The headline was both cryptic and compelling: “Mad Men Serves Seven and Seven.” Not only was I unsure what it meant, but it pertained to Mad Men, which is one of the few e-mail subject lines for which I will drop everything I am doing at that moment. I am more than just Rolling Stone’s MM recapper and reporter – I am a full-blown fangirl who goes through days of depression every time I have to say goodbye to the employees of Sterling Cooper and Partners come the season finale. But as I read through AMC’s press release outlining its plan to split up the Emmy-winning drama’s seventh and final season between spring 2014 and 2015, my initial reaction wasn’t “Hallelujah!” but “For the love of God, why?”
From a business standpoint, this is a no-brainer – just consider the success AMC had with its decision to do the same with Breaking Bad. And take a look at the fetal position this country has been in since Sunday night’s harrowing BB episode “Ozymandias.” Countless blog posts and tweets about – spoilers ahead – our inability to breathe following Hank’s and Gomie’s deaths, Jesse’s capture by Todd, Uncle Jack and his crew of Nazis, Skyler and Walt’s knifepoint brawl, Walt Jr. coming to his mother’s rescue, Holly’s abduction, the phone call, “I watched Jane die” – why wouldn’t AMC want a repeat of that? Especially considering the network is losing this particular cash cow in exactly 11 days. After September 29th, AMC will have only two successful shows left in their bullpen: Mad Men and The Walking Dead. So it makes sense that the network wants to stretch out Don Draper and Co.’s presence for as long as possible. And, as many others have already pointed out in the Twittersphere, keeping Mad Men around for one more year eliminates the impending clusterfuck of the final seasons of both Mad Men and Breaking Bad going head to head in the 2014 Emmys.
But who cares? AMC’s decision places Mad Men in a precarious position as it prepares to finish up its stellar run. Unlike Breaking Bad, the plan is to shoot all 14 episodes and then shove the final seven into a drawer for a year, according to The New York Times. It’s hard enough keeping spoilers under wraps for a few months, but now the cast and crew are being expected to hold their tongues on the series’ denouement until 2015? Short of wiring their jaws shut (or locking Jon Hamm in a bunker for 12 months), leaks are going to happen.
Sure, it’s going to pain me to say farewell to these characters I’ve become so invested in over the years, but we’ve known the show would be ending in its seventh season for a while now. Since I’ve never been much for long, drawn-out goodbyes, the last thing I want is for Mad Men to turn into the guest that wouldn’t leave. Like Beverly Hills, 90210, which ran for a bloated 10 seasons – was anyone even watching once the novelty of Kelly Kapowski smoking pot wore off? If Mad Men was doing this after its fourth season, à la Breaking Bad, I’d have a different opinion on the matter. But now that it’s already approaching a seventh season – where series fatigue is almost a given, regardless of a flawless track record – with yet another one in the offing a year later, I fear it will destroy the love we’ve had for it, not nurture it. If and when Don Draper falls out of that skyscraper, the last thing anyone (AMC, series creator Matthew Weiner or any devoted viewer) wants is for the collective reaction to be, “Damn, sure took him long enough.”