Earlier this week, the Hollywood Reporter published a story revealing that the upcoming Breaking Bad spinoff Better Call Saul came close to leaving its ostensible “home” at AMC for another network. The determined suitor: Netflix. Of course, the important thing is that there will a Better Call Saul at all, but it’s an interesting exercise to imagine what would have happened had creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould had chosen otherwise.
In the last year, Netflix has exploded onto the television landscape as a viable outlet for original programming, airing acclaimed shows like House of Cards, Arrested Development and Orange Is The New Black. Their success has emboldened the rental and streaming-video service—which, thanks to binge-watching, has been partially credited with the dramatic ratings increase Breaking Bad has enjoyed this season—to pursue more scripted series. Netflix also provides shows with more flexibility in regards to language, nudity and violence, though it’s safe to say that “restrained” is not one adjective any fan would use when describing Breaking Bad.
Though we don’t know the precise plot of the spinoff—except that it will chronicle the experiences of Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) before he met Walter White (Bryan Cranston)—it’s a good bet that the subject matter won’t be nearly as dark or gruesome as that of Breaking Bad. More to the point, Better Call Saul was more crucial for AMC than for Netflix.
Only a few short years ago, AMC had the deepest pool of critically acclaimed dramas, but that claim has recently been thrown into jeopardy. Beyond the final season of Mad Men — which will split into two parts, wrapping in 2015 — AMC has few other viable properties. The Walking Dead has been a huge success in the ratings and will be getting a spinoff of its own, but new shows like Hell on Wheels, Low Winter Sun and The Killing have all either faltered or been canceled. All of this means that AMC is in desperate need of a win, and if any show is primed to provide one, it’s Better Call Saul. And don’t feel too bad for Netflix—they’re up for 14 Emmy’s on Sunday.
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