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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Emmy-award winning drama "Breaking Bad" has been renewed for a fifth and final season, bringing it to an end despite surging viewership for the dark series about a family man turned drug kingpin.
Cable channel AMC said it had ordered 16 new episodes to conclude the series. No date was given for the final season.
"Breaking Bad" made its debut in 2008 and brought three Emmy Awards to lead actor Bryan Cranston, and a supporting actor Emmy for Aaron Paul, who plays his young partner in crime.
Creator Vince Gilligan said in a statement that having a final date for the series was a "great gift" that will "allow us to properly build our story to a satisfying conclusion."
The dark drama follows mild-mannered chemistry teacher Walter White who is diagnosed with cancer and secretly begins to make methamphetamine in order to give his young family financial security after he dies.
The fourth season began in July and AMC said it was attracting the highest ratings ever, with 28 percent more total viewers than in 2010.
AMC's announcement on Sunday followed tough negotiations with producers, who at one point approached rival cable channel FX about running the final season of the series.
Concerned about rising costs after culling much of its resources to renew critical darling "Mad Men" over the spring, AMC had sought a shortened final-season run of six to eight episodes.
AMC said on Sunday that production on the final season of "Breaking Bad" would start in early 2012 but did not say when the episodes would be broadcast.
Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte