10 Fun Facts About Better Call Saul

Matthias Clamer, AMC
Matthias Clamer, AMC

If making Breaking Bad was a high-wire act of maintaining perfection, Vince Gilligan stepped onto an even thinner wire when he decided to spin off the beloved series into Better Call Saul, a compendium of the legal misadventures of Saul Goodman (a.k.a. Jimmy McGill, a.k.a. Gene).

Played with exhausted enthusiasm by Bob Odenkirk, Jimmy’s journey to strip mall success is as harrowing and taut as watching Walter White navigate the meth business, but it’s (thankfully) a whole other animal.

Just ahead of its fourth season premiere, grab a Jell-O cup and eat up these 10 facts about Better Call Saul.

1. THE BREAKING BAD WRITERS USED TO JOKE ABOUT MAKING A SAUL GOODMAN JOKE.

Rhea Seehorn as Kim Wexler and Bob Odenkirk as Jimmy McGill in 'Better Call Saul'
Nicole Wilder, AMC/Sony Pictures Television

While whittling a huge pile of ideas into the winners that became Breaking Bad's scripts, Vince Gilligan and the other writers had a lot of lines for Saul that got scrapped. “We love writing for the character,” Gillian told Uproxx. “We love putting words in his mouth, and we had so much fun, indeed, doing that, that it started as a lark. We’d come up with some great term or phrase, and we’d laugh about it in the writer’s room, and then we’d say, “You know, when we’re doing the Saul Goodman show we’ll be able to blah, blah, blah.” Be careful what you joke about.

2. JIMMY PICKED HIS ALIAS BECAUSE IT SOUNDS LIKE SOMETHING ELSE.

Gilligan initially wanted to call the character Saul Good (like, “It’s all good”) as a hyper-memorable name for clients to remember when faced with their one phone call. Another writer suggested “Goodman,” and they all loved it. They were just lucky the first name rhymed with “Call.”

3. THE TITLES HAVE HIDDEN MEANINGS.

Jonathan Banks as Mike Ehrmantraut and Bob Odenkirk as Jimmy McGill in 'Better Call Saul'
Nicole Wilder, AMC/Sony Pictures Television

You can take nothing for granted in the Better Call Saul universe, including the episode titles. In the first season, every episode (from “Uno” to “Marco”) ended in the letter O, except “Alpine Shepherd Boy,” which was supposed to be called “Jell-O” before the producers waved it off to avoid being sued by the gelatin makers. Even crazier, the first letters of season two’s episodes (S-C-A-G-R-B-I-F-N-K) unscramble to spell “Fring’s Back”—a clear message for Breaking Bad fans.

4. IT WAS ALMOST A COMEDY.

Sony and AMC were eager to buy the show even before Gilligan knew what it would be about. He toyed with the idea of exploring the events after Breaking Bad but thought it would rob the show’s finale of its mystique. Gilligan also considered a comedy where a famous comedian would cameo every week, bringing a funny legal problem to Saul to fix. Not all good, man.

5. IT (SORT OF) USES THE BREAKING BAD THEME SONG.

Dave Porter’s title theme for Breaking Bad utilized a dobro guitar stretching the sound over a moody, percussive vibe. For Better Call Saul’s outro titles, he’s remixed it into something a bit more surf rock—just on the edge of familiarity. Listen close, and you’ll hear the Breaking Bad theme in the mix.

6. CHUCK WASN’T INTENDED TO BE A BAD GUY.

Everyone who watches the show hates Chuck McGill, Jimmy’s brother played by Michael McKean, but it wasn’t until writing the seventh episode that Gilligan and the writers realized Chuck was a villain. “Believe it or not, the idea of Chuck being the ‘bad guy’ was a late addition to Season 1,” Gilligan explained during a 2015 Reddit AMA. “This points out one of the things I love most about writing for TV. There are enough episodes and enough lead time (if you’re lucky) for writers to change the direction of a story midstream."

7. THE SHOW USES A FAMILIAR TEQUILA.

Obviously Better Call Saul regularly pays homage to its predecessor. Yet one of the subtlest nods is the use of a rare brand of spirit. On Breaking Bad, Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) poisons an entire drug cartel with Zafiro Añejo tequila, the same fictional brand Jimmy and Kim (Rhea Seehorn) down while trying to bilk an investor in the first episode of season 2.

8. YOU SHOULD PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT COLOR PEOPLE ARE WEARING.

Gilligan’s fanatical dedication to detail includes the colors that get associated with each character. It was a major element in Breaking Bad. It’s also a big part of Better Call Saul in the form of the “Fire and Ice Theory,” partially confirmed by writer Peter Gould, who confessed that hotter colors like red were associated with criminals. That tacitly means cooler colors are meant for the innocent, so it’s curious that Jimmy’s car is yellow with one red door …

9. THE SHOW WAS INFLUENCED BY STANLEY KUBRICK.

Breaking Bad was shot on 35mm, which gave it a grainy texture that fit with the cinematic tone of the show. Better Call Saul is shot in 4K digital, offering a crispness and enormity to the proceedings that echo Stanley Kubrick’s photographic style. That connection is intentional, as Gilligan tries to craft the show according to Kubrick’s rule of making the first image the most intriguing thing the audience has seen that day. Doing everything possible to stand out goes for the music cues, too. “Our needle drops come straight from Kubrick,” Gilligan said. “And then we’ll go for these one-point perspective shots as specific Kubrick tributes, or deliberate slow zoom-outs that we take from Barry Lyndon.”

10. JIMMY ENDS UP LIVING HIS “BEST CASE SCENARIO.”

In the penultimate episode of Breaking Bad, Saul erases his identity, prepares to move away from Albuquerque, and claims his best case scenario is managing a Cinnabon in Omaha, Nebraska. That’s exactly what he’s doing as “Gene” in the very opening of Better Call Saul. Congrats, Jimmy. You’re living the dream.

