Befitting the television handiwork of Vince Gilligan, the truth of Better Call Saul’s record-breaking debut is not on the surface. Befitting a Gilligan show that’s about a lawyer, there are several layers of caveats beneath that surface: With a 3.4 18-49 rating, Better Call Saul is indeed the highest-rated cable premiere in TV history—among the advertiser-preferred demographic of adults under 50. With an audience of 6.9 million total viewers, the show failed to earn the title of most-watched cable debut, an honor that still belongs to TNT’s The Closer. But, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, The Closer was a series about law-enforcement officers, who are notorious sticklers for “facts,” and “law-enforcement officers” plus “facts” doesn’t always add up to “truth”—nor does it draw young people with disposable income. A lawyer who’s on his way to meeting a chemistry teacher-turned-meth kingpin, however, possesses tremendous appeal to the demo, so we think you’ll find in favor of Better Call Saul.
You’ll also find there’s no deliberating the continued ratings power of TV zombies: The Walking Dead’s midseason premiere was watched by 15.6 million viewers last night, a tally that’s higher than Saul’s and The Closer’s debut totals combined. In the end, neither of the separate, yet equally important groups that represent the people in the criminal justice system can defeat the living dead—which is probably why NBC is trying to beat the zombies at their own game by raising Law & Order from the grave.