Television is such an embarrassment of original programming riches right now, it doesn’t seem likely that one of the most highly anticipated series this year would be a comedic prequel spinoff of a hair-raising drama. But when that drama happens to be Breaking Bad, then it makes total sense that Better Call Saul is shaping up to be the must-see comedy of the year. And if it wasn’t already, the recent addition of comedic maestro Michael McKean definitely puts it into the upper stratosphere.
McKean is only the third confirmed cast member of Better Call Saul, joining the insanely superb Bob Odenkirk in the title role of hack lawyer Saul Goodman, and Jonathan Banks as the no-nonsense Mike Ehrmantraut, the muscle who gets shit done with as few questions as possible. Considering it’s a prequel, the door is left open for a multitude of familiar faces popping in and out for cameos, such as Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Anna Gunn, and Giancarlo Esposito. Maybe David Costabile could come back as fan favorite Gale Boetticher? For now, though, we’re perfectly happy with these three as the principal cast. (Just get Bill Burr and Lavell Crawford to come back as Saul’s henchman.)
According to Deadline, McKean will play Dr. Thurber, “a brilliant attorney who is now restricted by an unusual affliction.” When it comes to afflictions, Breaking Bad gave us Walt Jr.’s cerebral palsy and Tio Salamanca’s ALS, but I’m guessing whatever Thurber is suffering from will be more humorous than debilitating. McKean has played enough simpletons in his career that this might end up being a mental injury. Any way it goes, having McKean and Odenkirk on the same screen will be amazing.
After years of playing the slick-haired Lenny Kosnowsky on Laverne & Shirley, McKean become a comedic rock god alongside Harry Shearer, Christopher Guest, and a handful of drummers in This is Spinal Tap, one of the funniest movies that will ever exist. Just watch his face in the clip below, as it sometimes looks like he’s being whispered the lyrics right before singing them. Simple, but so good.
Since then, he’s been in more movies and TV shows than I could possibly list here, including roles in Guest’s later movies, like Best in Show and For Your Consideration. In fact, his latest starring gig was in Guest’s excellent HBO comedy Family Tree, which was cancelled after just one six-episode season because the world is cruel.
Though there’s no official premiere date just yet, fans can expect to watch Better Call Saul on AMC this November, with a release on Netflix immediately following the season finale.