‘Better Call Saul’ Was Almost a Half Hour Comedy: Why It Didn’t Happen

by Josh Lanier
(Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images)

Vince Gilligan says comedy and drama are “two muscles in the same arm.” Breaking Bad hit the vein that connected them. There are still arguments today over whether the show was a black comedy or a drama with comedic moments, and the evidence is compelling for either side. A lot of that comedy comes from sleazy lawyer Saul Goodman. It’s why when Gilligan and Peter Gould were creating the show’s spin-off prequel Better Call Saul, they considered making it a sitcom.

In a 2018 interview with Rolling Stone, Gilligan said the idea for Better Call Saul evolved as they batted around story ideas. Originally, they were thinking about having a problem of the week show, where comedic actors would show up in Saul’s office with another wacky legal predicament. Gilligan and Gould didn’t know how to write a sitcom. So they stuck with what they did know — a drama with pitch-black sensibilities.

“When we first started concocting the idea of doing a spinoff, we literally thought it’d be a half-hour show,” Gilligan told Rolling Stone. “It’d be something akin to [Comedy Central’s adult animated series] Dr. Katz, where it’s basically Saul Goodman in his crazy office with the styrofoam columns and he’s visited every week by a different stand-up comic. It was basically, I guess, legal problems.

“And then we thought, okay, well, so it’s an hour … but it’s going to be a really funny hour. I said, Breaking Bad is about 25-percent humor, 75-percent drama and maybe this will be the reverse of that,” he continued. “Well this thing, especially in Season 4, is every bit as dramatic as Breaking Bad ever was. I just didn’t see any of that coming, (and) I didn’t know how good it would all be. I really didn’t.”

Bob Odenkirk Has Theories for End of ‘Better Call Saul’

It’s been almost two years since we last visited Albuquerque’s underworld. And while Better Call Saul’s showrunners keep promising that the show will return soon, AMC hasn’t announced when the series will return for its final season.

Fans have theories about what will happen to turn Jimmy McGill into Saul Goodman in those final 13 episodes. Bob Odenkirk discussed with Esquire last year his hope for his character. But he doesn’t think Goodman gets a happy ending.

“Sometimes people do learn the right lessons from their mistakes and their traumas and problems,” he said. “I’d like to think that after all he went through with the story of Breaking Bad, where he was gonna become wealthy by representing a meth kingpin, that he somehow decides to fly right and maybe use his various talents to help people who really need help. I don’t think that’s where he’ll end up, but I think people sometimes do make a better choice based on experiences that they’ve had. But I don’t think they agree with that theory.”