Top 20 Shows of 2015, Vol. 12: #9

Somebody pop the champers, because this marks my 100th blog post right here at!  That such an occasion falls in the midst of my #top20in20 project makes it even more special; I’m enjoying the hell out of this process and hope you are too.

So, I’ll return to my introductory bits for tomorrow’s posting, but let’s just have a private dance party to celebrate hitting the centennial.  Somebody cue the C+C Music Factory because I feel the Braverman Fever taking over!


#9: Better Call Saul

I can think of no higher compliment to pay this prequel series than to say that the excellent writing and compelling performances cast me under such a spell that I didn’t miss Breaking Bad for a single minute of its running time.  Trust me, no one was more surprised by that than I was.  I mean, let’s be real: we all loved Bob Odenkirk’s Saul Goodman in the original show, but who amongst us didn’t approach the pilot episode with a healthy dose of trepidation?  Even the superfans in our midst must have wondered if we really needed to put Saul, a secondary and more comedic character, at the center of his own series.  Fortunately, the answer, it turns out, is absolutely, yes we did.

There’s something fascinating about watching the transformation of Jimmy McGill with the full knowledge of his ultimate destiny, and Peter Gould and Vince Gilligan use this ironic distance to tease our expectations.  The show constructs the perfect moral tightrope for Jimmy to walk: despite his best efforts to be good, the allure of the grift is too strong.  In my mind, the show can attribute its success to this because, through it, Saul generates its hook, its empathy, and its suspense.  Sure, it’s a lower-key level of intensity than that of its heart attack-inducing sister series, but this damn thing just grabs you and pulls you along, based solely on the construction of this central character’s moral dilemma.  It’s a masterclass, craftsmanship of the highest order.


Odenkirk nails it.  Jonathan Banks, returning as Mike Ehrmentraut, does the same.  But it’s Michael McKeen’s Chuck McGill — brother to Jimmy — surprising us most of all; it’s a powerhouse of a performance.  His emergence as the series’ “Big Bad” unfolds perfectly over the course of the season, handled with such assiduity and subtle nuance that the revelation lands like a kick to the chest because it feels both out-of-nowhere surprising and completely inevitable.  It’s a testament to the show’s understated brilliance.

Trust me, the guy who read AMC’s announcement of this show two years ago would have never expected Better Call Saul to become not only the best new dramatic series of 2015 but also one of the very best shows on all of television.  But, then again, the guy writing this now would have been an absolute fool not to include it here.


Tomorrow, we have a real treat of a blog post: a palindrome!  I know, right? I’m pumped, too!  #mathfacts

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