premise, the two productions have pretty much ZERO in common. Why?
Let's break this down into its basic elements (see what I did there?):
In Breaking Bad, protagonist Walter White was once a passionate, prize-winning chemist. Now he teaches high school. This embarrassing profession justifies near-total despondency, drab wardrobe choices, and a lack of sexual chemistry with his wife . Inexplicably, teaching high school science full time and working every day at a car wash is not enough to support a modest family of three in one of the cheapest areas of the country.
PS - Working at a car wash is clearly beyond degrading and humiliating, and naturally seeing his students there justifies an avalanche of self-pitying pathos.
PPS - The mean salary for US high school science teachers in the public system is almost 60K.
In I Can Quit Whenever I Want, protagonist Pietro Zinni was once the most brilliant neurobiology PhD student at his University. Now he is one of the last of his generation of straight-A university students still holding out hope for a teaching position in his late thirties as he eeks by in unpaid researcher positions under an evil, wheeling and dealing professor-boss. To make ends meet, he and his girlfriend rent out rooms in their apartment to disrespectful pot-head students. Zinni is frustrated but, inexplicably, this situation of massive injustice seems to have no impact on Zinni's inner sense of self or his ability to dress well (although the frustrations do lead to comical disputes with his girlfriend over how much of their spaghetti their housemates are eating for free...)
PS - Associate professors in Italy (the position Zinni is hoping to land, but doesn't get) make half of what high school science teachers make in the US, even where the cost of living is the same.
THE BREAKING POINT:
Breaking Bad's Walter White discovers he has terminal lung cancer (so far this show is a real upper, wheeeeee!). Therefore he tells no one. Except, eventually, his wife.
I Can Quit Whenever I want protagonist Pietro Zinni is passed over for a paid position and loses even his small research grant, despite submitting brilliant results. Therefore he tells EVERYONE. Except his girlfriend.
Walter White blackmails an odious former (failed) student-turned crystal meth maker into forming a business partnership for "cooking" crystal meth. The student will show Walter how to do it, and Walter will make the best meth ever sold on the market through his nerd skills. They hate each other, but it's all about the benjamins. As if dying of lung cancer were not enough, Walter is plagued by his wife's obnoxious sister and her DEA officer husband (oops!), who are apparently the only people Walter ever hangs out with, presumably out of a sense of familial duty.
Pietro Zinni motor-scooters around town visiting all his close friends. All of them were once brilliant researchers who, like him, were denied university posts thanks to corrupt university bosses. Two Latinists are working at a gas station. They speak Latin amongst themselves and Arabic to their boss, who runs a tight ship but lets them live in the shed. Another former chemist washes dishes at a Chinese restaurant. An economist is doing his best as a card shark, playing poker and using his mental math skills. An anthropologist makes routine attempts to be hired at a junk yard, where he is always rejected on suspicion that he has a degree due to his nerdy vocabulary. Finally, an archaeologist friend works for the city digging and repairing roads, boring all his co-workers with his soil and rock analyses.
Zinni tells his buddies his plan: to use their nerd skills to invent a new drug. Not only will it be the best drug ever sold on the market, but it will also be legal, because no one will have ever heard of it before. They are afraid of losing their jobs, but eventually agree.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT:
In Breaking Bad, White does succeed in cooking his magical, high-quality meth. But before one sale can be made, everything spins out of control. By episode 2 of season 1 Walter is melting drug dealers' bodies in acid (the most extreme punishment reserved by the Mafia for its top offenders, just FYI) and doing unspeakable things to his wife because of the animalistic release he achieves after finally getting away from all those years of emasculating existence as a mere high school teacher.
In I Can Quit Whenever I Want, Pietro and the other guys succeed in inventing their wonder drug, which is technically legal. They sell it through one of Pietro's tenants, who has been living with him and his girlfriend (and eating lots of spaghetti) for free because Pietro thought he was poor, but it turns out he's super rich and goes to all the coolest clubs. The guys are thrilled with their success and, even though they're supposed to be keeping their money under wraps, they can't help buying rooftop apartments with great views and throwing big parties.
In Breaking Bad, the guns are out of their holsters already in episode one, and by episode four we are killing people off with poisonous gas, bicycle locks, and shards of broken flatware (ok the last one is only an attempted murder, but still).
In I Can Quit Whenever I Want, unable to get large enough quantities of the basic chemicals they need to make their drug, Zinni and his friends hold up a pharmacy with a blunderbuss from someone's grandpa's closet.
THE OUT OF CONTROL DUDE:
Walter's delinquent accomplice is smoking their meth on the sly. This is portrayed as scary and full of backlit camera work, overly-loud sounds, hallucinations, toothless prostitutes, crappy hotel rooms, and paranoia.
One of Pietro's buddies (the dishwasher) is popping their pills on the sly. This is portrayed as funny (if sad and unattractive), and full of bombastic scenes, over-the-top fur coats, hot Russian escorts, lots of yelling, and eventually a car accident and a stint in rehab.
HOW IT ENDS:
In Breaking Bad, season 1 ends with Walter buckling down and continuing to make meth, steadily hoping to become a big fish and using the alias Heisenberg, after the Nobel prize winning physicist. Serious. Nerdy. Seriously nerdy.
I Can Quit Whenever I Want ends in hilarity and a clever escape by the little guys from the drug world dominated by bigger fish. When a big drug don, threatened by their sales, demands their recipe and a huge cache of the drug OR ELSE, the little band of nerd-criminals is in trouble. They force one of them to finally marry his long-time fiance, a gypsy, and agree to meet the drug don at the wedding for the hand-off, with the rationale that the gypsies are the only people more armed than the drug lord. Then, in a scene that goes down in the middle of the wedding, they pull a slick trick to get away with not producing the drugs for the don after all. Meanwhile, Italy makes the drug illegal, and all the guys, after a year of high rolling, go back to their old jobs at the gas station and etc. Oh and that last guy finally gets his job at the junkyard. Cheers all around.
Luckily for Pietro, he gets put in jail for tax evasion and finally gets paid to teach chemistry (to his fellow prisoners). He's thrilled. At the end of the film, it seems like he'll be let out early for good behaviour and lose his "teaching position," but he reassures his now-wife that with a staged fight in the cafeteria, he's hoping to add some time to his sentence. Nerdy and funny.