Q: Yet another major TV series--Mad Men--will now be broken up into a split season, following a strategy used by other shows such as "Breaking Bad," "The Walking Dead," "The Closer" and "Psyche." Is this about money?
A: Indirectly? Maybe? A little bit? After all, if you’re the AMC network, you’re now getting, essentially, two seasons out of one log jam of shooting. And that spares you from an extra round of salary negotiations with your talent.
“If I’m the attorney representing one of the cast members, I might be a little miffed,” entertainment lawyer Uri Fleming of Kleinberg Lange Cuddy & Carlo tells me. “The network is basically getting two seasons without their cast getting a bump in pay. But then again, at this point, these people are all probably making good salaries.”
As is the network. Which brings me to the next reason for dragging out the show’s sunset: Sponsorships. The bigger a show’s ratings, the more a network can charge for commercials. And guess what: As annoying as those split seasons are, they bring in more eyeballs.
"This approach has worked well for many programs across multiple networks, and, most recently for us with 'Breaking Bad,' which attracted nearly double the number of viewers to its second-half premiere than had watched any previous episode,” AMC President Charlie Collier said in announcing the split of Mad Men’s final season. “We are determined to bring 'Mad Men' a similar showcase."
But the biggest reason for this development is a totally different kind of currency: Gold. Emmy gold.
“Surely, this decision is influenced largely by Emmy strategy,” says Tom O’Neil of the Gold Derby awards-tracker blog. “‘Mad Men’ is Emmy royalty. It’s tied with ‘Hill Street Blues,’ ‘L.A. Law’ and ‘The West Wing’ for winning Best Drama Series the most times – four.
“It’s back in the race now and it’s currently competing with a respectable total tally of 12 nominations. By splitting the final season, the show will now compete over two years, doling out the final episodes like precious, shiny pennies that Emmy voters will be more likely to treasure.”
Even better for “Mad Men”: With this new split, the show about dysfunction advertising people in the 1960s will get to compete for the 2015 Emmys. “Breaking Bad”, which folds after two more episodes, will only be a threat through next year’s Emmy season. Unless that crafty Bryan Cranston shoots an HBO-level miniseries next year, actors such as Jon Hamm won’t have to compete with him for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series...a kudo he has yet to win.
Bryan Cranston, in case you’re counting, has won that statuette. Three times in a row.
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