A spin-off with a good start

“Better Call Saul” breaks off from “Breaking Bad”

Unlike movies, television has no sequels. It has spin-offs.

The number of successful and critically acclaimed TV shows pales in comparison to the volume of “good” movies out there. This is due to the length of a series, the amount of people involved in making TV shows and frankly (that is, until the dawn of Netflix) TV shows were always known as “lesser” forms of cinema compared to films.

As we as viewers of TV help continue the current “television renaissance” that is often viewed on a computer, few can deny AMC hit series “Breaking Bad” as the Mona Lisa of television. It is no surprise that AMC and creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould would like to continue the “Heisenberg” mania with a spin-off.

Spin-offs can be rather hit or miss and always seem like a better idea than they usually end up becoming. Though many had doubts behind the concept of “Frasier,” a spin-off from “Cheers” centered on supporting character, Frasier, it proved to be incredibly popular and as equally entertaining as the original series. Then there is “Joey,” which of course was a tragically unsuccessful spin-off of the hugely popular cult favorite, “Friends.” Few at the time could argue that it would not be an instant hit, but sadly it did not have the same chemistry as “Friends.”

Like many, I had my doubts while tuning in for “Better Call Saul,” of course a spin-off to one of my all-time favorite shows, “Breaking Bad.” Thankfully, after watching the first episode at a Jolly Scholar viewing party, I am reluctantly hopeful about the series.

The series starts with a dream-like black and white flash-forward to Saul Goodman after “Breaking Bad.” It is eerie, quiet and basically reminds me of the opening from its parent show. After creating empathy for this scummy lawyer, the series cleanly flashes back six years go to when Saul Goodman was Jimmy McGill.

Clearly, the series will take us through the transformation of McGill to Goodman, as we also experienced White becoming jaded and turning into Heisenberg.

Also like “Breaking Bad,” “Better Call Saul” had brilliant lighting and cinematography, which is not all that common for television, and made Gilligan’s work exemplary. Gilligan throws in plenty of foreshadowing around props and, of course, offers plenty of violence.

At the time original for television, “Breaking Bad” has some seriously violent subject matter, and “Better Call Saul” will be just as dark. Goodman’s first defendants in the series are teens who violently defamed a corpse.

Without spoiling anything for those who have not watched it, I was surprised by the amount of cameos from “Breaking Bad,” and I can only imagine that will increase throughout the series. As a fan of the original show, I am extremely excited about this, but as a hopeful for this show, I am cautious.

One of the reasons “Frasier” was so successful was it was a standalone show that had little crossover from “Cheers” and in many ways had a completely different tone from the last show. If “Better Call Saul” hopes to be less of a gimmick, it will need to follow this same strategy.

With that, I am hopeful for “Better Call Saul,” as I am for most shows on AMC. If all else fails, just throw in some zombies, and the show will be fine.

Show: “Better Call Saul”
Starring: Bob Odenkirk, Rhea Seehorn
Air Time: Mondays, 10 p.m.
Rating: 4/5