It’s the most anticipated new TV show of the new year but it also has a familiar ring to it: next Sunday, Breaking Bad prequel cum spin-off Better Call Saul launches in the US, before premiering on UK Netflix the following day, and cable network AMC will be hoping that the same mass cult that developed around odd-couple drug dealers Walter White and Jesse Pinkman will be similarly enthralled by the solo misdemeanours of Breaking Bad’s corrupt lawyer Saul Goodman.
Which got us thinking, should it be successful – and early reviews suggest it will – might it herald a rash of spin-off series from producers looking for their own easy ratings-spinner? And if so, who from the ranks of TV’s supporting characters are similarly deserving of their own moment in the spotlight? Here, because no one asked, are our thoughts:
Game of Thrones
If origin stories are all the rage these days, then no character’s provenance is more intriguing than that of the fantasy epic’s gentle giant with the habit of repeating his own name. More formally experimental than its parent show, thanks to its often trance-inducingly repetitive screenplay, this coming of age drama will follow our young, vertically advantaged hero as he overcomes his linguistically repressed upbringing and discovers the power of inflection with the help of a wisecracking voice coach. HBO insiders are already calling it “The King’s Speech. Except with more gratuitously underclothed wenches, obvs.”
Hodor, a stableboy at Winterfel. Character from the series 'Game of Thrones', played by Kristian Nairn
What about Steve?
Now the hit ITV procedural has turned into a courtroom drama less convincing than Judge Judy, it’s time to go back to one of the great conundrums of the first series, namely the fabulously surplus-to-requirements character that was Will Mellor’s creepy, clairvoyant telephone engineer Steve. Given that the end of the first series seemed to point to his being genuinely psychic rather than just Jambo from Hollyoaks pretending to think, this dark anti-procedural will see our disturbed loner visionary sticking his nose into murder cases by night, while tending to malfunctioning BT home hubs by day. Rosemary and Thyme meets Raging Bull, in a phrase.
Will Mellor as Steve Connelly in Broadchurch (Photo by ITV/REX)
Climb Every Mountford
We can pinpoint the moment The Apprentice died for us: 9.00pm on 17 December 2014, when it was revealed that Margaret Mountford would no longer appear in the show’s interview round, thereby marking her final exit from the jamboree of middle-manager twattery. Before we Mountford acolytes take to change.org however, BBC producers should compensate by extracting her from that awful “Margaret and Nick support the Tory agenda” anthology series and giving her her own Apprentice-goes-academic show, in which the newly qualified Egyptologist tests out prospective research assistants, with those arch eyebrows going into overdrive as the sorry excuses for candidates screw up citations and ask “where’s Tooting Car Moon?”.
Margaret Mountford, Nick Hewer in Nick & Margaret: Too Many Immigrants? (C) Silver River Productions Limited -
Photographer: Alex Maguire/BBC)
In the Red Room!
The return of David Lynch’s boundary-breaking small-town mystery in 2016 is too momentous to let slide by with just the one show. We suggest a lighter companion-piece, a sitcom set in Agent Cooper’s becurtained dream space in which it transpires that, when not being ominous, the dancing dwarf, Killer BOB and Laura Palmer’s spirit are just your regular room-mates, leaving angry Post-it notes and interfering in each other’s romantic lives with hilarious results. To paraphrase the famous Seinfeld dictum, there will be “no hugging, and OK, maybe a bit of killing.”
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie (Rex/Moviestore Collection)
The Sally Draper Chronicles
Great as this programme has been, we’ve grown bored of Don Draper’s inscrutable moral vacuum shtick. So now the series is ending, AMC, here’s your chance to throw the spotlight on the screwed-up soul we really care about. Which is to say we need to know what the progression to adulthood of Don and Betty’s precociously damaged daughter means for the Seventies and Eighties: we’re imagining a move to LA, an ironically-selected career as a therapist, a continuing Electra complex and endless rounds of tequila sunrises set against the backdrop of nuclear paranoia and disco.
Mad Men, Series 7. January Jones as Betty Francis, Evan Londo as Gene Draper, Mason Vale Cotton as Bobby Draper, Kiernan Shipka as Sally Draper (©Lionsgate)
Parks and Recreation
Rashida Jones, Michael Schur, Nick Offerman, Adam Scott, Chris Pratt, Aziz Ansari, Amy Poehler, Jim O'Heir, Aubrey Plaza and Rob Lowe. (Jason Kempin | Getty Images)
With Amy Poehler’s sitcom now into its final season, the whole Pawnee Parks department is going to be sorely missed, but the character most obviously clamouring for an after-life is the sage, enigmatic office manager Donna Meagle. We propose a show that finally allows us access to her innermost thoughts by taking us into her inner sanctum, aka her precious Mercedes SUV, as she dispenses monologues to a camera attached to the dashboard, à la Rob Brydon in Marion and Geoff. Topics could include her rotation of men and favourite show Game of Thrones.
220 Baker Street
Sherlock series three: Una Stubbs as Mrs Hudson
As Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman’s stars rise ever higher, the new series of Steven Moffat’s Holmes update look set to become more infrequent – so what about a stopgap focusing on Una Stubbs’ landlady? We suggest setting her up as the proprietor of the next door café - as she was in the original, unaired pilot, in fact - thus making for the perfect Sunday teatime, Cheers meets Last of the Summer of the Wine comedy-drama in which she chinwags with local residents as they sip cuppas and make a valiant last stand against gentrification.
Look Who’s Talking
Celebrity Big Brother will seem like child’s play next to the calculated agony of this new social experiment in which Marcus Bentley, Peter Dickson and Dave Lamb – the voices of Big Brother, X Factor and Come Dine with Me – will live in a house together while simultaneously attempting to narrate each other’s minute-to-minute actions as they battle for the title of TV’s most arch voiceover artist. A surprise twist will see Blind Date’s Our Graham enter the house in the third week and conquer all.
‘Better Call Saul’ premieres on Netflix on 9 February with new episodes launching every Tuesday