By Paula Hendrickson
Have you, like many fans of AMC’s award-winning series Breaking Bad, been suffering withdrawal pains since the epic series culminated in a violently gut-wrenching way Sept. 29, 2013? Do you miss watching amoral characters embroiled in illegal activities while desperately attempting to justify their actions to themselves and to others?
Have I got the show for you — Better Call Saul.
This somewhat lighter spin-off prequel to Breaking Bad comes from Vince Gilligan, best known as the creator of Breaking Bad and the world of Walter White. It tells the story of how White’s not-so-trusted lawyer, Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk, Fargo) came to be the king of Albuquerque strip mall lawyers. The title comes from the character’s “Better call Saul” catchphrase that appeared in ads-within-the-show off and on throughout the Breaking Bad series.
For a fun peek at Saul’s idea of effective marketing, don’t miss the character’s website: bettercallsaul.com.
As a loyal Breaking Bad fan, I found the comedic Saul-centric scenes sometimes felt a bit out of sync with the darker, grittier world of his drug kingpin client. Yet, Odenkirk was so perfect in the role I didn’t really mind. Heck, some of the time even “Heisenberg” seemed bemused by Saul.
Not only will Better Call Saul keep the Breaking Bad universe alive, it will probably keep a few Breaking Bad cast members — and Odenkirk, of course — employed for a few seasons, that is if fans grow as addicted to it as they were to the parent show. Sure, Breaking Bad stars Bryan Cranston (White), Aaron Paul (Jesse), Anna Gunn (Skyler) and Dean Norris (Hank) are already busy with new projects, but you never know who else might show up in Saul’s waiting room.
One popular character already confirmed to join the fun on Better Call Saul is Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks, Community, Wiseguy), a professional criminal/hit man who will one day help White out of some extremely precarious and potentially deadly situations. For many Breaking Bad fans, seeing Mike again is reason enough to tune in to the new series.
Is Better Call Saul the new Breaking Bad? No, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Breaking Bad was a classic, and it would be foolhardy to try to replicate that same success. But Gilligan is smarter than that. And he’s probably ready to work on something lighter and new. His reputation as a storyteller alone should make it worth your while to take a trip back in time to see another side to one of television’s greatest stories.
Better Call Saul premieres at 9 p.m. Central, Sunday, Feb. 8, on AMC.
Paula Hendrickson is a regular contributor to Emmy magazine and Variety, and has been published in numerous national publications, including American Bungalow, Television Week and TVGuide. Follow her on Twitter at P_Hendrickson and send your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
From the Feb. 4-10, 2015, issue