Is AMC Making a Mistake of Draperian Proportions With ‘Mad Men’?

Don DraperAMC

Recently, AMC announced that they would split the final season of Mad Men into two parts, just like they did with Breaking Bad.

There were probably two reasons for this: 1) They want to get people buzzing about this for as long as possible and 2) they really liked the numbers for the first episode of the second half of Breaking Bad, and TV is always looking to duplicate it if they can. Can this work, though, or did Heisenberg catch lightning in a bottle?

The thing is, I have been watching Mad Men for quite some time and as great a character as Don Draper is, he’s not Walter White. Don has been deceptive, yes, and he’s done some really bad things, but I don’t see a Hank-Schrader-in-the-bathroom moment for any of the Mad Men crew. Don is immensely selfish and flawed, but he’s not going to descend to the evil that White has. That bathroom moment is what made us keep thinking about Breaking Bad when it was in between the first and second halves. It caused us to create scenarios about what would happen when Schrader finished in the bathroom and it kept us interested. Of course, AMC and Matthew Weiner are saying that they will set up the show so that it will work. What are they going to say, “We want to show Vince Gilligan that we can do the same thing”?

TV still has to learn that duplication of things rarely work. Remember when Friends was so hugely successful? How many dopplegangers about 20-somethings hanging out emerged after that? How many of them succeeded? AMC has things slightly in its favor because it’s known as the network that already had one success – but as you know from various commercials, like the weight-loss ones: Past indicators do not guarantee future success.

Mad Men is going to pull great numbers during its final run, since it has a huge fan base but I think they would have been better served doing the final run in one consecutive go. Unless the first half cliffhanger is Draper somehow fathering Walter White.

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