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'Breaking Bad' and other shows ponder spin-offs

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A "Breaking Bad" spin-off staring Bob Odenkirk's shyster lawyer Saul Goodman has been mentioned before, but only in a speculative way.

In recent weeks, though, the buzz has grown louder as the project has gone from hypothetical to possible. There's nothing at all concrete in place, but the spark is there. Industry website Deadline reported there have been talks between AMC and Sony TV (which owns "Bad"), and Vince Gilligan and Saul's co-creator Peter Gould are in charge.

As much as I love "Breaking Bad," I'm not crazy about this idea. Odenkirk is great as Saul, but part of why Saul works so well is that he's used in small doses. He's the main comic relief in an otherwise serious show.

It's true that other shows have spun off lesser characters to great success. For instance, MTV's "Daria," a favorite of mine, was a spin-off of "Beavis and Butt-head" (not a favorite of mine) and ran for five seasons.

But that show easily fit in with programming MTV already had. A Saul Goodman show would be different in both tone and, I would imagine, format from the rest of AMC's scripted slate.

For starters, by virtue of the character, it would have to be a comedy, and all AMC's other shows are dramas. Also, the format would almost certainly be a case-of-the-week one -- I can't imagine any other way -- which doesn't mesh with the intensely serialized nature of the dramas.

I could see Saul Goodman fitting in on USA with its penchant for offbeat characters, but his clientele and cases undoubtedly wouldn't fit with the network's vibe. AMC also owns IFC, which has several original comedies, so it could be a good fit there, but the channel is a premium one that many people don't have.

Lower on the dial, in network land, two other shows I watch are eying spin-offs: ABC's "Once Upon a Time" and NBC's "Chicago Fire." "Once" is filming a short test presentation, and "Fire" will introduce the potential new show's characters in its season finale.

The "Once" spin off, called "Once: Wonderland," takes place, obviously, in Alice's world. It will be missing Sebastian Stan, though, who originally tied Wonderland to the "Once" world as the Mad Hatter. Tentatively, Barbara Hershey could return as Cora/the Queen of Hearts, but if not, the only tie to the original will be in the title. 

The "Chicago Fire" spin off will focus on the city's cops, which is just what we need -- another cop show. Plus, I find it a little ludicrous, seeing as how "Fire" is only in its freshman season. It's doing very well for the network, but a spin-off after only one year seems a little premature.

It was nine seasons before "Law & Order" spun off "SVU" and six before "NCIS" spun off "NCIS: LA." Even "CSI" waited two seasons before launching "CSI: Miami."

It's not a guarantee that any of these shows will be picked up, but if they are, the popularity of the originals means nothing. After all, for every "Frasier," there's a "Joey."

*****

Scripted series premiere: "The Bletchley Circle," 10 p.m. Sunday, PBS (female codebreakers investigate murders in 1950s London).

Series premieres: "Blade Brothers," 10 p.m. Friday, Discovery (knife makers); "Raising Whitley," 10 p.m. Saturday, OWN (Kym Whitley and friends raise a kid); "Guntucky," 9:30 p.m. Sunday, CMT (family-owned gun range); "Ice Cold Gold," 10 p.m. Sunday, Animal Planet (mining competition in Greenland); "I'm Married to A...," 10 p.m. Sunday, VH1 (unconventional partnerships); "What Would Ryan Lochte Do?" 10 p.m. Sunday, E! (the Olympic swimmer's life); "Backyard Oil," 10 p.m. Tuesday, Discovery (oil drilling in Ky.); "Girl Code," 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, MTV (comedians riff on womanhood).

Season premieres: "Sons of Guns," 9 p.m. Friday, Discovery; "Four Houses," 9 p.m. Saturday, TLC; "Married to Jonas," 10:30 p.m. Sunday, E!; "Love & Hip-Hop Atlanta," 8 p.m. Monday, VH1; "Brain Games," 9 p.m. Monday, National Geographic; "Breakout," 10 p.m. Wednesday, National Geographic.

Returning: "The Vampire Diaries," 8 p.m. and "Beauty and the Beast," 9 p.m. Thursday, CW; "Once Upon a Time," 8 p.m. Sunday, ABC.

Season finales: "Project Runway," 9 p.m. Thursday, Lifetime (part one of two); "The Ben Show with Ben Hoffman," 10 p.m., and "Nathan for You," 10:30 p.m. Thursday, Comedy Central; "Big Rich Atlanta," 9 p.m. Sunday, Style; "Lost Girl," 10 p.m. Monday, Syfy; "The Bad Girls Club," 8 p.m. Tuesday, Oxygen; "Robot Combat League," 10 p.m. Tuesday, Syfy; "The Rachel Zoe Project," 9 p.m., "It's a Brad, Brad World," 10 p.m. and "Dukes of Melrose," 10:30 p.m. Wednesday, Bravo.

Specials: "Bon Jovi: Inside Out," 10 p.m. Saturday, VH1 (concert film); "Remember Sunday," 9 p.m. Sunday, CBS (romantic drama with Alexis Bledel and Zachary Levi); "Lovestruck: The Musical," 8 p.m. Sunday, ABC Family (musical comedy with Jane Seymour, Tom Wopat, Chelsea Kane and Drew Seeley).

Reach Amy Robinson at flipside@wvgazette.com.


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