Better Call Saul: Breaking Bad spin-off gets thumbs up from US critics

The series will be available on Netflix in the UK in February

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The Independent Culture

Spin-offs from hit shows rarely recreate the magic of the original. But Better Call Sequel could buck the trend after critics praised the Breaking Bad “prequel”.

The series, devised by Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan, makes small-time lawyer Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) the central character and is set six years before his appearance on the award-winning Breaking Bad.

US cable network AMC will premiere the series next month but critics given a preview of the opening three episodes, which return viewers to the New Mexico locale, delivered a favourable response.

The Washington Post said the series was “right in line with the tone and style of the original, now-classic series. And like its predecessor, Better Call Saul raises more questions in two hours than it will readily answer, which means Breaking Bad fans will soon realise that their favourite rock has rolled all the way to the bottom of the hill.”

Business Insider said: “There’s an incredible amount of payoff for fans of the original series with subtle nods and references to the parent show. For those of you who may be groaning and rolling your eyes, don’t worry. The show doesn’t overdo it. If you’re not looking for the references, you most likely won’t even see some hidden in plain sight.”

 

The Hollywood Reporter said the series was a huge risk since recent landmark dramas like The Sopranos and The Wire had not attempted a sequel. “But there’s no question that Gilligan and Gould have earned the right to attempt this. So going along for the ride, no matter how it unspools, seems absolutely essential,” the showbusiness title said.

Variety offered a cautious welcome. “Unlike Breaking Bad, the show won’t have the luxury of sneaking up on anybody,” the entertainment industry magazine said. “For now, Saul contains some attractive elements, fine moments and a fabulous pedigree, but even Jimmy/Saul (the character’s real name is James) might be forced to concede the jury’s still out in terms of proving it has the right formula.”

Indie Wire said: “What’s most exciting about Better Call Saul is actually how well-mired in the world that is the reality of the legal system — how tedious and unglamorous and un-”Law and Order”-ish it is, to be processed by the courts. Even after Saul/Jimmy starts to dig into a case that might be his making, the polyester and linoleum of local courtrooms proves to be a key undercurrent. And it helps the series feel like its genuinely own self.”

Better Call Saul, which reprises another Breaking Bad character in Mike Ehrmantraut, Saul's private investigator, will air exclusively on Netflix in the UK, shortly after its US broadcast.

However the television graveyard is littered with ill-conceived spin-offs. Joey, the hugely-hyped Friends spin-off starring Matt LeBlanc, was cancelled after two disappointing series.

Supernatural series The X Files spawned a spin-off, The Lone Gunmen in 2001, revolving around characters who ran a conspiracy theory magazine, but it was axed after 13 episodes.

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