Better punch up Saul

I hope “Better Call Saul” gets punched up down the road, at least for the sake of Albuquerque and the new show’s Albuquerque fans.

I’m reluctant to be the spoilsport, but I was underwhelmed by episode No. 1.

I admit that my increasingly shaky, 65-year-old emotions were in tatters after first watching the 1943 version of “Lassie Comes Home.” But I found the humor of the first episode of “Better Call Saul” esoteric and protracted, as in the law firm and Chuck McGill scenes, or too obvious, as in the skateboarders. I thought the parking ticket scene was stretched, most punchy for the introduction of another “Breaking Bad” character. I wonder how many viewers got that the opening black-and-white scene was Saul’s post-“Breaking Bad” life.

The camera work is gorgeous. But I doubt that cutting-edge cinematography, glimpes of Albuquerque and cameo references to “Breaking Bad” are going to be enough to pull this show off for a national audience.

There was more tension in “Breaking Bad.” It had the advantage of the constant potential for violence. I applaud Gilligan-Gould’s switch to humor — and maybe that’s not permanent — but I think the script pacing needs to pick up. Twenty-minute intervals between punch lines are not going to be enough for most folks. At least, they were not for me after Lassie’s many close calls in her long journey home to Yorkshire from Scotland. The closing scene in the first “Better Call Saul,” with the door opening and a pistol barrel shoved between Saul’s eyes, was great, but it took a long time to get there.

“Breaking Bad” also had a character advantage. Walter White’s life had a “There but for the grace of God go I” quality. I don’t think as many viewers can identify with a loser lawyer, comical as he might be.

I know it’s a developing story, and I will bear with its amazingly talented creators. But, as for punchlines, I’m still getting a bigger chuckle over what Esurance achieved in under a minute with the Walter White as a “sort-of pharmacist’ in a Super Bowl commercial compared to what I got in an hour of “Better Call Saul.”

Having stuck my neck out here, I still don’t want to be fodder for Joline Gutierrez Krueger’s next column in the Albuquerque Journal. So, I’ll say again that my judgment last night might have been impaired.

I’ll try to watch again tonight. And, by the way, I came across “Lassie Comes Home” only while searching the channel directory to make sure I had the time right for “Better Call Saul.” And I surely want the show to succeed.

And this just in: A New Republic reviewer, Esther Breger, who apparently has seen the whole “Better Call Saul” season, writes, “By the third episode, it’s developed the same propulsive, addictive quality of its predecessor.”

Meanwhile, I was so absorbed with Lassie and Saul last night that I was too worn out to catch up with “Downton Abbey.” I’ll have to check in quick to see if my theory that Lady Mary and possibly Lord Gillingham, too, were involved in the murder of the insidious Mr. Green is totally bogus.

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