‘Better Call Saul’ Was Originally Just a Joke in the ‘Breaking Bad’ Writers’ Room – and a Sitcom

“We sold it to Sony and AMC without knowing what it was,” creator Vince Gilligan says

Last Updated: June 10, 2018 @ 2:51 PM

“Better Call Saul” fans can thank the lighter side of the “Breaking Bad” writers’ room for its upcoming fourth season, seeing as the spinoff wouldn’t even exist if it weren’t for a joke that wouldn’t die.

During the ATX Television Festival Saturday, Vince Gilligan, the creator behind both series, and star Bob Odenkirk hosted a screening of the “Breaking Bad” episode that introduced viewers to Saul Goodman. Or, as fans of the AMC drama’s prequel series now know him, Jimmy McGill.

Odenkirk told the audience that a spinoff was suggested by a cameraman during the filming of the episode that saw Walter White (Bryan Cranston) meet his “criminal lawyer,” appropriately titled “Better Call Saul.”

“They were way ahead of us,” Gilligan said, according to Entertainment Weekly, noting that he didn’t start thinking about a spinoff until Season 2 of the Cranston-led series, and even then it was just in jest. “It was a joke, and then we joked about it so often in the writers’ room we thought maybe it’s not a joke,” he said. “By the time ‘Breaking Bad’ wrapped up, we started talking to Sony.”

But even after the conversation began, the joke didn’t die, as at first they thought they had a comedy on their hands.

“We sold it to Sony and AMC without knowing what it was,” Gilligan said. “We thought it might be a half-hour sitcom. We thought about ripping off ‘Dr. Katz.’ Week in and week out famous comics would come in with their legal problems. But we knew nothing about writing straight-up comedy.”

Good thing Gilligan remembered there is such a thing as a dark comedy. Really, who wants to watch Odenkirk on a multi-cam with a laugh track? Wait.

“Better Call Saul” Season 4 premieres August 6 at 9/8c on AMC.