Set in the extremely early to mid-2000s, the collection abides by the story of con-man changed small-time lawyer Jimmy McGill (played by Bob Odenkirk), beginning 6 years before the events of Breaking Bad along with disclosing his makeover right into the identification of criminal for hire Saul Goodman. McGill becomes the lawyer for previous law enforcement agents Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks), whose abilities allow him to enter the criminal void of medication trafficking in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The expose premiered on AMC on February 8, 2015, broadcasting 5 durations today. A sixth and also last season is scheduled to air in 2021.
McGill is initially working as a low-paid lawyer, with the back room of a nail salon as his home and also office. His friend and romantic interest Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn) works as a lawyer at the firm of Hamlin, Hamlin & McGill (HHM), where she and Jimmy once worked in the mailroom. Partners at HHM include Jimmy's nemesis Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian) and his brother Chuck McGill (Michael McKean). Ehrmantraut conducts illegal drug distribution with Nacho Varga (Michael Mando), in addition to becoming right-hand man for drug lord Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) who runs a chain of fast food restaurants as a business front. Their operations are disrupted by members of the Salamanca crime family, including Lalo Salamanca (Tony Dalton). Odenkirk, Banks, and Esposito all reprise their roles from Breaking Bad.
Better Call Saul has received critical acclaim, with particular praise for its acting, characters, and cinematography; many critics have called it a worthy successor to Breaking Bad and one of the best prequels ever made, with some deeming it superior to its predecessor. It has garnered many nominations, including a Peabody Award, 23 Primetime Emmy Awards, eleven Writers Guild of America Awards, five Critics' Choice Television Awards, a Screen Actors Guild Award, and two Golden Globe Awards. The series premiere held the record for the highest-rated scripted series premiere in basic cable history at the time of its airing.
In April 2013, Better Call Saul was confirmed to be in development by Gilligan and Gould; the latter wrote the Breaking Bad episode that introduced the character. As of July 2013, the series had yet to be greenlighted. 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, as well as former writer's assistant (for Breaking Bad) Gordon Smith.
As Sony and AMC began to commit to a spinoff, Gilligan and Gould worked on what it would be about. They initially considered making it a half-hour show where Saul would see various clients – celebrities in guest roles – in his strip-mall office, a format similar to Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist, but they had no idea how to write for this type of format and fell back onto planning for hour-long episodes. Since they had done this format with Breaking Bad, which Gilligan said was “25-percent humour, the 75-percent drama”, the two considered reversing that for Better Call Saul. While the intent was to add more humour, the show remained heavy with dramatic elements, with Odenkirk calling the first period “85 percent drama, 15 percent comedy.” Additionally, while several of the characters are lawyers in the show, Gilligan and Gould did not want to write a legal show, but instead a crime show but one that would necessitate some legal elements. To help in these areas, the writers did speak to real lawyers and spent time observing cases at Los Angeles Superior Court, observing that the bulk of the activity in these cases was downtime on waiting for others to complete actions.
Bob Odenkirk stars as attorney 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 also be a series regular.
New cast members include Michael McKean as McGill's elder brother Chuck. McKean previously guest-starred in an episode of Odenkirk's Mr. Show and also Gilligan's X-Files episode “Dreamland”. The cast also includes Patrick Fabian as Howard Hamlin, Rhea Seehorn as Kimberly “Kim” Wexler, and also 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 as well as Jeremy Shamos had been cast as Betsy and also Craig Kettleman, described as “the world's squarest outlaws.”
Going into Season 3, it was announced that Giancarlo Esposito would return to play his Breaking Bad character Gus Fring.
Tony Dalton was announced as Lalo Salamanca for Season 4; Lalo had been a character mentioned only by name, alongside Nacho, in the Breaking Bad episode “Better Call Saul”.
Dean Norris, another Breaking Bad alumnus, stated he could not be part of the earlier seasons, partly due to his involvement in the CBS series Under the Dome, but was announced as a guest star reprising his role as Hank Schrader by Season 5.
Other Breaking Bad actors have spoken of the potential of being on Better Call Saul. Both Bryan Cranston and also Aaron Paul said, as of Season 3, they are both open to reappearing on the show as Walter White and Jesse Pinkman, respectively, if asked, believing that Gilligan would have a sufficiently good reason to bring them in. Paul had previously mentioned the possibility of a cameo during Season 1 but this fell through. Anna Gunn also mentioned a “talk” with Gilligan over possible guest appearances as Skyler White. Gilligan said that by Season 3 that show had been on long enough that any reuse of Breaking Bad characters would require more than “just a cameo or an Alfred Hitchcock walkthrough”, and that their appearances would need to be essential for the story.
Better Call Saul airs on the cable network AMC. The series premiere drew in 4.4 million and 4 million in the 18–49 and 25–54 demographics, respectively, and obtained 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.
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. Internationally, episodes of the second season became available the day after they aired in the U.S.
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, performing 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.
Better Call Saul is considered to be an outstanding example of how to successfully produce a prequel and spinoff work that defied expectations. Past work by culture critic Stuart Henderson showed that prequels generally do not fare well by audiences, with the highest-rated prequel he evaluated by 2010 to be Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom with an IMDb user rating of only 7.6 out of 10. Prequels generally are seen a negative as they are covering the backstory of established personalities as well as leave little to be unexpected. When Better Call Saul was announced, there was a similar concern about the project. Andy Greenwald of Grantland wrote in 2014 on its news that “I am dreading this show and I think it's an awful idea.” Gilligan was also concerned which way audiences would take Better Call Saul as a spinoff, either favourably as Frasier or as a disappointment as with AfterMASH, though felt his production team had done the very best job they could for the program.