TUNED IN TO MANITOBA
AMC hit Better Call Saul puts Manitoba on the TV map — but it’s hardly the first show to do so
Better Call Saul is the latest hit television show to put Manitoba on the map — but it’s hardly the first time our province and city have been mentioned on the small screen /
ON a recent episode of AMC’s Better Call Saul — the prequel to the hit series Breaking Bad — Nacho (Michael Mando) opens a safe containing everything he needs to skip town: cash and fake IDs. Fake Manitoba IDs.
Naturally, as is Winnipeg tradition when something like this happens, the Internet was abuzz about this fun, blink-and-you-miss-it Easter egg. The prop itself, by the way, is pretty well done. Wolever Avenue is an actual street in Winnipeg. The Spirited Energy font looks right, though it may not be period accurate. Sure, the bison is on the wrong side and looks more like a bull, but who cares, Manitoba was on Better Call Saul!
But Better Call Saul is just the latest in a (surprisingly) long line of TV shows who have shouted-out our town.
Mad About You did it. Cheers did it. News Radio did it. The Simpsons did it, giving us such oft-quoted gems as “That’s it, back to Winnipeg!” and “We were born here, what’s your excuse?”
Finding examples isn’t hard — there are dozens. Teasing out why Winnipeg is mentioned with such frequency, however, is a bit more complicated.
A few theories have been floated out in the past. In 2008, the writers of
The Office told reporters they picked Winnipeg for a business trip episode because it struck the right balance between “exotic and obscure,” a line that was later riffed on by 2016 Vogue. com profile of our city. So, perhaps Winnipeg can take its place alongside Timbuktu and Kalamazoo: places with funny- and far away-sounding names.
Or, maybe clues can be found in comedy writing rooms. Back before he was the Manitoba Liberal leader and MLA for St. Boniface, Dougald Lamont put together a pair of clip compilation videos, Does Winnipeg Really Exist? and
OK, Maybe Winnipeg Exists, as part of an Economic Development Winnipeg promotional campaign. His theory was that the Winnipeg references might be a tip of the hat to Canadian comedians Ken Finkleman and David Steinberg, who hail from our Prairie city.
“These are two people who ultimately became very important in comedy,” Lamont told the Free Press in 2011, “so there’s a personal connection in some of those references. It’s important because they are actually part of Winnipeg’s comedy legacy.”
Lamont’s theory is supported by Al Jean, executive producer of The
Simpsons, who told the Free Press in
2005 that his show’s Winnipeg references are a tribute to Finkleman, who gave Jean his first Hollywood writing gig, on 1982’s Airplane II. There you go.
There’s something strangely affirming about simply being acknowledged, which is why people cheer for the name of their own city at concerts, or feel a surge of pride when they recognize a landmark in a film that was shot here. For self-deprecating flatlanders with supposed inferiority complexes, we secretly love Winnipeg.
To stir up civic pride, here are
10 more recent ’Peg mentions. From NBC to Netflix, Winnipeg gets around.
Better call everyone! A fake Manitoba ID makes a blink-and-you-miss-it appearance in a recent episode of Better Call Saul, the prequel to AMC hit Breaking Bad.
Dunder-Mifflin sent Michael Scott (Steve Carell, left) and Andy Bernard (Ed Helms) on a business trip to Winnipeg in a 2008 episode of The Office.
The Simpsons had some fun at Winnipeg’s expense, but who cares? We were on The Simpsons!