So you’re watching Mad Men and expecting an epic series finale. It is everything you anticipated with a dead guy singing and people landing on the moon.
And now you’re left on the hook for another year to figure out what the heck happens to advertising firm SC&P.
That’s right. Next year. Welcome to the “half season” finale.
It means lots of foreplay and some very dissatisfied customers.
Or, put in more PG-friendly terms, it’s the equivalent of getting half a bag of chips at your corner store and then being told the rest will come later.
What’s up with that? If your grocer gave you half a bag of anything they’d be out of business.
Split seasons are not new but have become increasingly prevalent in television, with everyone from Grey’s Anatomy to Scandal and Once Upon a Time getting in on the action.
For networks, it’s a chance to milk more eyeballs and advertising dollars.
If you’ve been following Mad Men you know that the truth is the first casualty in advertising. So instead of calling it an extra short season, networks now say it’s a “split season.”
“Why break it in half?” Stephen Colbert pointedly asked Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner on The Colbert Report.
Weiner said it was simply about ratings. AMC did the same thing with Breaking Bad and it built the show in “a huge way,” he told Colbert.
But who can remember what happened a year later? (At least we now have someone to blame for the growing industry of bloggers who spend sleepless nights recapping shows.)
What Weiner didn’t say is that by splitting the season over two years, Mad Men is eligible for another year of Emmys.
The show has garnered a Best Drama Emmy nomination for every year that it has been eligible.
More importantly, by running the final half next year it doesn’t compete against that other AMC juggernaut, Breaking Bad, for Emmy Awards. Breaking Bad is eligible this year as well because of its split season last year.
The move also allows AMC to trumpet the “final final season” of its most storied franchises for more than a year.
So, yes, it’s mostly a cynical exercise in getting more eyeballs and awards.
Creators, including Breaking Bad’s Vince Gilligan and Shonda Rhimes of Grey’s Anatomy, says the split season also gives them a breather to create better product. I can buy that, although I’m not sure how putting artificially induced cliffhangers in the middle of your story arc just so audiences will return makes sense — and that’s especially true in the hands of lesser geniuses, especially if you’re not a Gilligan or a Rhimes.
Creatively, I’m not sure a split season was best used on Once Upon a Time, a fairy tale jambalaya that got more confusing and silly as the show ran on.
ABC recently announced that Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will go the split season route for Season 2. Seriously though, will anyone care what happens to HYDRA then? Unfortunately, TV executives are betting on it.
Maybe we should all follow the lead of Breaking Bad fan Noam Lazebnik, who sued Apple’s iTunes for what he says is essentially charging extra for the series finale. He expected to get all 16 episodes when he paid up, but Apple sold the final eight episodes as a separate season.
If the networks are already saying it’s one season, it’s a ripoff to pay twice, Lazebnik alleged. Apple promptly capitulated with refunds.
Lazebnik is on to something. We should put a stop to this split season madness before it gets any worse. So here’s one way to send a message: fans should start a class-action suit against Matthew Weiner for false advertising. Sign me up now before I forget what happened in the mid-season finale last Sunday.