Below is a teaser for “Better Call Saul,” the “Breaking Bad” spin-off which stars Bob Odenkirk and a few of the other characters you loved from the original series (who haven’t yet died horrible tragic deaths, because it’s a prequel). It’s set to launch in February 2015. They’re making it right now. We know this for a fact, because here is a teaser from it.
This clip is new. It technically contains about 20 seconds of video that you have not seen before. It is below.
If you decided not to watch that clip, here is what happens: Series creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould “tease” “Better Call Saul” by reiterating the few basic facts we know already: The main character is not yet known as Saul, but instead goes by the name Jimmy McGill, and the show takes place “about half a decade” before the beginning of “Breaking Bad” (making it a period piece set in the year 2002, approximately).
Then, there is a short snippet of Odenkirk in character, talking about the practice of law in a way familiar to any fan of Saul’s loosey-goosey legal ethics. And then there is a reminder that the show comes out in February.
The clip has been online for about 12 hours, and already over 10 thousand people have watched it. Including us. After all, we’re excited about the show. It’s a new Vince Gilligan series, Odenkirk is always a delight and discovering how “Saul” fits into the world of “Breaking Bad” should make for great viewing.
That said: If this teaser had a face, we would punch it bloody.
The art of the “tease” in promoting film and TV shows is a tough one. All fans fall somewhere along a spectrum, between wanting to know nothing about what happens to wanting to have every single possible detail spoiled for them before they sit down to watch. Where someone falls in a spectrum is often determined by their relative excitement for the TV show or movie, or their interest in figuring out whether or not it’s going to be something they want to watch. The distinction between tease and trailer then becomes an important one; for the spoiler-phobic and already excited, a tease is all they need.
However, to call this a tease is fucking generous. It’s a few seconds of ramble about the questions that the show might address, followed by what looks like a slightly different clip from the exact same scene they used the last time they teased us.
Here is what AMC knows is going to happen, when it posts this video on YouTube. It knows that almost every website with even a vague interest in television is going to assign it out to a writer for a quick post — that’s the key, by the way, a quick post, one that requires very little work beyond a description, headline and embed code. The return on investment of a writer’s time is very high, because even though this clip is completely devoid of content, the search engines will pick it up, and so everyone Googling or Binging for real information about “Better Call Saul” will instead find themselves watching this 30 second waste of pixels.
The problem is that the more AMC chooses to confuse teasing with torture, the more it feels like it’s being purposely vague because it’s terrified. The fact is that the marquee shows that put AMC on the map (“Breaking Bad,” “Mad Men”) are over or almost gone, and there are no clear heirs to their thrones. That’s part of why the low-rated “Halt and Catch Fire” got a renewal — AMC lacked any options for a better replacement.
“Better Call Saul” might feel like a safe bet, but the more its parent network obfuscates, the more we doubt. So prove us wrong, AMC. Stop teasing us. Instead, give us something to actually get excited about.