Written by Jane Bostock

Arts

A Law Unto Himself

Breaking Bad prequel Better Call Saul airs in the US on Sunday night and will be available on Netflix the following day. Jane Bostock explains why she can’t wait.

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Bob Odenkirk as Saul Goodman, “not a criminal lawyer, a criminal lawyer.” Picture courtesy of Netflix.

For me, TV viewing is a torturous affair. I don’t do soap operas as the commitment to same-time, same-place viewing is tantamount to marriage and I’ve already got one of those. Also, have the EastEnders writers been to East London of late? I won’t be watching until the Queen Vic becomes a Waitrose and the place is teeming with prepubescent hipsters on Fixi penny farthings. Until there’s a pop-up farmers’ market in Albert Square and the indigenous London folk are priced out of the area and re-homed in out-of-season B&Bs in Hastings.

Talent shows are also unwatchable. Which is why I sometimes go blinking into the sun, read a book or simply sit in a corner quietly weeping.

What I’m saying is it tends to be a biannual event when I get excited about TV. But I am beside myself with joy that Better Call Saul, the Breaking Bad prequel based around wise-cracking and morally ambiguous lawyer Saul Goodman is arriving shortly.

Historically, I have always missed the boat when the next massive TV event arrives from across the Atlantic. I didn’t watch The Wire until a lovely friend lent me the box set, years after everyone had digested and grieved the passing of the five-series masterpiece. I’d never watched TV like it – like a marathon Hollywood blockbuster.

This time last year I had not begun Breaking Bad. Then, late to the party, I got Netflix and once more rejoiced in being able to watch something gripping and entertaining. The acting was pitch perfect, the characterisations beautifully complex and ever changing. It was brutal and made you hang off your seat in anticipation of the next twist and turn. The lines between good and bad blurred, so you’d sometimes find yourself hoping things that in real life you would be horrified at yourself for wishing.

We would binge watch, then feel dreadful the next day, like we had a hangover. “Why did we watch five hours in a row? We’ve lost a weeks’ worth of viewing in one Saturday!” Towards the end of the final series, we rationed ourselves to one episode a day, the anxiety rising like a wave within that the end was in sight and I would be once more cast adrift into a putrid sea of terrestrial audio visual sewage.

The arrival of slippery, low-rent lawyer Saul Goodman was the highlight of what was already a gem of a series. He provided almost Shakespearean light relief intertwined with the often harrowing content. While dressed like a 1950s US game show host.

His tacky surrounds and badly-made cable TV ads belied a keen legal nous for getting criminals who should be locked up out of the hands of the judicial system and back on the streets A strong sense of self-preservation, no matter the consequences and a sleazy charm make him gold to watch. He gets all the good lines too: “Don’t drink and drive, but if you do call me.”

Saul is played by stand-up comedian and Saturday Night Live veteran Bob Odenkirk, whose comedy timing is right on the money. Effortlessly funny in an understated way, he steals every scene he is in. No wonder the temptation was strong to cast him as the lead in his own show.

Anticipation of Better Call Saul fills me with excitement – and dread. Spin-offs are known for not always hitting the target. But the Breaking Bad creator is on board so there is a strong chance of something very good. Now, if only we could convince them to write for EastEnders.

(And, if you’re ever in trouble…. www.bettercallsaul.com)

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Written by Jane Bostock

A human, like you.