Breaking Bad was an unexpected mega-hit, and when the viewers found it, critics couldn’t get enough. When it ended, fans were left clamoring for more, but just because the original show is great, there’s no guarantee that the spinoff will work.
Luckily for fans of Breaking Bad and its smarmy criminal defense lawyer Saul Goodman, the spinoff that gave him his own show was at least as good as the original. In fact, some claim it’s even better. Here’s how Saul landed his own series.
‘Breaking Bad’ gave us Saul Goodman
Breaking Bad showed the slow, morally ambiguous fall of Walter White, and when it debuted, hardly anyone noticed. But over time, it amassed a huge, devoted following. Viewers and critics alike loved its complex characters, the nuanced interplay of right and wrong, and ever-accelerating crime spree that was Walter’s life.
Of course, any criminal needs a good lawyer, and Walter had to settle for Saul Goodman. Played by Bob Odenkirk, Saul was such a classic sleazy, bottom-of-the-barrel criminal defense lawyer that he was originally intended to be a joke. His character was only supposed to be around for a few episodes, just for the laughs.
But thanks in no small part to the exceptional acting skills of Odenkirk and the insight of Vince Gilligan, the program’s showrunner, something unexpected happened instead.
‘Better Call Saul’ built on the success of ‘Breaking Bad’
Instead of Saul’s original three-episode story arc, the writers made him a permanent character. Viewers got to watch him cut legal corners, encourage the worst behavior, and bumble through life.
When Breaking Bad ended, fans weren’t ready to leave the world behind, so the show’s creators made an unusual decision. Instead of a spinoff that took one of the characters forward, they would go back in time and explore the origins of Saul.
Better Call Saul, which was also the title of the first Breaking Bad episode he appeared in, showed the life of Jimmy McGill, the slick, but a slightly better-hearted lawyer who would become Saul. The show follows Jimmy as he becomes more jaded and shady.
Originally, producers thought Better Call Saul would be much more humorous and less dramatic than Breaking Bad. But the show quickly evolved into something more serious, with compelling depth. Today critics assert that the spinoff is not only as good as the original show, but that it even eclipses it.
This is why the writers wanted to give Saul his own show
It’s a good thing that audiences responded so well to Saul and his origin story. Because as much as viewers enjoy watching him, the show’s writers have loved writing him even more.
“We love writing for the character,” Gilligan told said once in an interview. “We love putting words in his mouth, and we had so much fun, indeed, doing that, that it started as a lark.”
The writers enjoyed the character so much that even when they were writing Breaking Bad they focused on Saul more than they needed to. The wrote so many lines for him that they had to get rid of most of them.
So it seemed to be a natural next step to give Saul his own show. Even when they were immersed in creating Walter’s story, they would joke about what they would do when they could write “the Saul Goodman Show.”
Saul is an unusual character who managed to surprise his writers twice. First, he expanded from a joke to an important character, then he took a show that was supposed to be more light-hearted, and turned it into a complex, compelling story. Most writers will tell you that a character like that doesn’t come along very often, so it’s no surprise that they wanted to stick with him for a little longer.
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