'Better Call Saul' Exists Because Of A Dumb Joke

A lawyer, a parking lot attendant, and a fast food manager walk into a bar …
'Better Call Saul' Exists Because Of A Dumb Joke

Tonight we finally get to see the conclusion of Better Call Saul – and barring a finale that is randomly set entirely on a Holodeck, it will likely go down in history as one of the greatest spin-offs in TV history to not feature Frasier Crane … yet. There’s still one episode left, after all, and who knows what’s going to happen? In retrospect, it’s impressive that the acclaimed Breaking Bad prequel rose to such artistic heights since its origins were anything but auspicious …

According to co-creator Peter Gould, Better Call Saul began as a throwaway joke in the Breaking Bad writers' room; if someone pitched an idea that was deemed to be “too silly,” they would jokingly claim: “we’ll do that on the Saul Goodman spinoff.” Even when the notion of a Saul Goodman series became a reality, it wasn’t taken 100% seriously. Originally the plan was to make a half-hour sitcom in the vein of the animated comedy Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist – which incidentally once featured Saul himself, Bob Odenkirk. 

The idea was that each week, Saul would be visited by a different stand-up comedian in need of legal advice. But that premise was scrapped when Gould and Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan realized that they didn’t “know anything about the half-hour idiom,” thus depriving the world of a show in which Saul Goodman would, say, handle Paul F. Tompkins’ overdue parking tickets. Obviously, this was just the kernel of an idea, but it’s still kind of surprising that any project could go from a light-hearted riff on a Comedy Central cartoon to an occasionally soul-crushing drama in which drug dealers get shot in the head on a weekly basis. 

The pair then moved onto an idea that would have made Saul a “sort of a Jerry Maguire for criminals” in that he was “assembling teams” of crooks and “getting involved in their personal lives” – not profiting off of potential brain injuries and/or drunkenly groping his female employees. That too, fell by the wayside when the pair realized that Jimmy’s transformation into Saul was the ultimate “tragedy” of the story … well, that and being stuck in a windowless Cinnabon.

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Thumbnail: AMC 


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