When it comes to the structure of time in TV shows, we’ve come a long way in once being completely linear to taking on more complicated time structures in shows taking place in the past. We’ve also evolved to seeing shows that take place in a more liquid time where we suddenly jump forward to see what happens to characters as we did with “How I Met Your Mother” earlier this year. That was already a game-changer in the world of sitcoms after many decades of sitcoms and drama shows mostly following along in the current time frame.
But we never knew for sure if other shows were in the same time we were in. Many sitcoms were just there and didn’t always make references to something in the news to give a definite year. Some of the best sitcoms of the past never made any overly topical references so they could be timeless and seemingly be taking place at a more indefinite time. Only the clothing and hairstyles were the things giving it away, which hasn’t always been too kind to 1970s sitcoms still watched today.
You could call the 2013-14 season the real rule-breaker season when it came to time changes on TV. “How I Met Your Mother” wasn’t the only time shifter if you include the final season of “Breaking Bad” last year. One episode before the finale had a time jump that sprang forward and then looked back at tragic cascading events happening prior.
Writer/producer Vince Gilligan must have realized that playing around with time was a real innovation since TV time has been fairly safe since the beginning of the medium. Perhaps out of fear of confusing audiences, the most plays with time in TV past were just flashbacks. Now Vince Gilligan may be bringing more of a time puzzle not unlike what we saw in “Citizen Kane.” It looks like it’s going to happen in the much-awaited “Better Call Saul” on AMC this fall.
Will the Time Shifts in “Better Call Saul” Confuse Viewers?
Recent reports came out that the above show is going to be playing with time considerably throughout its confirmed two seasons. Variety even reported that it could flash back to the 1980s, which some people cite as perhaps an error in the intention. Not that it wouldn’t be interesting, if also implausible to make Bob Odenkirk and other characters look 25-30 years younger. Then again, perhaps they’ll have younger look-a-like actors with occasional flashbacks to the era to help fill in some of lawyer Saul’s background, plus Walter White’s.
Yes, it’s the likely return of Walter White who will put a lot of the time shifting into play. The producers are already concerned that Bryan Cranston returning as White could potentially overshadow the main character. It’s why it’s hard to imagine he’ll be there a lot, though they’re hinting we’ll see White at various times, from before the time of “Breaking Bad”, during, and maybe even after if he somehow feigned death.
If you’ve ever watched Orson Welles’ “Citizen Kane”, then you know how time can be used to bring the analogy of puzzle pieces. Saul Goodman may have a life that works more interestingly that way, especially within the maze of unusual legal cases he may find himself in. The show will have to clearly label what the dates and years are, though, so viewers don’t become confused on piecing everything together. No doubt the fun will be in fitting the pieces together to form something cohesive later, much like classic film aficionados still attempt to do with “Kane.”
You can count on it that the specter of Walter White will be hanging over the show, almost like a time lord. His slips in and out of time will be noteworthy and make the character more rounded without needing to be the star. Yet, the mere idea he’s lurking somewhere within those time jumps will probably give the show an interesting edge that will push more boundaries beyond what it’s already going to do.