Better Call Saul (and five of the worst on-screen lawyers)
After Vince Gilligan's world-conquering drama series Breaking Bad came to an end, many fans of the show experienced the kind of withdrawal symptoms one might associate with kicking an addiction to Walter White's distinctive blue meth crystals, but despite several rumours and hoaxes about the possibility of a sixth season, the likes of Walter, Jesse Pinkman and Hank Schraeder are, sadly, gone for good.
Not so for Saul Goodman though; the shady lawyer played by Bob Odenkirk proved such a hit that Gilligan gave him his own spin-off show, Better Call Saul, the first season of which aired in the US in February this year and finally arrives in stores on DVD and Blu-ray on Monday (November 9th, you can pre-order on the right-hand side of the page).
Essentially a prequel series taking place before the events of Breaking Bad, season one finds Goodman some years earlier struggling to make ends meet as a public defence attorney and living in a storeroom behind a Vietnamese nail salon. We also learn that his real name is actually James “Jimmy” McGill, a former conman who vows to straighten himself out in exchange for his brother's help in getting him out of jail.
His brother Chuck (Michael McKean) is, unlike Jimmy, a respected lawyer and a partner of the well-established law firm Hamlin, Hamlin & McGill, but has withdrawn from the profession due to the sudden onset of electromagnetic sensitivity, a condition which may or may not be entirely psychological and which prevents him from being in contact with any kind of electronic equipment.
Alongside Odenkirk and McKean are some familiar faces from Breaking Bad, particularly Gus Fring's trusted enforcer Mike (Jonathan Banks), who features heavily in the spin-off's story. There are also appearances for Tuco Salamanca and his henchmen, N-Doze and Gonzo.
Anyone sorely missing Breaking Bad will be pleased to know that Better Call Saul features the same, brilliant standard of writing and any fears about whether the show could stand on its own can be swiftly dispensed with; Better Call Saul is a great show in its own right and with a second season already commissioned it looks likely to survive the fate of many a disappointing spin-off. What really makes Better Call Saul tick though is Odenkirk's performance; Goodman may not be the straightest in the profession, or the most adept, but he's easily one of the most entertaining.
Besides, it's not like he's the worst lawyer we've ever seen on TV and if you're in in any doubt about that, check out some of the chancers below...
(You can also find an exclusive featurette with interviews from the Better Call Saul cast below...)
Lionel Hutz (The Simpsons)
Dishonesty, desperation, ineptitude – Lionel Hutz has every quality you don't want from a lawyer, but that never stopped Homer Simpson hiring him several times. With a practice name like 'I Can't Believe it's a Law Firm', Hutz is the stereotypical ambulance chaser and more of a crook than most of his clients, but he's very, very funny.
Ted Buckland (Scrubs)
Let's face it, Ted is just far too good-natured to be an effective lawyer, but as far as ineptitude goes there's nobody quite like him. He sings in a barbershop quartet called The Worthless Peons and gets 'flop sweat' every time he's around malpractice lawyer Neena Broderick, but that's about the extent of his legal prowess.
Jackie Chiles (Seinfeld)
The over-the-top lawyer from Seinfeld is clearly a thinly-veiled impersonation of Johnnie Cochran, but while the OJ Simpson lawyer must rank as one of the most oft-parodied defence attorneys in history, nobody does it quite like Phil Morris.
Marcia Clark (The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt)
Quite literally named after Johnnie Cochran's vanquished opponent in the OJ Simpson case, Marcia and her dimwitted sidekick Dan only appear in three episodes, but show creator Tina Fey saved one of the best parts for herself here. Trying to win what should be an open-and-shut case prosecuting cult leader Richard Wayne Gary Wayne, Marcia still manages to make a mess of it.
Bob Loblaw (Arrested Development)
Aside from being a brilliant verbal gag, Bob Loblaw is just the latest in a long line of inept lawyers hired by the Bloom family, but thanks to some genius writing and Scott Baio's deadpan portrayal, he's also one of the funniest lawyers on television, as well as being one of the least competent.