Is Mad Men Hurting Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead?


"What do you want me to do about it?"


"They're scared. They're on a zombie show. They are all really easy to kill off." That amazing quote is from The Hollywood Reporter’s Kim Masters’s fascinating investigation into the departure of Frank Darabont from The Walking Dead, an abrupt and unexpected parting-of-the-ways that Darabont has yet to publicly comment upon. “They” in this instance refers to The Walking Dead's cast, currently well into shooting the second season of the hit horror drama. Masters writes that Darabont was fired just three days after he appeared at a Comic-Con panel. On the Atlanta set, the cast was “summoned to a lunch meeting with AMC VP Scripted Programming Ben Davis,” who told them Darabont was out. Why? "This isn't working,” he said.

And “this” is this instance in all probability refers to money. Unlike HBO, which has a production budget in the 10-figures, AMC is a cash-poor basic cable entity that, against all odds, has three of the most talked-about series on the air: Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and The Walking Dead. Earlier this year, a public battle with Matthew Weiner resulted in a $30 million payday for the Mad Men series creator, meaning a lot less money for the other shows. That meant slashing. Walking Dead saw its per-episode budget cut by $650,000, while the network tried—unsuccessfully—to reduce the Breaking Bad Season 6 order from thirteen episodes to six.

But Mad Men, a cultural phenomenon and critical darling, is a relative flop compared to Walking Dead, pulling in 2.3 million viewers per episode versus the 5-to-6 million Walking Dead regularly drew. Even Breaking Bad eclipses Mad Men’s ratings, with an average 4.3 million viewers per episode. It’s as if AMC sent its eldest child to Harvard, then turned to its other two capable kids and said, “Sorry, guys, looks like it’s community college for you.”

Unlike Mad Men and Breaking Bad, AMC owns The Walking Dead outright. When it tried to screw over BrBa, studio Sony responded by shopping the show to FX; as if by magic, AMC came up with the dough for a full-season order. But full ownership gives the network final say over all staffing and budgetary considerations—so bye, bye, Darabont. The network has chosen to replace him with Glen Mazzara, a veteran of The Shield on FX and later HawthoRNe on TNT. Also still on board are Walking Dead comic creator Robert Kirkman and effects man Greg Nicotero. And the Season 2 trailer screened at Comic-Con impressed everyone, including us. But Darabont was still in charge when that footage was shot. So how will his departure affect the quality of the series? The network certainly doesn’t seem to be worried. Yet the thought of a season of Mad Men without Weiner behind the wheel is virtually unthinkable. We probably won’t know until we’re already well into the second season of Walking Dead, which premieres on October 16.


Read THR's in-depth investigation here.


RELATED STORIES:
+ AMC, Mad Men Maker Reach Deal
+ Mad Men Money: Are You on AMC's or Matt Weiner's Side?
+ The Walking Dead Loses Its Showrunner, Will Be Fine

Comments (28)
Submit
Sort: Latest | Popular
I REALLY disagree with your Harvard analogy. It'd say their decision to support Mad Men is far more admirable than you recognize. It's absolutely fantastic that AMC isn't jumping at immediate viewer numbers, and instead directing the budget toward a truly great show.

Mad Men isn't the eldest child, Mad Men is the quiet, contemplative and therefore less popular son who father (AMC) realizes will stand the test of time as a serious, culturally significant individual. Also, I believe Mad Men will make AMC more money in the long run, because it's not a sensationalist drama that will be forgotten as soon as the series ends.
Reply
Flag
"They're scared. They're on a zombie show. They are all really easy to kill off." Thats one of the saddest but truest statements that could be said about their predicament. Other shows like Mad Men would require some major plot or explanation to kill someone off but a show about a zombie outbreak. They're screwed
Reply
Flag
Its really quite sad that AMC could not pull in enough ad revenue to cover the costs of keeping darabont on. Clearly the reason for his departure is all about the sacrifice his quality qould have made without the money. I do not begrudge Mad Men creator going for his money, but overall he could have done the right thing by the network and taken a little less to make sure his show is still the flagship of a strong lineup. I guess when you market yourself as a movie channel you have to expect some growing pains trying to adopt original ideas into television shows. breaking Bad is an excellent show, but seriously how long can a show go on based around a guy who is in and out of lung cancer? At least zombies could go on forever. Oh well, here is hoping AMC don't drop the ball this fall with this lineup.
Reply
Flag
"It's as if AMC sent its eldest child to Harvard, then turned to its other two capable kids and said, 'Sorry, guys, looks like it's community college for you.'" Nicely said. IMO Breaking Bad should have the highest paid actors, and The Walking Dead should have the largest budget for production-- this would accurately reflect the ratings. Yet I think its all up to the crew to do the best with the money they got. Lets hope these show-runners can pull it off-- I have faith.
Reply
Flag
"But Mad Men, a cultural phenomenon and critical darling..." could this be the reason AMC keeps clinging to MM? Too afraid to listen to the actual viewers and just going with the critics? not really sure MM is a cultural phenomenon either, BB and TWD are way better at creating a buzz. and have an audience that care about what's going on.

but it's not surprising, the exec's at AMC are (big stereotype here!!!) white middle age men that can't relate to what their viewers want because they have no understanding of tv-fans.
1
Reply
Flag
thhe walking dead is great show! its sad to know that it may never reach its full potential because the guys in control would rather give its money to an old show that likely wont last much longer. the walking dead has pontential to gain viewers while mad men is so old it can only lose the viewership it has
Reply
Flag
Clearly these shows will suffer for the bad deal AMC made with Mad Men. It's getting worse from what I hear, AMC executives want the producers of The Walking Dead to shoot three days indoors and three days outdoors, their logic being that they can save money on makeup FX because the audience can hear the zombies outside and don't necessarily have to see them. Stupid AMC executives.
Reply
Flag
I'm not sure where you're getting the information that Breaking Bad averages 4.3 million per episode. According to TV by the numbers, the highest rated episode this season was the premiere with 2.58 million viewers and every other episode had less than 2 million. Season 4 of Mad Men had a stronger premiere than Breaking Bad and every episode was above 2 million.



