My Rating ***
Genre – TV BOX Set Drama/Comedy
Run Time – 10 x 50 minute episodes
Certificate – 15
Country – U.S.A
Golden Globes – 1 Nomination
EMMY’s – 7 nominations
Awards – 22 Wins & 118 Nominations
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So, Better Call Saul, the spin off to the outstanding Breaking Bad, both shows written and created by Vince Gilligan. If you are over 30-years-old and have not seen Breaking Bad you really really should, the tale of a middle-class Albuquerque chemistry teacher (Bryan Cranston) who teams up with one of his ex deadbeat students, Jessie Pinkham (Aaron Paul) ,to make top class meth, the teacher needing the money to set up his family for life as he has been diagnosed with brain cancer.
Better Call Saul is set in 2002, a few years before Walter White came into our TV lives, centering on Shyster lawyer James McGill (soon to be Saul Goodman) antics in New Mexico. After the success and worldwide acclaim of BB, anticipation was extremely high for Better Call Saul and scored the second highest debut ratings in cable history in America, with an overall 7.0 million viewers for its first episode. Fear the Walking Dead (2015) would better that record with 10.1 million viewers in its first episode two months later. Both Gilligan shows were screened on smaller channel TMC in the US, the money made from syndication now.
Bob Odenkirk … Jimmy McGill 40 episodes, 2015-2018
Jonathan Banks … Mike Ehrmantraut 40 episodes, 2015-2018
Rhea Seehorn … Kim Wexler 40 episodes, 2015-2018
Patrick Fabian … Howard Hamlin 40 episodes, 2015-2018
Michael Mando … Nacho Varga 40 episodes, 2015-2018
Michael McKean … Chuck McGill 32 episodes, 2015-2018
Jimmy ’Swifty’ McGill (Bob Odenkirk) is a small-time lawyer/ hustler from Albuquerque New Mexcio and has just pulled another stunt with two skateboarders to fake a car accident to get a payout. Unfortunately they hit the wrong car and end up in the house of a Mexican drug dealer Tuco Salamanca (Raymond Cruz) and his distraught grandmother, meaning a trip to the desert and three holes in the ground. It won’t be the last time he runs into Nacho Vargo (Michael Mando) and his goons after another close call.
Back in town he becomes involved in an embezzlement case involving the Kettleman family, who are represented by his esteemed lawyer brother Charles McGill’s firm Hamlin, Hamlin & McGill (HHM). Chuck is suffering from agoraphobia and confined to his house and so hasn’t worked for two years and Jimmy finds time to take care of him.
Jimmy’s plan is to become the Kettleman’s lawyer, the accountant husband charged with embezzling $1.5 million dollars from the state. The Kettleman’s choosing Jimmy causes his best friend Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn), the HHM associate overseeing the case, to be demoted for losing the Kettleman’s business. Empowered by getting a big case Jimmy has a makeover from his Kettleman retainer and buys a billboard on the interstate to advertise his services, and to intimidate his arch enemy Howard Hamlin (Patrick Phabian) at HH& McGill. It works and the two soon at each other’s throats.
In Jimmy’s everyday court cases with everyday perps and clients we meet Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks), an ex Philadelphia cop who has moved to Albuquerque to be close to his daughter-in-law and granddaughter, now working as a parking booth attendant at the courthouse, where he begrudgingly banters with Jimmy most days. Mike is also “muscle for hire” within the Albuquerque criminal underworld and maybe able to help Jimmy with his case after Jimmy helps him out with a legal problem.
Jimmy’s billboard antic gains public attention, his phone getting busy, older client’s particular keen for his services. He decides to specialize in elder law and dress like Matlock; essential viewing in old folk’s homes and someone they can trust. And it’s at one of those homes when things really start to look up for Jimmy, a potential multi-million pond class-action against the Sandpiper Retirement Homes Group in the offering, a firm who have been fleecing their resident’s funds by over charging for everyday items. But when Chuck persuades Jimmy its too big a job for him and makes him bring in HH & McGill to help with logistics he loses some trust with his brother, the only good thing in his life right now,
From its grand total of 30 Emmy, SAGS and Golden Globes nominations for the four seasons so far it has won nothing, those results telling its own story. Everyone is convinced this is good but it’s just OK to me although I have watched only one season. Everyone wanted it to be great as Breaking Bad and do nominated it accordingly but so far it’s not, even though it slowly introduces big characters from Breaking Bad to tease back that anticipation.
It’s a slow boiler as season one is essentially introducing new and old Gilligan characters and filling out Jimmy’s back-story, right back to when he was a young conman in Chicago. It’s almost like Gilligan had the luxury to write a slow season one as he knew there would be further seasons to crank it up and so could be meticulous and self-indulgent in the opener, very few writers having that luxury in television these days. In the US you can write a great season but if the pilot doesn’t get traction with an audience it’s dead.
Season one center’s around Jimmy’s relationship with his superior older brother Charles and how that has shaped Jimmy’s life. The love interest is requited and the Mexican drug cartel menace lurking in the cactus shadows ready for season two.
I enjoyed it to a point with the familiar mix of light and dark humor, likewise characters and non-descript locations and ready for season two. But I’m not feverish for season two like I was with Breaking Bad and so yet to order it.
With Gilligan it’s focusing on the ordinary contrasting with Albuquerque’s picturesque Hispanic mix scenery that makes it all so atmospheric. Throw in a menace in that quiet suburbia and you have a show. The familiar soundtrack is also there and anticipation as you wait for the next Breaking Bad character to appear, the balding drug kingpin Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) in season two, they say.
Imdb.com – 8.7/10.0 (238,324votes)
Rottentomatos.com – % critic’s approval
Metacritic.com – % critic’s approval