Do 'Battle Creek' & 'Breaking Bad' Have Anything In Common Besides Vince Gilligan?
The Vince Gilligan-created Breaking Bad spinoff Better Call Saul may only have premiered on AMC four weeks ago, but another Vince Gilligan series is already hitting the airwaves this Sunday, March 1: CBS' Battle Creek . One creator having two shows on the air at the same time is hardly an unheard-of phenomenon. Heck, Shonda Rhimes owns ABC's Thursday nights, with three Shondaland hits airing back-to-back. But those three shows were created years apart — how is that two Vince Gilligan shows debuted within a month of each other? Where does he find the time?
Well, it helps that Gilligan actually wrote the Battle Creek script 12 years ago. CBS bought the rights to the show back when it was first penned in 2003, shortly after Gilligan had finished his seven-year stint on The X-Files. But it wasn't until September of 2013, after Breaking Bad had made the writer a proven commodity, that CBS finally green-lit the series. Since Gilligan is currently occupied with Better Call Saul, he only remains on Battle Creek as an executive producer; House creator David Shore was brought on to serve as day-to-day showrunner.
Now, two years after getting the go-ahead, Battle Creek is finally arriving onscreen for a 13-episode freshman season starring Josh Duhamel (Transformers) and Dean Winters (Oz). What can Breaking Bad fans expect from Gilligan's newest (or oldest, depending on how you look at it) show?
Battle Creek Is Much More Of A Comedy
While Breaking Bad certainly had its comedic elements, it was still undeniably a drama. At an hour-long, Battle Creek is also technically a "drama" (at least by the new Emmy rules) — but it is much more of a comedy than Breaking Bad ever was. About a small town Michigan detective (Winters) who's suddenly teamed up with a slick FBI agent (Duhamel), Battle Creek is a new take on the tried-and-true buddy-cop/odd-couple formulas. Expect plenty of antics as Det. Russ Agnew and Agt. Milton Chamberlain butt heads, crack jokes, and solve crimes.
It's On A Broadcast Network, Not A Cable Channel
While Breaking Bad aired on AMC, a cable channel, Battle Creek is airing on CBS, a much more family-friendly broadcast network. This will mean cleaned-up language and much less blood... but lest you get nervous about Gilligan's new show being too squeaky clean, rest assured that the writer has creative ways to maintain his subversively dark tone. Instead of meth, there's addictively delicious maple syrup. There are no drug lords engaging in gang warfare, but the body count does include colorful costumed mascots. And it seems like the only person carrying around hard drugs is a young girl found with heroin in her backpack.
It's A Procedural
While Breaking Bad was a heavily-serialized saga telling one story over the course of five years, Battle Creek is a CBS cop show where the cast solves new crimes every week. Surely the world doesn't need yet another legal procedural, right? What's next, Chicago Sanitation? Thankfully, David Shore is here to put our minds at ease. "If a story could appear on CSI or Law & Order, then we won't tell it," the showrunner told the L.A. Times . "There will be big crimes and real stakes but with small-town personal angles and a sense of humor." Given the quirky cases and the surprisingly dark tone, Battle Creek is starting to sound more like a reboot of Bryan Fuller's Pushing Daisies than a Breaking Bad wannabe.
Gilligan's new show may not have much in common with his most famous work — but that's probably a good thing. Breaking Bad already has one spinoff on the air, it's better for Battle Creek to try to be its own beast. As Variety 's Brian Lowry put it in his review of the new series, "While Battle Creek hews relatively close to CBS’ procedural comfort zone, the series also exhibits the wry, slightly jaundiced view of the world that has always characterized Gilligan’s work." Sounds like the makings of a potentially winning combination to me!
Images: Robert Voets, Sonja Flemming, Cliff Lipson, Monty Brinton/CBS