Better Call Saul is an American television crime drama series created by Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould. It is a spin-off prequel of Breaking Bad, which was also created by Gilligan. Set in 2002, Better Call Saul follows the story of small-time lawyer James Morgan "Jimmy" McGill (Bob Odenkirk), six years before his appearance on Breaking Bad as Saul Goodman; events after the original series are briefly explored, as well.
The first season, which premiered on AMC on February 8, 2015, consists of 10 episodes. The show's 10-episode second season premiered on February 15, 2016. The series has been renewed for a 10-episode third season, which will premiere on April 10, 2017.
Like its predecessor, Better Call Saul has received critical acclaim. It has garnered several nominations, including fourteen Primetime Emmy Awards, seven Writers Guild of America Awards, five Critics' Choice Television Awards, a Screen Actors Guild Award and a Golden Globe Award. The series premiere held the record for the highest-rated scripted series premiere in basic cable history at the time of its airing.
In July 2012, Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan hinted at a possible spin-off about Saul Goodman. In a July 2012 interview, Gilligan said he liked "the idea of a lawyer show in which the main lawyer will do anything it takes to stay out of a court of law", including settling on the courthouse steps.
In April 2013, the series was confirmed to be in development by Gilligan and Gould; the latter wrote the Breaking Bad episode that introduced the character.
Bob Odenkirk stars as lawyer Jimmy McGill (known as Saul Goodman in Breaking Bad). In January 2014, it was announced that Jonathan Banks would reprise his Breaking Bad role as Mike Ehrmantraut and be a series regular. Aaron Paul announced having had "serious talks" with Gilligan for possible guest appearances, but later told The Huffington Post it was not going to happen. Dean Norris, another Breaking Bad alumnus, announced that he would not be appearing, partly due to his involvement in the CBS series Under the Dome. Anna Gunn also mentioned a "talk" with Gilligan over possible guest appearances.
Michael McKean was cast as McGill's brother Chuck, having previously guest-starred in an episode of Odenkirk's Mr. Show and Gilligan's X-Files episode "Dreamland". The cast also includes Patrick Fabian as Howard Hamlin, Rhea Seehorn as Kim Wexler, and Michael Mando as Ignacio "Nacho" Varga. In October 2014, Kerry Condon was cast as Stacey Ehrmantraut, Mike's daughter-in-law. In November 2014, it was announced that Julie Ann Emery and Jeremy Shamos had been cast as Betsy and Craig Kettleman, described as "the world's squarest outlaws."
By July 2013, the series had yet to be green-lighted. Netflix was one of many interested distributors, but ultimately a deal was made between AMC and Breaking Bad production company Sony Pictures Television. Gilligan and Gould serve as co-showrunners and Gilligan directed the pilot. Former Breaking Bad writers Thomas Schnauz and Gennifer Hutchison joined the writing staff, with Schnauz serving as co-executive producer and Hutchison as supervising producer. Also on the writing staff are Bradley Paul, and Gordon Smith, who was a writer's assistant on Breaking Bad.
In developing the series, the producers considered making the show a half-hour comedy, but ultimately chose an hour-long format more typical of drama. In October 2014, Odenkirk called the show "85 percent drama, 15 percent comedy." During his appearance on Talking Bad, Odenkirk noted that Saul was one of the most popular characters on the show, speculating that the audience likes the character because he is the program's least hypocritical figure, and is good at his job. Better Call Saul also employs Breaking Bad's signature time jumps.
As filming began on June 2, 2014, Gilligan expressed some concern regarding the possible disappointment from the series' turnout, in terms of audience reception.
On June 19, 2014, AMC announced it had renewed the series for a second season of 13 episodes to premiere in early 2016; however, it was later reduced to 10 episodes. The first teaser trailer debuted on AMC on August 10, 2014, and confirmed its premiere date of February 2015. In November 2014, AMC announced the series would have a two-night premiere; the first episode aired on Sunday, February 8, 2015, at 10:00 pm (ET), and then moved into its regular time slot the following night, airing Mondays at 10:00 pm. In May 2015, Gilligan confirmed that more of the prominent characters from Breaking Bad would be making guest appearances in season 2, but remained vague on which characters were likely to be seen.
In March 2016, AMC announced that Better Call Saul was renewed for a 10-episode third season.
