Most spin-offs are a desperate attempt for television networks to maintain the momentum of a hit show, and most of the time it is a desperate cash grab that looks, well, desperate. It’s kind of like when your friend gets back together with an ex that no one likes. Yet, Better Call Saul – a spin-off from the groundbreaking and electrifying Breaking Bad – may be just as good as the original. Part of this, okay most of its success, has to do with the brilliance of creator Vince Gilligan, but it also has to do with something else entirely (we’ll get into that later). What can be said for sure is that Better Call Saul may be the best spin off in television history.
If you close your eyes, there is a good chance that you can’t think of one spin-off – off the top of your head. There is a very good reason for this: They are all forgettable. Just take ‘Joey’ as an example – an attempt by NBC to bring a little magic from the hit show Friends back to life. Or what about the Brady Brides – a spin-off from the Brady Bunch where Marcia and Jan grow up and get married off and decide to live in houses next to each other with their husbands. This show crashed and burned like the rest of them.
Technically speaking, Better Call Saul is not a sequel, like most spin-offs are – it is a prequel. So, it has that going for it. However, it also has a secret weapon by the name of Bob Odenkirk, a heretofore unsung comic genius that labored in low budget comedies and in cramped offices as a television writer for variety shows. That was until he landed the supporting role of the unsavory, but very savvy ambulance-chasing lawyer Saul Goodman in Breaking Bad. Everyone knows Breaking Bad as the greatest show about the American meth industry, but if it wasn’t for Odenkirk, the show may have been less favorably rated. He was the amino acid that made all the organs o
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In Better Call Saul, Odenkirk takes top billing as James Morgan “Jimmy” McGill. It takes place before the meth, before the crime – before the bigger crimes that would take place in Breaking Bad. It was also before Saul was Saul, a faux Jewish lawyer looking for a dirty scheme. Currently, the series is in its second season, and it is carefully building a backstory for how a good lawyer breaks bad. Of course, there are some hints: Jimmy is opportunistic, he loves a good gimmick and before he passed the Bar exam, he was known as “slippin’ Jimmy,’ a con-artist and a crook. Better Call Saul is very much a show about a man’s battle with the dark side, which is what makes it so fascinating.
The show is also the masterwork of its creator – and the creator of Breaking Bad – Vince Gilligan. Gilligan is a master of wit and the slow build up to anarchy and total self-destruction. This is something we love to watch, maybe because we see a little bit of ourselves. This is the “something else” mentioned before. There is a sense that we are watching ourselves on the screen, albeit a drastically exaggerated and criminal version of ourselves. But we can’t turn away and you can’t go wrong with this formula, which is why the show is so damn good.