Wayfair’s Fourth of July Clearance Sale Takes Up to 60 Percent Off Grills and Outdoor Furniture

Wayfair/Weber
Wayfair/Weber

This Fourth of July, Wayfair is making sure you can turn your backyard into an oasis while keeping your bank account intact with a clearance sale that features savings of up to 60 percent on essentials like chairs, hammocks, games, and grills. Take a look at some of the highlights below.

Outdoor Furniture

Brisbane bench from Wayfair
Brisbane/Wayfair

- Jericho 9-Foot Market Umbrella $92 (Save 15 percent)
- Woodstock Patio Chairs (Set of Two) $310 (Save 54 percent)
- Brisbane Wooden Storage Bench $243 (Save 62 percent)
- Kordell Nine-Piece Rattan Sectional Seating Group with Cushions $1800 (Save 27 percent)
- Nelsonville 12-Piece Multiple Chairs Seating Group $1860 (Save 56 percent)
- Collingswood Three-Piece Seating Group with Cushions $410 (Save 33 percent)

Grills and Accessories

Dyna-Glo electric smoker.
Dyna-Glo/Wayfair

- Spirit® II E-310 Gas Grill $479 (Save 17 percent)
- Portable Three-Burner Propane Gas Grill $104 (Save 20 percent)
- Digital Bluetooth Electric Smoker $224 (Save 25 percent)
- Cuisinart Grilling Tool Set $38 (Save 5 percent)

Outdoor games

American flag cornhole game.
GoSports

- American Flag Cornhole Board $57 (Save 19 percent)
- Giant Four in a Row Game $30 (Save 6 percent)
- Giant Jenga Game $119 (Save 30 percent)

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Good Gnews: Remembering The Great Space Coaster

Tubby Baxter and Gary Gnu in The Great Space Coaster.
Tubby Baxter and Gary Gnu in The Great Space Coaster.
YouTube

Tubby Baxter. Gary Gnu. Goriddle Gorilla. Speed Reader. For people of a certain age, these names probably tug on distant memories of a television series that blended live-action, puppetry, and animation. It was The Great Space Coaster, and it aired daily in syndication from 1981 to 1986. Earning both a Daytime Emmy and a Peabody Award for excellence in children’s programming, The Great Space Coaster fell somewhere in between Sesame Street and The Muppet Show—a series for kids who wanted a little more edge to their puppet performances.

Unlike most classic kid’s shows, fans have had a hard time locating footage of The Great Space Coaster. Even after five seasons and 250 episodes, no collections are available on home video. So what happened?

Get On Board

The Great Space Coaster was created by Kermit Love, who worked closely with Jim Henson on Sesame Street and created Big Bird, and Jim Martin, a master puppeteer who also collaborated with Henson. Produced by Sunbow Productions and sponsored by the Kellogg Company and toy manufacturer Hasbro, The Great Space Coaster took the same approach as Sesame Street of being educational entertainment. In fact, many of the puppeteers and writers were veterans of Sesame Street or The Muppet Show. Producers met with educators to determine subjects and content that could result in a positive cognitive or personal development goal for the audience, which was intended to be children from ages 6 to 11. There would be music, comedy, and cartoons, but all of it would be working toward a lesson on everything from claustrophobia to the hazards of being a litterbug.

The premise involved three teens—Danny (Chris Gifford), Roy (Ray Stephens), and Francine (Emily Bindiger)—who hitch a ride on a space vehicle piloted by a clown named Tubby Baxter. The crew would head for an asteroid populated by a variety of characters like Goriddle Gorilla (Kevin Clash). Roy carried a monitor that played La Linea, an animated segment from Italian creator Osvaldo Cavandoli that featured a figure at odds with his animator. The kids—all of whom looked a fair bit older than their purported teens—also sang in segments with original or cover songs.

The most memorable segment might have been the newscast with Gary Gnu, a stuffy puppet broadcaster who delivered the day’s top stories with his catchphrase: “No gnews is good gnews!” Aside from Gnu, there was Speed Reader (Ken Myles), a super-fast sprinter and reader who reviewed the books he breezed through. Often, the show would also have guest stars, including Mark Hamill, boxer “Sugar” Ray Leonard, and Henry Winkler.

All of it had a slightly irreverent tone, with humor that was more biting than most other kid’s programming of the era. The circus that Tubby Baxter ran away from was run by a character named M.T. Promises. Gnu had subversive takes on his news stories. Other characters weren’t always as well-intentioned as the residents of Sesame Street.

Off We Go

The Great Space Coaster was popular among viewers and critics. In 1982, it won a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Children’s Programming—Graphic Design and a Peabody Award in 1983. But after the show ceased production in 1986, it failed to have a second life in reruns or on video. Only one VHS tape, The Great Space Coaster Supershow, was ever released in the 1980s. And while fan sites like TheGreatSpaceCoaster.TV surfaced, it was difficult to compile a complete library of the series.

In 2012, Tanslin Media, which had acquired the rights to the show, explained why. Owing to the musical interludes, re-licensing songs would be prohibitively expensive—potentially far more than the company would make selling the program. Worse, the original episodes, which were recorded on 1-inch or 2-inch reel tapes, were in the process of degrading.

That same year, Jim Martin mounted an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to try and raise funds to begin salvaging episodes and digitizing them for preservation. That work has continued over the years, with Tanslin releasing episodes and clips online that don’t require expensive licensing agreements and fans uploading episodes from their original VHS recordings to YouTube.

There’s been no further word on digitizing efforts for the complete series, though Tanslin has reported that a future home video release isn’t out of the question. If that materializes, it’s likely Gary Gnu will be first to deliver the news.