Better Call Nielsen (not a review of Better Call Saul (not exactly))

I am glad that we are not a Nielsen family.

I’m assuming that Nielsen ratings still exist. I’m uncertain as to how television show ratings are gathered these days, to tell the truth. But, whatever the case, I’m glad my television viewing habits aren’t being used to calculate them, although I suspect that they may be more typical than I know.

I never—NEVER—watch a television show in real-time, as it airs. I record the shows I want to watch on DVR, and then watch them later. In most cases, much later. My brain, that fickle collector of facts unneeded and, usually, unwanted, is whispering something about DVR shows watched within a few days after the air date counting towards ratings. Even if that’s the case—something I’m not willing to attest to at this crucial juncture—my viewing habits would not help any of the shows I like.

Case in point.

I just finished watching season two of Better Call Saul. The finale aired way back in April, and it’s September 15, 2016, as I type this. A casual observer might think that I didn’t like this show at all. Nothing could be further from the truth. I love this show. Once I started watching it, it was at about the rate of one episode a week. I just didn’t start until much, much later because I was busy catching up on other shows that I didn’t start until much, much later. Similar to how I am currently recording, but failing to watch in a timely matter, the shows Halt and Catch Fire and Fear the Walking Dead (although I will admit that I like one of these a lot more than the other (I’ll let you guess which one (your first guess is probably wrong))).

My tendency to delay watching shows seems to apply more to hour-long dramas than it does to half-hour shows, mostly sitcoms, which seem to get viewed about a week late. Shows like Modern Family, The Middle, Fresh Off the Boat, Big Bang Theory, or Blackish tend to be watched more-or-less while the current season is still unfolding. I think the reason for this is that these are shows my wife and I watch together (except for Big Bang, a show my wife doesn’t like at all, it seems). We don’t share the same taste in longer-format shows. We’ve tried, with shows like Grimm or Scorpion, but watching these together soon began to feel like an obligation rather than pleasure. Plus, neither of us could watch the show without the other, and it’s a rare occasion when we’re both in the mood at the same time (give me a virtual high-five if you can relate to this, for any reason).

My wife’s taste in television leans heavily towards what we loosely call “reality,” like Dancing With The Stars or Big Brother, or news shows like 20/20 and the myriad shows about wives killing husbands (in which I choose not to read any subtext whatsoever, although I will never drink any Gatorade she offers to me), and the incessant shows about flipping or buying houses or people cooking things in competition with other people cooking things. I’m not criticizing her viewing choices. I am, in fact, a casual viewer of some of these things myself, and absolutely love it when British chefs are cursing at other chefs. Besides, I like the fact that a lot of what entertains me doesn’t appeal to my wife, because I can then watch what I want when I want to. Like Better Call Saul.

This post (in addition to being a typical exercise in parenthetical expression) was conceived as a review of Better Call Saul. I completely disinterred the lead by admitting that I love the show, so my views are biased. Also, as I reach this current word count, I am discovering that I’ve lost interest in writing a true review of the show. You already know whether you’ve watched it or not. And, if you did watch it, you probably watched it long ago. If you didn’t watch it, it’s too late for you to record it. So, a review would probably not interest you either, unless you planned to watch it later on your favorite streaming service.

Concise review: I love this series and look forward to recording and eventually watching the third season.

Fans of Breaking Bad (of which this is sort of a prequel spin-off) have pointed out that this isn’t exactly the same show. It’s not, but I don’t consider that a criticism myself. In many ways, it’s a smaller show, by which I mean no airplanes have blown up and scattered debris over Albuquerque, New Mexico in this one. At least not yet. The drama seems more intimate somehow, at least to me, and while the stakes seem much lower at times, Vince Gilligan and company still know how to ratchet up the tension in the individual scenes. The season ends with me wanting to know what’s going to happen next and having to wait until some time in 2017 to find out.

More astute viewers than I have pointed out that the first letters of the show titles in this season spell out FRINGS BACK, which seems to indicate that Gus Fring, from Breaking Bad, will be a part of the next season. We know he can’t die in this show since he was alive in Bad, just as we know that Jimmy McGill (who becomes Saul Goodman) can’t die. But, we don’t know what else can happen. I, for one, want to find out. That’s just good storytelling.

Brief epilogue. The one show I do watch very close to the date it airs is The Walking Dead. But, only because it’s so popular and I’ve had too many spoilers suddenly thrust upon me on Facebook or in inadvertently overheard conversations. Left to my own devices, I probably wouldn’t watch it until the season was over.  Still, I gotta find out who Negan decided to kill, don’t I?

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