Like its predecessor, Better Call Saul is set and filmed in Albuquerque, New Mexico.Bob Odenkirk as James Morgan "Jimmy" McGill, a lawyer and a former scam artist, who becomes involved with the criminal world.
Jonathan Banks as Mike Ehrmantraut, a former Philadelphia police officer working independently as a parking lot attendant, and later a private investigator and "cleaner".
Rhea Seehorn as Kim Wexler, a lawyer working at the Hamlin, Hamlin & McGill (HHM) law firm who is Jimmy's close friend and love interest.
Patrick Fabian as Howard Hamlin, the co-founder of Hamlin, Hamlin & McGill and Jimmy's former nemesis.
Michael Mando as Ignacio "Nacho" Varga, a chop shop worker who is also an intelligent, ambitious member of Tuco Salamanca's gang.
Michael McKean as Charles "Chuck" McGill, Jr., Jimmy's brother and a named partner at HHM who is confined to his home by electromagnetic hypersensitivity.
Kerry Condon as Stacey Ehrmantraut, Mike's daughter-in-law and the mother of Kaylee Ehrmantraut.
Faith Healey (season 1) and Abigail Zoe Lewis (season 2) as Kaylee Ehrmantraut, Mike's granddaughter.
Eileen Fogarty as Mrs. Nguyen, owner of a nail salon which houses Jimmy's law office (and home) in its back room.
Joe DeRosa as Dr. Caldera, a veterinarian who serves as Mike Ehrmantraut's liaison to criminal employers.
Dennis Boutsikaris as Rick Schweikart, the attorney for Sandpiper Crossing.
Mark Proksch as Daniel "Pryce" Wormald, a small-time drug dealer who hires Mike as security.
Brandon K. Hampton as Ernesto, Chuck's assistant who works at HHM.
Josh Fadem as Joey Dixon, a film student that helps Jimmy film various projects.
Jeremy Shamos and Julie Ann Emery as Craig and Betsy Kettleman, a county treasurer and his wife, accused of embezzlement.
Steven Levine and Daniel Spenser Levine as Lars and Cal Lindholm, twin skateboarders and small-time scam artists.
Míriam Colón as Abuelita, Tuco's grandmother and Hector's mother.
Barry Shabaka Henley as Detective Sanders, a Philadelphia cop who was formerly partnered with Mike on the force.
Mel Rodriguez as Marco Pasternak, Jimmy's best friend and partner-in-crime in Cicero, Illinois.
Clea DuVall as Dr. Cruz, a doctor who treats Chuck and suspects his condition is psychosomatic.
Ed Begley, Jr. as Clifford Main, law partner of Davis & Main.
Omar Maskati as Omar, Jimmy's assistant at Davis & Main.
Jessie Ennis as Erin Brill, a lawyer at Davis & Main who is ordered to shadow Jimmy.
Vincent Fuentes as Arturo, a criminal associate of Hector Salamanca.
Rex Linn as Kevin Wachtell, chairman of Mesa Verde Bank and Trust and a client of HHM and Kim.
Cara Pifko as Paige Novick, senior legal counsel for Mesa Verde Bank and Trust and a friend of Kim
Raymond Cruz as Tuco Salamanca, a ruthless, psychotic drug distributor in the South Valley.
Cesar Garcia as No-Doze, Tuco's henchman. (season 1)
Jesus Payan Jr. as Gonzo, Tuco's henchman. (season 1)
T.C. Warner as a nurse. (season 1)
Kyle Bornheimer as Ken ("Ken Wins"), an arrogant, self-absorbed stockbroker. (season 2)
Stoney Westmoreland as Officer Saxton, an Albuquerque Police Department officer. (season 2)
Jim Beaver as Lawson, a local weapons dealer in Albuquerque. (season 2)
Maximino Arciniega as Domingo "Krazy-8" Molina, one of Tuco's distributors. (season 2)
Mark Margolis as Hector "Tío" Salamanca, Tuco's uncle and high-ranking member of the cartel. (season 2)
Debrianna Mansini as Fran, a waitress at Loyola's Diner. (season 2)
Daniel and Luis Moncada as Leonel and Marco Salamanca, Tuco's cousins and Hector's nephews who are hitmen for the cartel. (season 2)
Jennifer Hasty as Stephanie Doswell, a real estate agent. (season 2)
Giancarlo Esposito as Gus Fring, a methamphetamine distributor who uses his fast food restaurant chain as a front. (season 3)
Javier Grajeda as Juan Bolsa, a high-level member of the Juárez drug cartel. (season 3)
Additionally, Bryan Cranston has expressed interest in reprising his role as Walter White in a small cameo.