But that all aside, I think Mad Men is about as good as Breaking Bad and both are streets ahead of The Walking Dead, which is enjoyable in its own right. I read on another website that TWD doesn't have the same leverage in negotiations as MM and BB do because AMC is in charge of both its production and broadcast, while MM and BB have outside studios that produce the shows. This gives them the opportunity to say that they will take their shows to another network if AMC doesn't cooperate, but The Walking Dead will only air on AMC.



Frankly, Season 1 of The Walking Dead wasn't that great. Other than the Pilot, there was only one other episode that stood out for me, and the writer of that episode is now the showrunner, so there's not much for me to worry about.
More+
Reply
Flag
STREETS AHEAD! Community FTW. +1
Reply
Flag
I feel like Walking Dead is a tad overrated. I watched it all and enjoyed it, but to have it in the same conversation as Breaking Bad is a bit of a mismatch. I trust that Mazzara will add the extra intensity that Walking Dead needs.

I wish Breaking Bad had gone over to FX. They seem to be more willing to give show runners full creative freedom (Kurt Sutter, Louis C.K.).
Reply
Flag
to be fair, maybe they could be thinking that mad men is so nuanced and refined that taking out a huge part of the equation (weiner) might ruin the whole thing. as for walking dead, the material is pretty solid and with kirkman and nicotero behind the scenes to keep things on track, they probably thought the show could afford to lose darabont. also, it's not like mazzara isn't capable. we'll just have to wait and see...
1
Reply
Flag
why favor mad men over walking dead? is it because walking dead is "just" a show about zombies while mad men is a "serious" show? boooooo! do u see hbo giving true blood or game of thrones lesser treatment than the sopranos or boardwalk empire or deadwood or any of their other shows? no!
1
Reply
Flag
Mad men is a better show than The Walking dead
Reply
Flag
Why does Mad Men need so much money?? Is it that expensive to have actors do dialogue? AMC, don't screw Breaking Bad and Walking Dead, they are 2 reasons why so many people watch your channel. Just look at the ratings.
1
Reply
Flag
Mad Men is a decent watch but both The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad in particular are far more entertaining and since they both bring in higher ratings I don't understand AMC reducing their budgets. Also don't you mean they tried to reduce the season 5 order of Breaking Bad?
Reply
Flag
i love amc, they are doing quite well for themselves
Reply
Flag
The first season of The Walking Dead wasn't that great in my opinion, and them doing as much as they can to change it is good as far as I see it, because it has a lot of potential. As for Breaking Bad... What? They''ve tried downgrading the sixth season order? Didn't Vince say the show would end in season 5 or something like that when AMC tried asking them for a sixth season?
Reply
Flag
I honestly think AMC should be making more money than their leading us to believe. I don't think Mad Men deserves higher priority. Though the Walking Dead needs a higher budget than that. Also, BB is best.
Reply
Flag
It's funny, because Mad Men is the one I care about the least.
Reply
Flag
Mad Men is a fantastic show, but Breaking Bad tops it in almost every way. I was incredibly excited for The Walking Dead... until I watched it all. The first episode was one of the best zombie-related things in 20 years and then it just got less and less interesting and the last episode pretty much sucked. I will give season 2 a shot, but I'm not holding out hope. The other two are much better series and, ratings or not, The Walking Dead would be the odd man out in my mind. Breaking Bad only has one more season, anyway.
Reply
Flag
I can't imagine Mad Men without Matthew Wiener, and Breaking Bad without Vince Gilligan would be inconceivable, so the news of Frank Darbont's unceremoniously abrupt departure is definitely disheartening. After reading THR's in-depth investigation, it seems most of the blame can be attributed to Joel Stillerman, AMC's head of original programming. The devious duplicity of having Darabont promote the show at Comic-Con, and then firing him, is what really angers me. This man directed one of my favorite movies of all time(The Shawshank Redemption) and is incredibly talented at making television seem like a feature film. This move on AMC's part is idiotically ill-advised to say the least, and The Walking Dead will most likely be poorer because of it.
Reply
Flag
I don't watch the other 2 so I say dump all the money into the walking dead.
Reply
Flag
Mad Men is terrible. It's not about anything. Sure, it has great acting, great cinematography and costume/setting design, but at the end of the day, it does not have a point and its ratings suck. They really should just cancel it and expand Walking Dead's budget.
Reply
Flag
The Walking Dead is really the only show that needs a lot of money, the other two shows are just for the actor salaries.



what is Mad Men even ABOUT? i've tried to watch one episode and didn't know what it was supposed to be about.. haven't bothered since
Reply
Flag
It's about an advertising agency set in New York in the early 60's. Master manipulator and leading ad man Don Draper is at the top of his game, and the men and women who work at Sterling Cooper are some of the best in the. . . Z z z z z z z z z z z z z z z z z z z z z z z z z z z z z. Joking aside, it's actually a great show, slowly paced, but worth giving a second chance.
Reply
Flag
One article (I don't remember which) raised the point that Darabont, as awesome as he is doing movies, isn't quite fit to drive a TV show, while Mazzara has proved his abilities with the format.
Reply
Flag
Did you watch the first season of The Walking Dead?
Reply
Flag
Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead are far far far more entertaining than Mad Men. Bad call AMC!
Reply
Flag

Like TV.com on Facebook