It’s a bold move and a bit of a gamble.
AMC announced this week that is has already ordered a second season of its forthcoming Breaking Bad prequel, Better Call Saul, well in advance of its 2015 series premiere. It’s a strong vote of confidence for the show, which stars the terrific Bob Odenkirk as Saul Goodman, the shystiest lawyer in New Mexico.
While networks are famous for yanking new shows off the air without giving them any opportunity to win over audiences, rarely do we see a new series picked up for a second season long before the debut of its first episode. The operative word being rarely; it’s not completely unheard of. But does such a move always correspond to the eventual success of a series?
Back in 2010, premium cable network Starz picked up the Kelsey Grammer-helmed drama Boss for a second season before airing any of the first. Alas, Boss never really caught on, and was canceled after two mediocre seasons. That same year, the network announced it had ordered a second season of Spartacus a month before its premiere episode. That show garnered slightly more success, but was also canceled three seasons later.
Netflix has proven itself to be far more adept at backing winners early on: Orange Is The New Black secured a second season two weeks before the 2013 series premiere, and it’s a hit. Same goes for House of Cards, which was produced as part of a two-season deal right off the bat.
While networks like HBO are famous for announcing renewals very early in the season (Game of Thrones was renewed immediately following its inaugural episode in 2011), AMC is the first non-subscription-based television network to make such an aggressive move. And we hope it won’t be the last. Just imagine what might have been if other prematurely canceled series had been given adequate time to find their niche and build a following. (We’re looking at you, Freaks & Geeks.) Let’s see what happens when we give promising new shows a chance to thrive from day one.