It’s the end of the 1960s as we know it. As AMC’s “Mad Men” heads into its 7th and final season, the pressure is on to go out in a record-breaking way. Part of the plan: A split finale season, a la “Breaking Bad, with seven episodes airing this year and the final seven in 2015.
Showrunner Matthew Weiner has already commented on the mini finale seasons, recently telling Rolling Stone, “It was more work, and challenging, but I think, creatively, it was kind of invigorating. I hope the audience feels that way, but from our end of it, it was definitely a good thing to have. A good shake-up.”
Of course, AMC previously had mega success with “Breaking Bad’s” two-year finale, with a whopping 10 million viewers tuning to see Walter White’s (Bryan Cranston) final days. And Weiner admits his show is following the “Breaking Bad” model, even if it wasn’t his idea.
“The whole reason we’re splitting the season like this is because it was tremendously successful for the network,” he said. “I have a lot of control, and I certainly am given a lot of freedom creatively. But that was not up to me, and when I saw what happened with ‘Breaking Bad‘ how could you argue with them? Honestly, part of me thinks, as a viewer: Let it go on a little bit longer. “
But can ratings history repeat itself? There’s already naysayers. A recent Vulture article acknowledged that both AMC dramas are highly acclaimed, but added that the odds of the “Mad Men” actually “experiencing a ‘Breaking Bad’–size surge are slimmer than those of Don Draper turning down an old-fashioned.” (Translation: Not likely. At all.)
And from the Baltimore Sun: “The idea of presenting one season’s worth of episodes as two distinct seasons worked wonderfully for AMC with ‘Breaking Bad.’ But that series had a crime-drama, action-adventure component. I’m not so sure it will work nearly as well for ‘Mad Men,” especially if Don is wandering around in a near-comatose cosmic funk…”
Indeed, back in the day (okay, 2007) “Mad Men” was AMC’s flagship series and garnered a ton of buzz. Within a few years, Banana Republic partnered with the show for “Mad Men” inspired clothing line, while ’60s era dramas-albeit all of them short-lived – popped up all over the small screen: “Pan Am,” “The Playboy Club” and “Magic City.”
But in some ways, “Mad Men’s” ship may have sailed. The show, once an Emmy darling, has been shut out from the primetime awards ceremony the past two years. Ratings have fluctuated, and the ridiculously long gap between season 4 and 5 turned off some viewers. Ratings were up for the Season 6 finale, “In Care Of,” but they took a plunge for the Season 7 premiere, “Time Zones.” It remains to be seen if they will climb, or even remain stable, as Season 7 progresses.
Weiner has already gone on record as saying he’ll miss “Mad Men” More than any of us will. While he may be underestimating the show’s most diehard fans, we’ll have to do a time jump to see if that sentiment rings true.
“Mad Men” airs Sundays at 10 p.m. on AMC.