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'Breaking Bad' Spinoff Moving Forward at AMC

"Plans call for 'Saul' to be a one-hour prequel that will focus on the evolution of the popular Saul Goodman character [played by Bob Odenkirk] before he ever became Walter White's lawyer," Sony Pictures TV and AMC said in a joint statement.

Breaking Bad Season 5 Episode 9 Saul Goodman - H 2013
AMC
Saul Goodman

AMC is moving forward with its Breaking Bad spinoff.

After several weeks of heated negotiations, the basic cable network has inked a licensing agreement with Sony Pictures Television for the series' next iteration. "As conceived, the new series is based on the show's popular Saul Goodman character with the working title Better Call Saul," the studio and network confirmed in a joint statement, adding: "plans call for Saul to be a one-hour prequel that will focus on the evolution of the popular Saul Goodman character before he ever became Walter White's lawyer."

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The series is expected to star Bob Odenkirk, who has played Saul for several seasons, with writer-producer Peter Gould set to run the effort, as it was Gould who created the character back in season two. Bad creator Vince Gilligan, who conceived of the spinoff with Gould, will remain involved, and noted in late July that it was his "fervent wish" that the spinoff move forward. At that time, Odenkirk added: "I'd do it in a second." A formal series order won't come until Gould, Gilligan and Odenkirk have deals finalized, a topic on which the network and studio declined comment.

Had talks with AMC fallen through, there were several other distributors, including Netflix, that were set to pounce with rich offers, say several sources with knowledge of the situation. Like Bad, the series will be produced by Sony, where Gilligan spent several years under an overall deal. He has yet to re-up and has fast become the most in-demand showrunner in town.

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The news arrives as Bad is set to ends its run in less than a month. Its final eight-episode arc has wowed critics and bloggers alike. "The entire run of Breaking Bad has been remarkable and, as I've stated in the past, I don't think any TV series got out of the blocks and reached greatness faster than Breaking Bad," THR's chief TV critic Tim Goodman wrote of the Bryan Cranston starrer in July. In August, it returned with a record high of 5.9 million viewers, up 102 percent year over year, with an 87 percent surge in the key 18-49 demo.

The move forward comes as AMC has struggled to launch its dark freshman drama Low Winter Sun, which is losing more than 50 percent of its Breaking Bad viewership. Following this week's cancellation of The Killing -- and with critical darling Mad Men signing off in 2014 -- the spinoff couldn't come at a better time for the network. Looking ahead, AMC is prepared to launch two new dramas next year: 1980s computer drama Halt & Catch Fire and period piece Turn.

Saul first appeared in the 2009 episode "Better Call Saul," which saw Walt (Cranston) and Jesse (Aaron Paul) employ the criminally-minded attorney to get one of their dealers, Badger (Matt Jones), out of legal trouble. The episode quickly made Odenkirk's character a fan favorite and introduced his series of cheesy TV commercials to the Bad universe.

E-mail: Lacey.Rose@THR.com