So why was Breaking Bad shot in Albuquerque? Was it because of the large amounts of crime and meth use? Was it because it felt like the Wild West? Or was it because of the beautiful scenery of the desert? No it was not for any of these reasons. It was for the most Hollywood reason of all, money. The show was originally going to take place in Riverside, California. However, when the studio found out it would be cheaper to film in New Mexico the location was changed.
Even though the location of the show was picked to save money, I still think it was the right location. There is something about the Albuquerque that makes it feel like a completely remote location. The show often reminds the viewer of the setting by showing long shots of the desert. The audience gets the impression that there is nothing sand and sun for miles after miles. Also, Albuquerque is by far the largest city in the area. This makes it feel like the center of everything.
Riverside would have had a completely different feel. Riverside is a morning’s commute outside of LA, and is surrounded by other small cities and towns. The location does not have the same sense of remoteness. Walt and Jesse couldn’t just get in the RV and drive out to the middle of the dessert. With the California traffic they would probably only make it a couple of miles. Another problem with shooting outside in Riverside is that it would be too unbelievable that Heisenberg could become the biggest drug dealer in Southern California. People may be able to accept the idea that a high school chemistry teacher can rule the middle of nowhere city of Albuquerque, but no one will think that he could take on the infamous gangs of LA. It pushes the level of how much ridiculousness the audience is willing to take to the max.