‘Better Call Saul’ Reminds Us What Must See TV is Like Again

I cannot remember the last time I was this excited about a cable TV show. Game of Thrones perhaps? But even then you can catch HBO on demand. AMC at least for my cable subscription is a dangerous one and done. The kind that has strangled the cable industry, but I welcome the pace change. Not that it is too different from streaming now. Of the streaming shows I’ve been watching over the past couple of months: Black Bird, The Bear, and The Old Man all have fallen off from the binge model that started a scant 9 years ago on Netflix. Yes, my cable is one bad DVR programming mistake from blowing up thanks to AMC not always beginning or ending on time and few chances of repeats but I as a twenty-something cabler (a rare breed) am vigilant enough to tag along with my sixty-something father.

It’s a minor miracle Saul is still around since ratings have fallen off a cliff each season. But I imagine similar to how Breaking Bad was saved by Netflix, the same is true here. My father picked up Breaking Bad last year due to the pandemic and to my surprise trucked on through to Better Call Saul. I am surprised despite the great TV because I have never been hooked on Saul. The show just doesn’t have the dynamite premise of its predecessor. But the respect for the show’s craft by the network has granted patience to create a show that even rivals the great Breaking Bad, a favourite of our past Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The show is about a scheming lawyer who gets tangled up with the local mob in Albuquerque, New Mexico. To simplify it even further it’s like a slower-paced higher-stakes Suits. It requires a commitment to watch, but an exemplary commitment. The kind where you don’t have to sit through a mediocre season, rather you just have to invest in character without anything exciting happening at all times. But when it does, it all pays off.

The performances are excellent, the cinematography is top notch and the writing is superb. To go from a show like this where the plot is always humming along no matter the episode to the show’s knockoff cousin Ozark it is an insult that they get nominated for the same Emmy. If you want to be reminded of the capabilities of real TV: 13-episode seasons that are not overextended movies are the way to make you believe, perhaps too little too late, that great television, not movies, not miniseries, but true television is still possible.

Better Call Saul broadcasts on AMC Mondays at 9pm EST. The first 5 seasons are available on Netflix. The show is being marathoned this weekend ahead of the series finale.


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