We've got both some good and bad news for fans of Breaking Bad's resident criminal lawyer Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk). First, the bad news. Contrary to previous reports, AMC's spin-off/prequel series Better Call Saul will not in fact premiere in 2014. Instead, early 2015 has been chosen for Saul's 10-episode debut season.
Now, the good news, which just might make up for the delay. Better Call Saul has already been renewed for a 13-episode second season, guaranteeing that fans will get to spend at least 23 more hours in Vince Gilligan's twisted version of New Mexico.
While a specific premiere date has yet to be set, AMC has confirmed that Better Call Saul will be paired up with The Walking Dead (and its sister show Talking Dead) in both the first quarter of 2015 and the first quarter of 2016. Walking Dead's usual pattern is airing 8 episodes from mid-October to early December, then airing 8 more episodes from mid-February to late March. This would put Saul's likely debut date sometime in February 2015, possibly March at the latest.
On the surface, Better Call Saul doesn't exactly seem like a natural partner for The Walking Dead. After all, the former is a comedic crime/legal drama, and the latter is a dark, grim, post-apocalyptic horror story. It's hard to get much further apart in genre than that. That said, Walking Dead is the most watched scripted series in all of television among the prized 18-49 demographic. AMC would have to be nuts to not try and use that platform to promote Saul. Expect the network to run plenty of ads for Saul during the first half of Walking Dead's fifth season, and maybe even have Odenkirk appear as a guest on Talking Dead. AMC clearly wants Saul to be a huge hit, and they have no bigger recruiting tool than Robert Kirkman's zombie opus.
Joining the always hilarious Odenkirk in Saul's regular cast will be fellow Breaking Bad vet Jonathan Banks, reprising his role as professional fixer Mike Ehrmantraut. As if bringing back a fan favorite character wasn't enough of a casting coup, also entering the mix is comedy veteran Michael McKean, who'll play rival lawyer Dr. Thurber. Few comic actors can trade lines with Bob Odenkirk without being outclassed, but it can be easily argued that McKean is one of them. The rumor mill has also suggested that Aaron Paul will put in some type of appearance as Jesse Pinkman, although that has never been officially confirmed in any way by AMC.
Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan is set to direct Better Call Saul's first episode, and will then share showrunning duties with Peter Gould. That arrangement makes perfect sense, as while Gould created the Saul Goodman character during his time as a writer/producer for Breaking Bad, he has no experience holding the top job on a show. If year one goes well, don't be surprised if Gilligan bows out completely, handing the reins fully over to Gould.
Breaking Bad was a cultural phenomenon quite unlike most cable dramas. Will Better Call Saul repeat its success? AMC better hope so, as they now have Saul Goodman's services on retainer for the next two years.
Better Call Saul premieres in the first quarter of 2015. It has already been renewed for a second season.