It has been a long, bittersweet television season for AMC. Not only is the network a few episodes away from loosing its long-running, critical darling Breaking Bad, AMC is also one season away from the series finale of Mad Men. The innovative, period drama was responsible for revitalizing the formerly struggling movie channel into the drama powerhouse it is today. Tuesday it was revealed that the upcoming seventh and final season of the drama, will be extended from the usual 13 episode run to 14.
Following the format successfully adopted by Breaking Bad, AMC’s plan is to air the seventh season of Mad Men in two, seven episode chunks. The first half is set to air in spring 2014, with the series wrapping up in spring 2015. Showrunner Matthew Weiner is quoted as saying, “We plan to take advantage of this chance to have a more elaborate story told in two parts, which can resonate a little bit longer in the minds of our audience.” Examining the decision from a more business based angle, AMC President Charlie Collier notes that the strategy helped Breaking Bad “nearly double the number of viewers to its second half premiere.”
In an interesting twist, Tuesday it was also announced through Variety that prominent screenwriter Robert Towne would be joining the writing staff for the final season. Towne, according to the popular entertainment publication, will serve on the Mad Men writing staff as a consulting producer. Towne is probably best known as the Oscar winning screenwriter of the classic, 1974 neo-noir Chinatown. Towne was also nominated for Oscars for his work on The Last Detail, Shampoo and Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes.
It has been well documented that the Mad Men writing staff has tended to skew fairly young, and female. Writer Erin Levy had barely graduated from USC when she won an Emmy for penning the episode “The Chrysanthemum and the Sword.” The staffing of a writer with the reputation of Robert Towne is an interesting move, definitely standing out as unique when examining the first six seasons of Mad Men. The staffing decision leads this writer to wonder what Matthew Weiner has planned for the series’ last go-around.
Mad Men has been a consistent hit both with critics and audiences since the period drama debuted in 2007. Do you think AMC’s decision to split the seventh and final season will allow the writers to tell a more elaborate story, as creator Matthew Weiner says? Or is AMC’s decision the product of a nervous network, stuck with a small development slate, hesitant to end one of their biggest hits.