Talking Saul is a live aftershow hosted by Chris Hardwick, which features guests discussing episodes of Better Call Saul. The show uses the same format as Talking Dead and Talking Bad, similar aftershows also hosted by Hardwick. AMC announced that Talking Saul would air after the second season Better Call Saul premiere on February 15, 2016, and again after the second-season finale on April 18, 2016.
In December 2013, Netflix announced that the entire first season would be available for streaming in the U.S. after the airing of the first-season finale, and in Latin America and Europe each episode would be available a few days after the episode airs in the U.S. However, the first season was not released on Netflix in the U.S. until February 1, 2016.
Netflix is the exclusive video-on-demand provider for the series and makes the content available in all its territories, except for Australia and New Zealand. In Australia, Better Call Saul premiered on the streaming service Stan on February 9, 2015, acting as the service's flagship program. In New Zealand, the show is exclusive to the New Zealand-based subscription video-on-demand service, Lightbox. The episodes were available for viewing within three days of broadcast in the U.S.
In the United Kingdom and Ireland, the series was acquired by Netflix on December 16, 2013, and the first episode premiered on February 9, 2015, with the second episode released the following day. Every subsequent episode was released each week thereafter. In India, the series is broadcast on Colors Infinity within 24 hours of the U.S. broadcast.
The series premiere drew in 4.4 million and 4 million in the 18–49 and 25–54 demographics, respectively, and received an overall viewership of 6.9 million. This was the record for the highest-rated scripted series premiere in basic cable history, until it was surpassed later the same year by another AMC series, Fear the Walking Dead.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the first season has a rating of 97%, based on 56 reviews, with an average rating of 8.2/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Better Call Saul is a quirky, dark character study that manages to stand on its own without being overshadowed by the series that spawned it." On the review aggregator website Metacritic, the first season has a score of 78 out of 100, based on 43 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
In his review of the two-episode premiere, Hank Stuever of The Washington Post graded it a "B+" and wrote the series "is right in line with the tone and style of the original, now-classic series", and that it "raises more questions in two hours than it will readily answer". Stephen Marche of Esquire wrote that the first few episodes were better than those of Breaking Bad. Kirsten Acuna of Business Insider declared the initial episodes "everything you could possibly want from a spinoff television series". Alesandra Stanley of The New York Times wrote, "Better Call Saul is better than good: It's delightful – in a brutal, darkly comic way, of course." Vulture writer Eric Konisberg noted the show was special as it was "the first spinoff of this golden age of premium cable."
On Rotten Tomatoes, the second season has a score of 97%, based on 26 reviews, with an average rating of 8.7/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Better Call Saul continues to tighten its hold on viewers with a batch of episodes that inject a surge of dramatic energy while showcasing the charms of its talented lead." On the review aggregator website Metacritic, the second season has a score of 85 out of 100, based on 18 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".
Chuck Bowen of Slant Magazine gave it a perfect four star review and wrote, "the show's writing is as economic and poetically parred [as its visual aesthetic]. Each moment is compact, leading to the next with unpredictable, behaviorally astute precision." Daniel D'Addario of Time praised the show and wrote, "in its second season, Better Call Saul allows us into a new world of complexity by deepening one of the show's pivotal relationships. It's the best-case scenario for a spin-off: a show that occupies a familiar world but opens up entirely new themes."
The first season was released on Blu-ray and DVD in region 1 on November 10, 2015. The set contains all 10 episodes, plus audio commentaries for every episode, uncensored episodes, deleted scenes, gag reel, and several behind-the-scenes featurettes. A limited edition Blu-ray set was also released with 3D packaging and a postcard vinyl of the Better Call Saul theme song by Junior Brown. The second season was released on Blu-ray and DVD in region 1 on November 15, 2016. The set contains all 10 episodes, plus audio commentaries for every episode and several behind-the-scenes featurettes.
AMC has released two digital comic books for Better Call Saul. The first, titled Better Call Saul: Client Development, released in February 2015, in advance of the series premiere, details the history of Saul and Mike, acting as a spin-off of the Breaking Bad episode that introduced Saul. In February 2016, in advance of the second-season premiere, AMC released Better Call Saul: Saul Goodman and the Justice Consortium In the Clutches of the Judgernaut!.