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Should I Watch the Prequel to ‘Breaking Bad’ First? | Press "Enter" to skip to content

Should I Watch the Prequel to ‘Breaking Bad’ First?

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My understanding is that “Better Call Saul” is a prequel to “Breaking Bad,” which I’ve never watched but intend to. So should I watch “BCS” before viewing “BB”? — Susan

Yes, “Better Call Saul” is a prequel, but it definitely makes more sense to start with “Breaking Bad.” “Better Call Saul” gets a lot of juice from its implied resonance with “Breaking Bad” — familiar faces, people you know are not long for this world, jokey callbacks to obscure incidents. It’s also what helps fill the show with its melancholy, like a sad fable where you’re cursed by knowing the future, and who’s there and who isn’t. “Saul” hasn’t hit its tragic era yet, and maybe it never totally will. Maybe we will be very lucky, though I am girding myself. Definitely watch “Breaking Bad” first!

But maybe it doesn’t matter? I’ll put it this way: Given that you have not yet watched “Breaking Bad,” maybe you don’t want to watch “Breaking Bad” that much, and you want to try “Better Call Saul,” in which case you should.

I think you will have more fun watching some “Saul” than no “Saul,” and there’s plenty of intrigue and dynamism for it to stand on its own. Honestly, you can have a wonderful journey through the drama of the human condition just by watching only the scenes between Saul — known as Jimmy for most of the show — and his love interest, Kim. Will you miss a ton of information and not totally get everything? Yes. Will you still find sublime joys within? I’m absolutely certain you will. These shows both reward careful, even obsessive viewing, but they don’t require it.

Will “Homicide: Life on the Street,” the greatest cop show ever on network television, ever be available for streaming? It came from an era, the ’90s, that was a preview of the quality television that was just around the corner starting with “Mad Men” and “The Sopranos.” — Richard

Richard, I’m starting to lose hope. This has been one of my enduring wishes for the last decade, and I kept thinking the day was right around the corner, when finally one of my favorites of all time would make it to streaming, and then I could enjoy 9,000 articles dissecting its minutiae and everyone getting super into it and arguing about the best episodes and burying myself in a hundred Frank Pembleton GIFs.

But it hasn’t happened. When “ER” and “NYPD Blue” finally came to Hulu, I was sure “Homicide” couldn’t be far behind. Then two years went by. Then I thought NBC’s big Peacock rollout might include it, but it didn’t. HBO can spend almost half a billion dollars on “Friends,” but we can’t go to the Waterfront Bar one more time?

To my dismay, it seems like major back catalogs just aren’t as big a deal as they were even five years ago; a few flagship classics might be all big streaming platforms are willing to pay for now while they turn their attention, understandably I guess, to flashier and buzzier originals. (And reboots.) Disney Plus has a much bigger push for its film library than its television one. Netflix has let its library atrophy, and Hulu is making a to-do about its FX partnership, but it doesn’t even have every FX show. Heck, Apple TV has no back catalog at all.

I thought the streaming revolution would bring me all the wonders of the TV world, and I would have all the shows at my fingertips; a library vast and wonderful, a chance to see everything I had always longed to see, and even better, a chance to share all the weird minor treasures I’d adored in obscurity. That did not happen. (And before you email me about DVDs: Many of my favorites have never made it to DVD, either!) So while I remain devout in my dedication to “Homicide,” I’m feeling less optimistic about its streaming future. I hope I’m wrong. In the meantime, you might like “Southland.” (It’s on Hulu.)

My husband has stubbornly declared that he won’t start another new TV series unless he feels assured the series has a clear plan for an eventual ending.  I try to explain to him that TV doesn’t work this way, and often they just don’t have every season perfectly mapped out before they shoot the pilot. Am I right or what? Isn’t it worth watching and enjoying one good season, even to give up later in the show? Back me up here, please. — Sahra

You are right! And I bet you guys would like “Better Call Saul.”

It would be quite rare for a TV show to be completely mapped out before a pilot had been shot — unless that show is a mini-series. So maybe it’s time to go the mini-series route for a bit. Watch “Angels in America.” (It’s on HBO Go.) Watch the 1981 “Brideshead Revisited.” (On Amazon.) If you like history, try “Wolf Hall” (on PBS Passport). More politics and tension? Watch “The Night Manager” or “The Honorable Woman” (on AMC or Amazon). Want something more recent and buzzy? “Chernobyl,” “When They See Us” and “Watchmen” (HBO, Netflix, HBO).

No one enjoys being disappointed, but to watch a show for many years is to know that everything in the world is flawed. I’d love to only watch shows that never diminished in quality, but that is such a strange bar — especially because one’s own tastes change in the span of decade, and shows have to breathe and grow and develop, too.


Send in your questions to [email protected] Questions are edited for length and clarity.


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