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

Winnipeg Free Press - - FRONT PAGE - JEN ZORATTI

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.

AMC

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.

NBC

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!

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