Spinoffs aren’t easy. But a spinoff of one of TV’s most iconic shows ever created? That’s just plain crazy.
Breaking Bad was the first show I watched religiously. So I’ll be the first to say that I was skeptical of the Better Call Saul spinoff featuring the ‘criminal criminal’ lawyer from Breaking Bad.
In Vince Gilligan I trust, and yet I just could not see Saul Goodman breaking out from the shadow of ‘The One Who Knocks’, Walter White. But in what was the most successful new show premiere ever, Better Call Saul struck a perfect balance between something old and something new.
While Saul Goodman may have had enough personality to fill a scene in Breaking Bad, he was still the comedic relief of the show. After all, the man portraying him, Bob Odenkirk, wrote for SNL from ’87-’95 and even created Chris Farley’s iconic ‘Motivational Speaker’ character.
The worry that this campy character wouldn’t be enough to support a full show was very real. Or worse, the fear that a comedic spinoff from a show as heavy and intense as Breaking Bad would come off as a fan-fiction-level joke without Walter White to balance out Saul’s ridiculousness.
I mean, the guy quotes Beetlejuice in the bathroom mirror before his cases.
But instead, Saul expands on the world that Walter White’s storyline introduced. And while it has many comedic moments, it’s far from light.
Centered around ‘James McGill’ – or Saul six years before he was, well, Saul – we get a deeper look into the lies and ruses that pave the road James goes down to become Saul and, better yet, the consequences they cause.
In a podcast interview with Nerdist, Odenkirk even says that while the show was originally supposed to be a more comedic Albuquerque, it just kept getting darker and darker. Which is pretty clear in the show’s first scene featuring a depressing look at Saul Goodman working at a Cinnabon post-Heisenburg.
But the true beauty of this show is its ability to stand on its own.
The cameos made by classic characters like Tuco (Walt’s first antagonist in Breaking Bad) and Mike (Jonathan Banks) were great, and there’s a dozen lists online about all the cool Breaking Bad Easter Eggs you might have missed. But these throwbacks are bonuses – not key to the enjoyment factor of the show. Hell, I’ll be honest – I didn’t even recognize Tuco until someone mentioned his name, and I was thoroughly enjoying the show without appreciating the cameo.
Saul is absolutely deserving of an audience…but the problem it will face is getting them to stay. The viewership dropped 50% for the second episode. And while the first episode set viewership records, the concern now is whether it has the addictive staying power that Breaking Bad did.
Despite the shaky numbers, the ratings have been pretty high across the board, and for good reason. The show offers nostalgia for the Breaking Bad fan while still being extremely new-viewer friendly.
Time will tell if it has the pull that its predecessor did. But this early in the game, one thing is already clear; The creators of Better Call Saul have pulled off a very unlikely spinoff. And it’s very worth your time to check out.
“It’s show time.”
(Featured image courtesy of entertainmentweekly.com)