The 7 Best Bob Odenkirk Projects
It’s no secret that Bob Odenkirk is a talented comedian. His contributions in Mr. Show with Bob and David, Saturday Night Live, and more have solidified his position as a titan of the comedy industry. His skill in the genre is vast. He excels in dry comedy as he does broad. He helped foster a new age of avant-garde comedy as well. He is undeniably likable, even when he plays reprehensible characters like Saul Goodman in the critically-acclaimed Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. It’s never too late to dive into Odenkirk’s oeuvre. Here are his seven best to date.
Mr. Show with Bob and David (1995 to 1998)
Following his tenure at Saturday Night Live — during which he created the motivational speaker character Matt Foley for the late Chris Farley — and Late Night with Conan O’Brien, Odenkirk and his friend David Cross developed their own sketch show for HBO. Cross is best known for playing Tobias Funke in the cult sitcom Arrested Development. The style of comedy Mr. Show exhibited was informed by Odenkirk and Cross and the show’s many other alt-comedy writers — including Sarah Silverman, Paul F. Tompkins, and Scott Aukerman. The premises are absurd, like the “Pre-Taped Call-In Show” in which calls are taken a week in advance but callers struggle to understand the concept. Mr. Show with Bob and David was and continues to be one of the most lauded American sketch comedy shows of all time.
Breaking Bad (2008 to 2013)
Along with The Wire, The Sopranos and Game of Thrones, Vince Gilligan’s Breaking Bad is frequently touted as one of the best television shows of the modern era. With talented directors — including Gilligan himself and Rian Johnson, who would go on to direct Star Wars: The Last Jedi — behind the camera, and talented actors in front of it, the conventional wisdom is correct here. The dynamic show sees Walter White (Bryan Cranston), a high school chemistry diagnosed with cancer. With the help of a burnout former student named Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) and a skeezy lawyer named Saul Goodman (Odenkirk), White enters the world of meth production in order to secure a future for his family.
Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! (2007 to 2010)
Mr. Show with Bob and David was important for the alt-comedy scene. In a similar way, Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! was a watershed piece for surreal, avant-garde comedians. Odenkirk discovered the titular duo — Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim — and frequently showed up in the show’s sketches. Heidecker and Wareheim took public access television, late-night infomercials, and David Lynch as its inspirations and Doug “DJ Douggpound” Lussenhop as their editor. Together, it created something truly bizarre and truly, truly special.
Fargo, Season 1 (2014)
People were skeptical when FX and Noah Hawley announced a spin-off television project to Joel and Ethan Coen’s 1996 film Fargo. Rightfully so, because it is rare that such a great film can be built off of in a way that is satisfying. However, three seasons later, it is clear that Hawley has created a quite special anthology series. Each season follows a different thread, but each carries a set of similarities to each other and the preceding film: a north midwest setting, crime organizations, and accidental or otherwise sloppy murders. The first season follows the murder of the police chief of Bemidji, Minnesota by a mysterious hitman named Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton) and the fallout of that incident. Odenkirk plays Bill Oswalt, the well-meaning but ill-equipped interim police chief.
The Birthday Boys (2013 to 2014)
Like he did for himself and David Cross as well as for Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim, Odenkirk sought to help a sketch comedy group called the Birthday Boys to television. The group is composed of seven comedians: Jefferson Dutton, Dave Ferguson, Mike Hanford, Tim Kalpakis, Matt Kowalick, Chris VanArtsdalen and Mike “Mitch” Mitchell who play heightened versions of themselves and other various characters in surreal, goofy situations. As well as behind the scenes, Odenkirk’s presence manifested once again on screen along with other big-name guests like Ben Stiller and impressionist Frank Caliendo. Though the show only lasted two seasons and has less of an impact than Odenkirk’s previous sketch projects, it is thoroughly enjoyable and easy to binge.
Director Alexander Payne is often best known for his films About Schmidt (starring Jack Nicholson), Sideways (starring Paul Giamatti) and The Descendants (starring George Clooney). Nebraska performed more modestly at the box office than the three aforementioned films but is nonetheless a worthwhile and affecting monochromatic film. Bruce Dern plays Woody Grant, a senile Montana man who has been tricked by a mail scam. He is insistent on going to Lincoln, Nebraska to claim his million dollars. His wife Kate (June Squibb) and sons Ross and David (Odenkirk and Will Forte) are varying degrees of sympathetic to his new struggle until his youngest son David elects to drive his father to Lincoln. On their way to settle the scam, they encounter characters from Woody’s past, and David learns more about his father’s past than ever before.
Better Call Saul
Vince Gilligan followed up his acclaimed Breaking Bad with a prequel series based around Odenkirk’s own Saul Goodman. The show follows Jimmy McGill — Saul’s birth name — and his struggle to succeed as an inexperienced but persistent attorney at law. Throughout, characters from the preceding series trickle in and out, including Jonathan Banks’ Mike Ehrmantraut and Giancarlo Esposito’s Gus Fring. Nonetheless, Better Call Saul becomes something all its own with a mostly new cast of characters surrounding Odenkirk, who continues to wow with his layered performance of the antihero lawyer.
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