Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Catch Up TV... Missed the TV Moment Everyone's Talking about? Alastair McKay Looks at the Shows You Should Have Watched (and Still Can) and Gives a Serial Update

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Catch Up TV... Missed the TV Moment Everyone's Talking about? Alastair McKay Looks at the Shows You Should Have Watched (and Still Can) and Gives a Serial Update

Article excerpt

Byline: Alastair McKay

COULD you, should you watch Better Call Saul (Netflix) if you have no knowledge of Breaking Bad, the show from which its central character is drawn? Absolutely you can, and you should, because though it is an "origin story", set six years before the start of its parent series, you don't need to know anything about chemistry teacher Walter White, or his accidental descent into the industrial manufacture of methamphetamine, to understand the parameters of the new drama. In fact, an excess of foreknowledge might obscure things, because Saul is lighter in tone, more comedic than Breaking Bad, and works on its own terms.

So while it's fair to surmise that most of the early audience will be familiar with legal sleazebag Saul Goodman, and will appreciate the appearance of the superbad, super-stupid villain Tuco (who exits, stage left, in the second series of Breaking Bad), Better Call Saul has its own twisted logic. Its mood is pulpier and closer to, say, Elmore Leonard than the more brittle Breaking Bad, which operated as a fantastic, "what if" in which an everyman descended accidentally into the criminal underworld.

Saul, who isn't yet known as Saul, is down-on-his-luck lawyer James McGill (Bob Odenkirk), who operates from a shoebox office at the back of a Korean toenail parlour in New Mexico. He's a tragicomic character, a spivvy dreamer who crashes his rustbucket car a Suzuki Esteem, irony fans into a skateboarder who is working a scam to extort damages from blameless drivers. McGill decides to amplify the racket by hustling a rich woman and, well, things don't quite work out as planned.

There's much to enjoy, but the key thing is the language. Writer/creator Vince Gilligan and co-writer Peter Gould know their idiom, so this is a world where people go "ass over teakettle", where a man can grow weary of too many "bullcrap piss-ant PD cases", and where a grandmother-loving gangster can pour oceans of menace into the phrase "Are you punking my abuelita? …

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