The Breaking Bad spin-off for Bob Odenkirk "Better Call Saul" starts up on AMC. Odenkirk is a hilarious guy who I am not quite sure can carry a series but is awesome in small doses. His style and antics seem to fit that Jeremy Piven in early Entourage days where you love to see him enter a scene but for a full 30 to 60 minutes, you might get tired of his gimmick. Odenkirk was awesome in one episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm as "Porno Gil". A preview for the new Breaking Bad spin-off on Grantland mentioned how some series can never be revisited. The writer cited The Sopranos, which was the show that kickstarted the Golden Age of television storytelling that we are supposedly in today. One could return to the Sopranos universe if handled well, and here's how Chase and company could do it.
The frustrating finish to the series left people wondering if Tony was shot or not at the end. I side with his was shot from behind. Chase came out and said "no, he lived". I think Chase's ending was fantastic, and us moderns just couldn't accept it. Chase could bring back the Sopranos crew for a mini-series, maybe four episodes tops. Starts the mini-series in the diner again, except the opening shot is filmed from behind Tony and shows the "members only jacket wearing man" coming out of the bathroom and shooting Tony in the head. The mini-series is how everyone else reacts and handles his departure. As Chase explicitly stated, these mobsters were scumbags, they were horrible people, and they still made people cheer for them. Tony's intelligence (smart guido) and his natural charm and leadership held that rickety ship that was the family together. The mini-series would focus on life after Tony. Because James Gandolfini is dead, they cannot shoot new scenes with him but that is not the point. How do the scumbags carry on? Do they survive an onslaught from the NY families? What happens to that harpie Carmella? How do AJ and Meadow react? As much as the show was about the mob, it was about the unraveling of Boomer family life and cultural change. The mini-series would explore this idea, which was the story behind the Mafia set pieces. If anything, it may be more appropriate with the loss of the great patriarch both in his family and his mob family.
Through the years, I have waited for one of these upscale dramas to take a leap and do this with a final season. With a lead alive and not dead, you start the final season with the lead's death. The rest of the season is the characters struggle with dealing with the loss of X, including flashbacks that reveal the state of their universe and the lead before the death. A perfect show set up for this was Mad Men. Don's spiral downward is what Matt Weiner has hinted at for years, yet somehow he still writes Don as getting a big win. Weiner has a giant ego, but not big enough to commit to the downer ending that is a slow motion collapse over the last two seasons. While I loved Mad Men, I really disliked the introduction of new characters and weird diversions when what I, and many of my peers, want to see the resolution and where this is going for Don and Co. Imagine Mad Men starting the final season with Don Draper found dead, bloated and reeking of alcohol in his apartment all alone. The season weaves the story of how the company and his family process his death with the story of how he got there. We know the ending (Don is dead), but we are sucked into how did this happen and what are these fools going to do now?
This will not happen. it would be fun and different, but I am just a blogger, not a Hollywood producer. Leaning on an old Hitchcock approach, sometimes the suspense and anticipation is not purely in the event, but in how people handle the event and learning what the mysteries were behind it. LOST had a bit of fun with this when LOST switched to the flash forwards instead of the flash backwards. Of course, J.J. Abrams screwed up LOST with the time jump and some other weird choices, but hey the guy needs to focus EVERY STORY ON PARENT-CHILD RELATIONSHIPS. Maybe this would be a bad story-telling device, but wasn't it great fun when Breaking Bad started the pilot with Walt in the desert with a gun, and the entire pilot was how he got there? The death of a lead, especially one with as much audience, script and character development as a Don Draper or Tony Soprano, in the first scene of the final season would be one helluva hook for those of us at home. How did Don lose it all? How did Tony let his guard down? What will the island of misfit relatives and friends do now that the big cheese is gone? Did they still need him? Is that why he died a depressing, sad ending?