Better Call Saul heads into its season-one finale tonight (April 6) a solid hit, averaging 6.1 million viewers per week (on a live-plus-three-day basis) and 3.8 million in the 18-49 and 25-54 demos, per AMC.
The Wire theorizes a segment of the former Breaking Bad audience might have bailed on this this clever-but-quirky prequel after watching the pilot — but for the surprise last-seconds appearance of Raymond Cruz as Tuco Salamanca.
Cruz, who was in four Breaking Bad episodes as the meth-fueled, psychopathic drug dealer, also featured in the second Saul episode, torturing two would-be con men who had tried to scam Tuco’s abuela.
Bob Odenkirk’s character, now known as Jimmy McGill (he’s not Saul Goodman yet), talks Tuco into merely maiming the hapless pair instead of killing them in the New Mexico desert.
The Wire asked Cruz — who plays Det. Julio Sanchez on TNT’s long-running Major Crimes and, earlier, The Closer — if anyone else told him he saved Saul.
“People loved what they saw, what else do you want?” he said. “They were happy with it, it surprised the hell out of them and it was a good story.”
Cruz chatted during his first week back on the set of Major Crimes, and said fellow cast members enjoyed his Saul turn and riffs on the word “biznatch,” an insult to Tuco’s grandmother that inspires the desert beat-down.
Cruz’s Detective Sanchez on Major Crimes, by the way, is the essence of quietude. “Everything is so underplayed — completely the opposite of Tuco,” he said.
“I love doing this character and it’s great to take a character over a long period of time like this. I wish every actor had that opportunity.”
He said it was interesting Tuco five-plus years before Breaking Bad’s events, and before he was over-ingesting blue meth. He’s “a little more contemplative, a little more hesitant. But he’s still a live wire.”
He also enjoyed sharing a scene with Odenkirk’s character for the first time.
Cruz also stars in Lifetime’s upcoming movie Cleveland Abduction. He plays the real-life character Ariel Castro, who kidnapped a 21-year-old single mother, Michelle Knight (played by Taryn Manning), and held her captive in his home for 11 years, then abducted and imprisoned two teenagers, one of them Amanda Berry.
“That character is all over the map, because he’s so soft-spoken and he’s a menace,” Cruz said. “He’s this horrible human being who has just terrorized these three girls. They weren’t even women, they were girls. He’s a child molester.”
“The difficulty in this role is finding the humanity in this character,” he said. Cruz had to find moments in the script to “create a window to let people at least get to know this character.”
To get to know Cleveland Abduction, tune in Saturday, April 25, at 8 p.m. (ET/PT). And to learn how the Better Call Saul season ends, watch AMC on Monday, April 6, at 10 p.m. (ET/PT).
Spy vs. Spy, Museum Style
AMC has turned to an even more appropriate venue for the second-season premiere pre-screening in Washington of its drama, Turn: Washington’s Spies, which is, appropriately enough, about spies recruited by George Washington during the American Revolution.
The first season kick-off event in Washington, D.C., was held at the Nat ional Archives, whose nat ional treasures include the document that helped launch that war and necessitate all that spying: the Declaration of Independence.
This time around, the April 7 event — a reception, screening and panel session — will be at the International Spy Museum, “the only public museum in the United States solely dedicated to espionage,” says the museum on its website, though presumably that means showcasing rather than engaging in it.
Lined up for the Turn panel discussion are Barry Josephson, executive producer of the series; Alexander Rose, author of Washington’s Spies, on which the series is based; and star Jamie Bell along with co-stars Heather Lind and Burn Gorman.
Josephson said the new season will “ratchet up the action” and the “conflict,” which means more spying — and running and getting shot at — by the farmer/ spies who are the focus of the series. Viewers will be able to judge for themselves Monday, April 13, with a two-hour premiere at 9 p.m. (its regular timeslot is Monday at 10 p.m.).
Turn averaged 2.2 million viewers — per to live-plus-seven-day viewing data — during its 10-episode first season.
According to Spy Museum spokesman Jason Werden, as part of the AMC event the museum will display an artifact from its collection that directly relates to the Turn era of spying — a letter from George Washington to Nathaniel Sackett offering him $50 a month to become a spymaster and recruiter. That letter essentially launched the spying operation that the show chronicles, as Washington branched out to include colonists without military or espionage training but who knew Long Island, N.Y., and could be the army’s eyes and ears there.
— John Eggerton
It’s All In the Wrist[watch], Even the Remote Control
Thanks to the popularity of Internet-powered apps, the tablet and the smartphone have all taken the form of virtual remote controls, complementing all of those button-filled, much-clunkier single-purpose predecessors. So it’s only a matter of time before the functions of the remote control get squeezed inside a new class of smart watches.
Check that. The time is apparently already upon us.
Ooyala, the multiscreen video-tech company now owned by Telstra, said its customers can use its iOS software development kit to enable TV playback controls on the new Apple Watch. Among the capabilities is an “AirPlay” button that would enable content to be slung from a mobile device to the Apple TV device for viewing on the big screen.
Ooyala hasn’t announced any takers for this remote control integration for Apple’s latest doodad. “We’re just getting ahead of the curve,” an official told The Wire. But some of the company’s announced clients include Univision, Comedy Central and NBCUniversal.
Ooyala’s work is representative of the increasing amount of TV industry action centering on the really small screen.
ESPN and The Weather Channel, for example, have introduced apps for the Pebble smartwatch. ESPN’s most recent iteration (version 1.4, issued in February) tracks multiple games at a glance and makes the watch vibrate amid score updates and lead changes. Weather’s app provides the wearer with local weather conditons and access to a three-day forecast that can be pulled up with the shake of the wrist.
The Internet of Things is upon us, so watch out!
— Jeff Baumgartner