TV

Who’s Winning The Post-Prestige Drama War: Bryan Cranston Or Jon Hamm?

AMC/UPROXX

It’s nothing short of incredible that the leading men on two of the greatest TV dramas of all-time (if not THE greatest dramas — debate in the comments, Sopranos and The Wire fans) are otherwise best known for roller-skating to Queen’s “We Are the Champions” and stealing the scene in every comedy he’s in and/or having a large penis. It’s a toss-up. For their performances on AMC’s Breaking Bad and Mad Men, Bryan Cranston, as meth-making kingpin Walter White, and Jon Hamm, as self-loathing ad man Don Draper, were nominated for a combined 14 Emmys, including five wins (four for Cranston, one for Hamm).

Both actors have also continued to work since those shows ended in 2013 and 2015, respectively, with Cranston returning to Broadway this winter for Network and Hamm most recently stealing scenes in Bad Times at the El Royale.

This isn’t Dennis Franz staying out of the acting spotlight since NYPD Blue ended — if anything, their cultural presence is more widespread than ever, now that they don’t have to focus their age on two Difficult Men. But who has the better post-prestige drama career? Let’s figure it out, based on six distinct categories. (Note: only television shows, movies, etc. that happened after Breaking Bad for Cranston and Mad Men for Hamm wrapped were considered).

My apologies to AMC’S other would-be prestige series Low Winter Sun.

Box office gross (domestic), via Box Office Mojo

As noted above, Mad Men‘s last episode aired nearly two years after Breaking Bad‘s finale, so Cranston had a head start. But he didn’t shoot out of the gate. Cranston’s first post-Breaking Bad movie was the little-seen Cold Comes the Night (only $16,000 at the box office), followed by Godzilla ($200.6 million), at which point Hamm caught up. His “I’m not Don Draper anymore” debut: Minions ($336 million). Who knew banana-loving kids loved Dick Whitman so much? Since then (the end of 2015), Cranston has appeared in 10 films to Hamm’s eight (not including Get a Job for the former and Aardvark for the latter; those box office numbers aren’t readily available). That makes the totals surprisingly close.

Thanks to Minions mania and the relative box office success of Baby Driver ($107.8 million), Hamm’s combined gross is $531,355,492… but it’s still behind Cranston’s $567,670,604, which is boosted by Godzilla and Kung Fu Panda 3. That’s even with his Oscars movies, Trumbo and Last Flag Flying, pulling in less than $9 million combined. Those help another category, though.

Winner: Bryan Cranston

AMC

Rotten Tomatoes score

Here’s the highest- and lowest-rated Rotten Tomatoes score for each:

Bryan Cranston
Highest: The Disaster Artist (yes, it’s just a brief scene where Cranston is playing himself during his Malcolm in the Middle days, but if Hamm’s cameo in Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie counts, then so does this)
Lowest: Get a Job (there’s a reason box office totals are not accessible)

Jon Hamm
Highest: Baby Driver (93 percent)
Lowest: Aardvark (12 percent; see: Get a Job)

The average rating (using a HIGHLY SCIENTIFIC method of combining every movie score then dividing)? Cranston: 61.6 percent. Hamm: 57.5 percent.

Winner: Bryan Cranston

AMC

Television appearances

Cranston has appeared in episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm, Sneaky Pete (which he also co-created), and Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams, while Hamm has popped up on I Love You, America (as Abe Lincoln), Random Acts of Flyness, Legion (as The Narrator), Big Mouth (never trust a scallop), SpongeBob SquarePants, The Last Man on Earth, Childrens Hospital, and Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp. There are some excellent shows in there for both actors, who are equally adept at comedic and dramatic roles. But I’m giving this category to Hamm for playing Richard Wayne Gary Wayne, a.k.a. DJ Slizzard, on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, especially this moment of zen.

NETFLIX

Also, the “can I take a sh*t in your house?” scene on Barry.

Winner: Jon Hamm

AMC

Non-TV show or movie roles

This category encompasses Cranston and Hamm’s parts that might not appear on IMDb, but pack their schedules and/or make them a lot of money. Hamm reportedly made $250,000 per episode for seasons five through seven of Mad Men, but he’s probably earned A LOT more as the stoic voice of Mercedes-Benz commercials since 2012; he’s done multiple H&R Block spots, too. The ads pay the bills (“THAT’S WHAT THE MONEY IS FOR”), but they don’t earn the plaudits that Cranson has received for his Broadway work. He won a Tony for his performance in Lyndon B. Johnson in All the Way, and he’ll probably take home another one for his mad-as-hell role as Howard Beale in Network, which officially opens in December (he already has an Olivier Award).

Winner: Bryan Cranston

AMC

Future projects

Let’s see. Cranston has the aforementioned Network stint, as well as the Kevin Hart comedy-drama The Upside, the kiddie film The One and Only Ivan, and possibly a “key role” in the Uncharted movie, based on the mega-popular video game series. Hamm counters with Top Gun: Maverick… This contest is over.

Winner: Jon Hamm

AMC

Role reprisal

Both Cranston and Hamm have reprised their iconic Breaking Bad and Mad Men roles in the years since the dramas wrapped. The meth-maker was (then) President-elect Donald Trump’s choice to head the Drug Enforcement Administration on SNL and he was also in an Esurance commercial, but Hamm takes the cake (not that Don Draper would ever eat cake, or even give it to his daughter) for his one-episode stint on Nickelodeon’s SpongeBob SquarePants.

Well, technically Hamm is voicing “Don Grouper,” who the SpongeBob Wiki helpfully describes as having a “sharp mind and devastating charm [that makes] him an irresistible force. When Don’s in the room, everyone laps up his words like overpriced organic honey.” Sounds right. Another good sentence: “With his secret exposed, Don walks off the stage while the audience vomits out sand.”

Just like the Mad Men finale.

Winner: Jon Hamm

AMC

Tie-breaker

We’re at an impasse. It’s three to three. There’s only one solution to this deadlock: who has the best (i.e. most random) IMDb trivia fact? My favorite for Cranston: “Met his wife, Robin Dearden, on the set of Airwolf: Desperate Monday (1986). He was playing the villain of the week, and she was his hostage held at gunpoint.” And Hamm: “Became interested in acting in the first grade, when he was handpicked to play Winnie-the-Pooh.”

Hmm, it’s close. Too close. (I even polled eight UPROXX staffers “Cranston or Hamm,” without any other context, and four went with Cranston and… four went with Hamm. I should probably stop asking an even number of people.) It’s almost as if they’re both great actors who are forever synonymous with a particular role, but are still talented enough to not make you think “oh, that’s Walter White/Don Draper” when you see them in another project. Cranston is the award-winning Broadway actor, and it’s hard not to love that weirdly charming Airwolf anecdote, but the winner of post-prestige drama war is…

AMC

As evidence, I direct you to this clip.

He’s an award-winning dramatic actor who’s equally skilled at making himself look like a handsome buffoon in comedies, and if you ask nicely, he might show up on your podcast. He’s also a good interview. He’s even rumored to be the next Batman. Who am I to vote against Batman? Maybe Cranston should audition to play the Joker (we need more Jokers). Then we’ll know the winner for sure.

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