"Okay, but only if we can reuse backgrounds from old Road Runner cartoons."
FX turned down the pilot script because they figured Walter White was just another male antihero in their already crowded lineup of The Shield, Nip/Tuck, and that one show where Denis Leary pretends to be a firefighter. TNT executives turned the show down because they were afraid of losing their jobs if backed a show that focused on a character who makes meth for a living. Instead, they suggested that Walter White should dabble in a more socially acceptable line of crime, like counterfeiting. Luckily for everyone, Gilligan chose to take his pitch elsewhere, lest TNT inevitably change Walt's cancer into tonsillitis.
Sony Pictures Television
"Instead of chicken, Gus could own an ice cream shop Walt goes to during recovery."
But while FX, TNT, and eventually Showtime more or less politely turned down the show due to creative differences, the real surprise is HBO, who rejected it because they simply didn't give two shits about Vince Gilligan and whatever nonsense he was peddling. Remember, this is the network that got the adult TV drama revolution started with The Sopranos -- you'd think they'd have an eye for this sort of thing. But, in a 2011 interview, Gilligan described his meeting with HBO as the worst he's ever had: "The woman we were pitching to could not have been less interested -- not even in my story, but about whether I actually lived or died." His agents tried to follow up with her and she wouldn't take their calls.