'Better Call Saul' sparks excitement in host city of Albuquerque in post-'Breaking Bad' era

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A billboard from Albuquerque lawyer Ron Bell sits along busy Interstate 25 in Albuquerque on Monday, Feb. 9, 2015 and plays off the new AMC-TV series "Better Call Saul" with "Better Call Bell." The show, starring Bob Odenkirk as sleazy lawyer Saul Goodman, premiered Sunday, and city officials hope the prequel to the hit series "Breaking Bad" sparks more interest in Albuquerque. (AP Photo/Russell Contreras)

In this image released by AMC, Bob Odenkirk portrays Saul Goodman in a scene from "Better Call Saul." Odenkirk reprises his role from "Breaking Bad," in "Better Call Saul," a much-anticipated, well-worth-waiting-for prequel airing two episodes Sunday and Monday at 10 p.m. EST. (AP Photo/AMC, Ursula Coyote)

Star of the upcoming AMC Network spinoff series "Better Call Saul" actor Bob Odenkirk poses for portrait on Thursday, Feb. 5, 2015 in New York. (Photo by Amy Sussman/Invision/AP)

ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico — New Mexico's largest city is back to being featured in another television show more than a year after the end of AMC-TV series "Breaking Bad."

"Better Call Saul" premiered Sunday, and city officials hope the prequel to the hit series sparks more interest in Albuquerque after "Breaking Bad" spawned tours, sales of novelty items and even a political ad during the last election.

More than 100 fans showed up for a premiere "Better Call Saul" viewing party at an Albuquerque brewery, and more such gatherings are scheduled for the remainder of the season. One lawyer, Ron Bell, who some speculate the show's main character is loosely based on, has a billboard advertising "Better Call Bell."

Already the city's visitors' bureau has created a website to help tourists find Albuquerque sites from the show.

New Mexico's new Attorney General Hector Balderas even thumbed out a tweet during the show to let its main star, Bob Odenkirk, know that the state's top cop was watching him. "Hey @BetterCallSaul @mrbobodenkirk, know that the Attorney General of New Mexico will be keeping an eye on you this evening," Balderas wrote.

"Better Call Saul" follows a struggling criminal lawyer born Jimmy McGill, who later changes his name to Saul Goodman, as he defends drug lords, petty criminals and those allegedly injured in traffic accidents.

In "Breaking Bad," Odenkirk played the lawyer of methamphetamine lord Walter White, played by Bryan Cranston.

Tania Armenta, a vice president for the Albuquerque Convention & Visitors Bureau, said interest in "Breaking Bad" Albuquerque sites has not slowed, and they remain particularly popular with European tourists. City officials expect even more interest with "Better Call Saul."

"Definitely loving the buzz," Armenta said. "Most of the buzz we are seeing is positive."

Armenta said the show's creators haven't revealed much, so when Albuquerque sites are shown city officials update the website, http://visitalbuquerque.org/bettercallsaul .

"We need it really bad," said Debbie Ball, owner of The Candy Lady store, who sells blue "Breaking Bad" fake meth treats and offers limousine tours of scenes from the first series. "I think it's going to help the city."

And will she try to benefit from the new show's popularity? "If I can figure out how I can do it tactfully," Ball said, "I will do it."

Follow Russell Contreras at http://twitter.com/russcontreras .

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