TV

‘El Camino’ Looks Great, But Will ‘Better Call Saul’ Ever Get Its Due?

Back in February, I expressed my misgivings about the new Breaking Bad movie. Why revive a TV show that nearly everyone believes actually pulled off a really good finale episode? I liked the idea that we didn’t know exactly what happened to Jesse Pinkman. It created space for a little ambiguity in a conclusion that answered pretty much every other question.

In my mind, the poor guy drove off into the sunset and somehow settled into a relatively peaceful life. Whether that was actually credible, at least I could imagine it as such. But now … we were going to put Jesse through the ringer again? I didn’t like it. Not only that, I declared that the Breaking Bad movie (along with the upcoming Sopranos movie) signaled the end of TV’s golden age. Instead of expecting innovation, we’re now looking for comforting rehashes of past glories.

I truly believed all of that back then, and I still do. Kind of. Well, actually … you saw this trailer, too, right?

Skinny Pete! Badger! Those images of wide-open New Mexican vistas that evoke both dark-hued ’70s westerns and dusty, southwestern noir! You think I can resist any of this? Of course not. I’m only a human Breaking Bad fan after all.

However, there is a small part of me that is still holding out ever so slightly on going full-on El Camino stan in anticipation of Friday’s premiere. And it has to do with my suspicion that this movie exists solely to give the fanbase what it wants, because Better Call Saul has gone out of its way to not do that.

Do you remember Better Call Saul? I only ask because the show ended its fourth season one year ago this month, in October 2018. Apparently it will be back in 2020, though it might be the final season, if Bob Odenkirk has his way. One year is an eternity in pop-culture time, especially if you’re a slow-burn legal drama in which the most memorable action scene — in marked contrast to the adrenaline-junkie extremes of Breaking Bad — involves a kicked-over gas lantern.

While people generally regard Better Call Saul as a very fine television program, it always seems to get forgotten once yet another perfectly conceived, expertly written, and wonderfully acted season comes and goes. In terms of Emmys, it has been nominated 22 times, including four consecutive nominations for Outstanding Drama plus nods for the exemplary acting of Odenkirk, Jonathan Banks, Michael McKean, and Giancarlo Esposito. (Meanwhile, the fantastic Rhea Seehorn has not yet been recognized, a true oversight after she arguably became the show’s focus in its fourth season.)

Out of all those nominations, guess how many Better Call Saul has won? Goose egg. Zilch. Zero. None.

I don’t care about Emmys. The Emmys are dumb. But they are indicative of how Better Call Saul is generally perceived — as a very good show, but never the best or most important show. While it has been well-reviewed throughout its run by critics, Better Call Saul is hardly ever mentioned among the most zeitgeist-y programs, even as it continues to be consistently great over the long haul while trendier shows crash and burn after a season or two.

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