Better Call Saul had its premier on AMC tonight. I tuned it in with only the slightest of background. First I knew that Bob Odenkirk, who stars as Attorney Jimmy McGill last appeared on my TV as the empty-headed police chief in Fargo, the series. And second I knew that this same character was a regular on Breaking Bad. Third this new series was created by Vince Gilligan who was the creator of Breaking Bad, along with Peter Gould. This series is conceived as a prequel to Breaking Bad. At the same time it is a sequel as well. Our ‘hero’ Jimmy McGill would become ‘Saul Goodman’ after these sordid situations were settled.
But that’s as far as it goes for background.
I tuned in with the expectation of some funny moments – as in laugh out loud moments. You see, Jimmy McGill is a two-bit lawyer who is not very good at the law. He’s all about bravado and bullshit rather than brains. And he’s desperate for money. He sees the court room as a stage upon which he plays to cheering multitudes. As the series opened, the courtroom was twiddling its thumbs as McGill was rather late. He was down the hall, in the Men’s Lavatory practicing his opening speech – or maybe it was his closing speech. Not sure.
While some lawyers fall into the category of ambulance chasers, Jimmy McGill is at least two jumps ahead of them. Jimmy McGill creates the accidents which of course will require his services as the attorney of record. McGill was all about his pay-day. If his clients got convicted – well, that would be their problem, not his.
So my expectations were for a funny show. What I got instead was a televised version of the Theater of the Absurd. No one named Godot showed up, and certainly no one was waiting for him. Samuel Beckett, Eugene Ionesco, Harold Pinter, Jean Genet, and fellows of that ilk are not standing up from their graves to applaud. Of course.
But I mean – if they could, they wouldn’t. Is that absurd enough for you?
Odenkirk does a fine job of being ham-fisted, blustery, and dumb as the wheel on a skate board. He’s a man who not only would write his own press clippings, but he’d swear to their validity. In short, a legend in his own mind.
To the rest of the small suburb of Albuquerque, in New Mexico, he’s just some one that you hope that he’ll walk past you without stopping, and if he does stop to exchange some pleasantries, one would likely check to see if they still had their wallet, once he went on his way.
Despite a plethora of good reviews, I am on the other side of that discussion. The series began in a dull black and white setting sans dialogue before shifting to full color and people talking. Everything seemed a bit off. McGill’s office was in a back room of a Korean Nails and Toes salon. The Korean lady boss didn’t think much of him – she even denied him the cool drink he craved.
Cucumber water for customers only, she cried out in a voice loud enough to be heard by the whole store.
Jimmy headed into his office which was barely big enough for him to open his mail in. He had only an imaginary staff which went perfectly with the imaginary paint job his office was going through.
From this humble start, McGill headed out to the offices of his former firm – the upscale Hamlin, Hamlin & McGill. Jimmy has a connection to that firm – one called Chuck McGill, who for unspecified reasons – is unable to work. And apparently lives without electricity as well. Michael McKean who once upon a time starred with Laverne & Shirley in the hit show of the same name, plays Chuck. Hard to believe that L & S aired nearly 40 years ago.
Okay so much for the set up – the accident that McGill contrived with a couple of skate boarding slackers didn’t go down quite the way it was planned. McGill may have walked into a dangerous situation.
Which leads me to say that I’m not sure I will watch episode two called Mijo. Of course the Episodes titles are a part of the absurdist theme too. The first five episodes are entitled Uno, Mijo, Nacho, Hero, & Jello.
While rave reviews are piling up, and AMC has already authorized a Season Two, – so far, Better Call Saul has left me scratching my head about all the high praise. I’m in a different camp. Call me unimpressed.