By Maddie Thomas, For the Daily
Published October 23, 2013
Are you a prominent cable network on the brink of irrelevancy? Are two out of three of your hit shows ending or in their final seasons? Did your buddy Badger just get caught trying to sell meth to an undercover cop? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you better call Saul!
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AMC recently confirmed that development is underway on the new TV show, “Better Call Saul,” a “Breaking Bad” spin-off starring Bob Odenkirk as everyone’s favorite euphemism-loving, flashy-shirt-wearing, criminal lawyer, Saul Goodman. The show is being developed by “Breaking Bad” creator-showrunner Vince Gilligan and producer-writer Peter Gould, who created the Saul Goodman character. Information regarding the new series is limited, but it is confirmed to be a prequel in the hour-long format and, according to Gilligan, it’s “more dark than it is funny.”
It’s easy to see why AMC would want to lock this down; it’s a pretty sweet deal. With the loss of “Breaking Bad” this year and the final season of “Mad Men” looming in the distance (though they did manage to buy themselves some time by stretching “Mad Men” ’s final season across two years) AMC desperately needs to reconstruct itself. The reliable and familiar name of Saul Goodman can help keep their viewers interested long enough for them to find their next big thing. If we’re lucky, maybe Saul Goodman could even be that next big thing.
But the successful spin-off is a rare find. It’s a tough balance to strike — if the new show disappoints its audience, you risk tainting the image of the original (like when “Scrubs” let that weird, shitty spin-off under the same name happen instead of dying respectfully like it should have). Some spin-offs are doomed from their conception, like the “Friends” spin-off, “Joey.” The logic sort of made sense: “Joey is funny on ‘Friends’ so he will be funny in his own show!” But an idea spawned from good intentions ended up being a miscalculation. As any good television critic in the early 2000s could’ve told you, “Friends” worked because it was truly an ensemble comedy. Removing one part from the whole left that part floundering, exposed and facing mixed reviews, ultimately leading to cancellation in the second season.
Similar worries seem to plague today’s die-hard “Breaking Bad” fans. I hear a lot of concern over whether or not Saul will still work as a character when he’s not acting as a foil to Walter or as a comedic relief in a tense situation. There’s a lot of speculation over whether AMC is just trying to milk “Breaking Bad” for every penny its worth. Some are simply concerned that if “Better Call Saul” fails in any way, the entire “Breaking Bad” name will be forever ruined. But for every “Joey” there is a “Frasier,” and when a team of highly competent creatives put their reputations on the line for a show, you have to trust that they have a few tricks up their sleeves. “Breaking Bad” ’s immense success, including the recent Best Drama Emmy win, has solidified Vince Gilligan’s reputation as one of the pre-eminent creative geniuses in Hollywood right now. His name is one of the most valuable in the current industry, and he’s allowing it to be attached to the new series. If that’s not a sign that he has given his blessing, I don’t know what is.
If there’s anything I’ve learned from “Breaking Bad” (apart from meth is bad and stuff), it’s that Vince Gilligan is a man you should trust. Saul has consistently been a fan favorite, and lawyer shows have consistently been popular (see: “Law & Order,” “Boston Legal” and “The Good Wife”). Honestly, Odenkirk is talented enough that I’d probably tune in every week even if “Better Call Saul” ended up adopting the formulaic structure of “Law and Order.” But we all know there’s too much good material for that to happen.