Mad Men Creator Eyes the Finish Line
Matthew Weiner has hinted that he will be closing the doors on Sterling-Cooper (currently Sterling-Cooper-Draper & Pryce) in 2012, ending Mad Men after it's sixth season. At first, the news struck me as sad. You never want to see a good thing end. But ultimately, it is what's best for the show.
It may also be what's best for television as a medium. AMC, HBO, Showtime, FX and other cable stations have made a big impact on what we expect from our half-hour and hour-long programming. They develop shows with substance and hold them to a higher standard than the major networks. They also, for the most part, do what they want.
With Mad Men having an end in sight (79 episodes in total if they stick with the 13 episodes per season arcs), the writers and producers have time to get to every detail of every character they have introduced to us. Don Draper's story (at its core, a man with an identity crisis and Daddy issues) as well ad Betty, Peggy and the office will have a set of ups and downs, coming to a nice smooth ending in 2012. No last second changes, no deus ex machina to explain a curveball, and no side story for the sake of a side story. Certainly, we should expect nothing less from Mr. Weiner, an alumni from HBO’s The Sopranos.
I would argue that the pilot episode for The Sopranos is the single-most important ever. All right, that might be a stretch. But it can’t be denied that it was an important moment for television as an art form. It was nearly jaw-dropping to see that kind of care taken to tell a story. They didn't skimp on cost and from the first hour, they took their time to tell a story within a series of other compelling stories. The Sopranos, from episode one to episode 86, changed the game.
The practice of ending a popular, award-winning series (or any series) at the discretion of the writer and creator, as opposed to producers worried about a bottom line, is one we can only hope will catch on. No one wants to see Joan Holloway discover spandex (well…), just like no one wanted to see ABC’s Lost turn into a time-traveling, heaven and hell, good vs. evil mess.
It’s too late for Lost — it’s not too late for Joan, Roger and company… unless AMC mucks this up.