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07 August 2017

Why the Netflix formula doesn’t always work, according to Vince Gilligan

You mean to tell me episode by episode is a better formula?

AFTER getting his first break as a writer and producer on The X-Files, Vince Gilligan changed everything we expect from television with the creation of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul.

With writer, director and producer credits on the world’s most critically acclaimed television shows, it’s safe to assume Gilligan knows a thing or two about the business.

And when it comes to the success of developing landmark viewing, the 50-year-old thinks the Netflix formula of releasing an entire season in one day isn’t always the best approach, believing the episodic release seen with Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul is a far better model.

“I know I am a little out of vogue these days with that philosophy, but I think as much as fans complain having to wait week in and week out, it allows for better opportunity to digest and ponder the concepts of any given episode,” he told news.com.au.

“In saying that, I’m all for viewers watching the show however they like, I am just glad people are watching.”

The Breaking Bad creator said other than release format, the million dollar question is knowing when to call curtains on a show.

“Not many years ago as a show runner you would run the program into the ground and keep it going as long the company let you,” he said.

“While that remains a way to keep making revenue, we wanted our viewers to be as invested in the final show as they were in the first, so we are happy to leave the money on the table.
“There’s no hard and fast answer to decide when to end a show, but it’s usually about feel.”

Matt Dunn sits down with Better Call Saul star Bob Odenkirk.

With Breaking Bad leaving viewers wanting more, Gilligan made the decision to once again partner up with Peter Gould to create Better Call Saul, although he admits it wasn’t a decision made lightly.

“We feel we owed our viewers a great debt for being fans of the first show and wanted to reward their loyalty by keeping all of the episodes of the shows up to the level of quality seen in Breaking Bad,” he said.

“It brings a great deal of self-imposed pressure, but unless it gives us heart attacks or stomach ulcers it’s all worth it.”

When it comes to the narrative of Better Call Saul, Gilligan said he and Peter Gould do not have a plan before heading to the writers room, rather they just let things develop organically.

“We were nervous in the early going of show because we were under impression the audience would want to see Saul Goodman sooner rather than later,” he said.

“There was self-imposed pressure that we get to Saul quickly, but as the story progressed we realised we didn’t like his character as much as Jimmy McGill who had more heart and was more likeable.

“He’s the guy you would want to have a pipe with rather than Saul Goodman himself.”

Matt Dunn talks to ‘Gus Fring’ from Better Call Saul

Understanding the cult following the Breaking Bad universe has been able to attract, Gilligan said the creative team often include hidden meanings throughout the show.

“We love our viewers are smart and attentive, so we want to reward that by having little Easter eggs for them. It’s always a lot of fun and helps us create what feels like a real world,” he said.

“Having a very complex, layered and detailed universe for these characters to reside within is not crucial story telling, but allows for richer experience with viewers watching the show.”

Even Better Call Saul star Bob Odenkirk is in awe of the way the writers are able to massage deeper meaning into the narrative.

“In the middle of season three, a character finds little box and the only other time it has been seen was in first five minutes of first episode of Better Call Saul,” he told news.com.au.

“When I did the scene I wondered how they think of the think on this level.”

Do you prefer weekly episodes or the ability to binge-watch? Continue the conversation in the comments below or with Matthew Dunn on Facebook and Twitter.

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