ABQ embracing highly-rated ‘Better Call Saul’ early

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – It looks like Albuquerque could be hitting it big again with television gold as new ratings show the “Breaking Bad” spinoff, “Better Call Saul” had a huge premiere. Now the hope is that all of it could become another big showcase for ABQ.

At least 100 people packed Tractor Brewing on 4th near I-40 Sunday night to watch the premiere of “Better Call Saul.” Monday marks the premiere of the second episode of the series.

“It was just a bit more funny,” said Sean Campbell, a long-time fan of the “Breaking Bad” series.

“The show was very intriguing,” said Stephen Meyers, who watched the premiere on Sunday.

“He’s such good character,” said Jessi Campbell, speaking of actor Bob Odenkirk’s portrayal of Jimmy McGill, who later takes on the name Saul Goodman.

Judging by the ratings, fans are hooked, too. The cable network airing the show, AMC, announced Monday that the spinoff about Walter White’s sleazy lawyer broke the record for the highest-rated cable series premiere. Nearly seven million people watched the show nationally.

Now, fans in Albuquerque hope the city can reap even more of the benefit than it did from “Breaking Bad.”

Along with good reviews, so far fans say they’re noticing that the new spin-off is showing a lot of Albuquerque, maybe even more than “Breaking Bad” did.

“There are so many references to Albuquerque itself,” said Meyers.

“They’ve already called out a lot of different places,” said Jessi Campbell.

In the first episode’s opening sequence, Odenkirk’s Goodman is seen working as a manager in an “Omaha” Cinnabon. The show actually filmed at the Cinnabon inside Cottonwood Mall.

“People have been calling the store and people have been taking pictures out front,” said Krista Kendall, who’s actually a manager at that location.

Kendall, who was an extra on the show, said she was bossed around a bit by Odenkirk.

“I remember him saying, ‘If you need the weekend off, you gotta get that shift covered,’ ” Kendall said.

Cinnabon gave out free cinnamon rolls for a few hours at both that location and others around the country as part of a tie-in with the show.

The show kept showing well-known Albuquerque spots. Saul is seen arguing a court with a New Mexico state seal hanging on the wall. Soon after, Goodman is seen receiving a check from the city of Albuquerque with the city’s actual logo on it.

As the episode progresses, Goodman is seen walking in the parking lot behind the Albuquerque Convention Center with the Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard overpass in the background. One of the biggest bumps came for a Nob Hill restaurant.

“Could he meet you and your husband say at Loyola’s Café on Central?” asks Goodman’s character, mimicking the voice of a phony secretary.

Loyola’s Family Restaurant on Central near Washington was the setting for a big scene where Goodman attempts to lure in a new client. A downtown restaurant also got a shout-out.

“Already we’ve gotten a big reaction to the show last night,” said Sandy Gregory, owner of Café Lush.

Gregory’s nearly four-year old café was prominently featured in the background of a hit and run scene. She hopes it bring more people to eat at the shop.

“It’s really good for small business like ours to be able to get this kind of exposure,” said Gregory.

Another business owner up on Juan Tabo near Central, Nancy Dao hopes for the same boost. Her business, Day Spa and Nail, was used as Saul’s office in the show. Crews used a different set though for Goodman’s actual office.

Another scene was filmed in Los Altos Skatepark near the Lomas/I-40 overpass.

With Albuquerque so visible in the first episode, locals hope it brings more people to the city they love.

“I started watching breaking bad because it featured Albuquerque and I love our home, obviously, and so now I’m hooked,” said Gabriela Gomez, a life-long Albuquerque resident.

Local ratings were pretty big for the premiere of “Better Call Saul” as well. About 100,000 New Mexicans are estimated to have watched it. The second episode premieres at 8 p.m. MST on AMC.

City tourism has already put up a “Better Call Saul” page and the “Breaking Bad” RV Tours are already advertising that they’ll include “Better Call Saul” locations on future tours.

AMC has already ordered a second season of “Better Call Saul,” which has yet to be shot. Albuquerque’s Economic Development Department estimates that the show’s cousin “Breaking Bad” helped infuse about $60 to $70 million into the city through wages and purchase.

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