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August 30, 2014

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Mad Men’ to split final season into two parts

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Michael Yarish/AMC/AP

Jon Hamm as Don Draper and Jessica Pare as Megan Draper in AMC’s “Mad Men.”

AMC is having a hard time separating from its hit series. On Tuesday the network announced that instead of a final season of “Mad Men,” as was planned for next spring, the much-acclaimed series will divide in two, pushing off the finale for another year.

A day earlier, the network announced it would spin off a new series from its hit zombie show “The Walking Dead,” and last week it made a deal to spin off a show from “Breaking Bad.”

In the case of “Mad Men,” AMC is following the strategy it took with “Breaking Bad” in dividing a planned final season into two installments, and it will be waiting a full year between seven-episode arcs. That means the final season is really two entirely separate ones, at least in terms of scheduling.

The first seven shows will be shown next spring under the title “The Beginning.” The second group will be shown in 2015 and will be called “The End of an Era.” The show’s creator, Matthew Weiner, will shoot all the episodes in one production cycle, so in effect, AMC will simply be storing away the last seven episodes for a year. Variety reported that the writing staff for the final season will include Oscar-winning screenwriter Robert Towne, who will be designated a consulting producer.

The decision seems to underscore AMC’s concern about losing its two original blockbuster dramas within a year of each other. The network shattered almost every television precedent by developing and showing two prominent and highly successful television dramas over the same time span. “Breaking Bad” is ending in two weeks in a flurry of rapturous praise. “Mad Men” was scheduled to conclude next spring.

That would have left AMC with only “The Walking Dead” as a breakout hit. Its other current dramas, “Hell on Wheels” and this year’s “Low Winter Sun,” have not remotely approached the level of success that “Breaking Bad” or “Mad Men” did. AMC canceled “The Killing” (for a second time) earlier this month.

So the network will now get two more chances, instead of one, to try to introduce new shows using “Mad Men” as a springboard. But in doing so, it will ask more patience from the show’s fans. The one benefit is the addition of one episode beyond what had been originally planned.

In a statement, Weiner said, “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.”

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