The rise of AMC as one of cable’s powerhouse networks for prestige dramas is one of the much-beloved narratives of pop culture writers. But really, the whole thing can kind of be narrowed down to three things: The Walking Dead becoming a legitimate phenomenon, Breaking Bad building into a phenomenon for one season, and Mad Men not really being a ratings phenomenon, but acting as the show that turned the key for the network. Also, Chris Hardwick, for some reason.
Ever since it was announced that Breaking Bad was ending two years ago, everything seems to have gone haywire. The network split the ending of Breaking Bad into two seasons, failed to launch a hit following the show (anyone remember Low Winter Sun?) and continued to fail to launch hits. Neither Turn and Halt and Catch Fire underwhelmed critically nor with audiences. Both seem like toss-ups to return. Oh yeah, and Mad Men being split into two season was something absolutely no one wanted.
That’s kind of created a level of doubt in anything AMC puts on that isn’t Walking Dead, which means that even a classic cable network move like renewing a show for a second season before its first season even premieres is met with worry. Well, buckle up: AMC has done just that with the Breaking Bad spin-off, Better Call Saul.
See, not only has the renewal come along, but the network announced that the show has been pushed from fall of this year to “early 2015.” There, the first 10 episodes will air, sandwiched between The Walking Dead‘s second half and, of course, Talking Dead. Pushing anything back is often see as a death knell, but then again, as long as it airs after Walking Dead, doesn’t any show stand half a chance at success?
The other intriguing bit of news is that Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan has signed on to co-showrun Saul. Originally, Gilligan was just going to co-write, direct the pilot and consult on season one before moving on to other projects. His signature either suggests a huge amount of faith in the project, loyalty to his Breaking Bad crew, or a serious case of damage control.
Either way, we’ll see 23 episodes of Bob Odenkirk starring in a premium cable drama, and that may be worth it, in and of itself. But it’s hard not to be looking at AMC as a former championship team in the midst of a hangover, trying to put the pieces back together to get itself to the summit once again.