– by David Morgan-Brown
Breaking Bad has been and gone, with just five seasons of television goodiness not overstaying its welcome, and it has been pretty much officially declared Best TV Show Ever™. Despite the hype and risk of social exclusion, I never really got into it and I remain a Breaking Bad virgin. I did fool around with it once drunkenly underneath a patio at a rowdy party, but nothing really happened – I just saw the first episode of season 4 and I didn’t like it, much like I wouldn’t enjoy a movie if I watched 10 minutes of it 40 minutes in.
Better Call Saul was one of the most anticipated TV shows of this year (or perhaps even ever), yet despite the fantastic TV ratings, there was still some trepidation towards it. First of all, a hefty number of people are cautious when it comes to spin-off shows, the term itself sounding coarse (even if it’s brought us the likes of Frasier, Daria, Mork and Mindy, and, errrr, The Cleveland Show) and when it’s of the Best TV Show Ever™, that puts on even more pressure. When marketing began for the show, the worry continued as the show looked a bit too goofy and too comical with its comedian lead, Bob Odenkirk, it may’ve proved too much of a tonal departure from the rugged seriousness of Breaking Bad.
Now that the first season is over, I can safely say for myself (though obviously without comparison to its original show) that each of the ten 40-something minute episodes make up a superb first season for what is likely to continue to be a fantastic TV show. It goes into depth of the legal world (from the perspective of a lawyer who is as small-time as it gets) with its wild tales of embezzlement, racketeering, spoliation, and the occasional fraud that is thrilling to watch, yet there’s a lightness to the show that make it so easily watchable and entertaining without sacrificing any of its dark tones or ethical quandaries. The show very much takes it characters and story seriously, interweaving them through different timelines (without getting too close to Breaking Bad’s), but to say the show is without laughs is an outright lie – there are plenty of gags that fit in the tone of the show which are laugh-out-loud funny and emphasise the ridiculousness that Saul (or Jimmy, as he’s called at this point) may face in his day-to-day lawyer work (that can get pretty ridiculous).
These storylines involving Jimmy’s law work can go pretty far out, but they are used to test his endurance and morality, all of which is developed throughout the season until its heart-breaking denouement in episode 9. Better Call Saul has gone beyond succeeding in fleshing out its characters (a few recognisable faces), none more than Jimmy himself, and it’s a testament to the fantastic acting of Bob Odenkirk, who has made a remarkable turn from being a great comedian to now a great dramatic actor. It’s going to be very exciting to see him and the rest of the show in its second season, but I’m already having withdrawal symptoms – better start Breaking Bad.