The "will he or won’t he" saga that has become Matthew Weiner’s return to a third season of Mad Men looks perilously close to reaching "won’t he". According to intrepid Hollywood bomb thrower Nikki Finke, Lionsgate, the studio responsible for producing Mad Men, has been furiously calling agencies around Hollywood looking for names of replacement show runners to usurp Mr. Weiner going forward. Always wondered what an episode of Mad Men written by Aaron Sorkin might look like? You could have your chance in 2009.
If this seems like yet another chess move in a long line of negotiating tactics between Mr. Weiner and the studio, that’s probably because it is. Though he has reportedly asked for upwards of ten million dollars over multiple years, it seems borderline insane to think Mr. Weiner won’t be around for future Mad Men seasons. However, hearing that Mad Men might lose its leader made us slightly… happy. Not because the show would benefit obviously, because without Mr. Weiner, it would be unwatchable. But maybe it’s good to get out early.
We’ve long subscribed to the laws of diminishing returns when it comes to episodic television shows. Almost without exception, the longer a show lasts, the worse it gets. Think of your favorite trendy water cooler show; is it as successful as it was when it first started? Is Weeds really still great? Is Grey’s Anatomy still worth your time? What about 24? Heroes? The list goes on and on. And while none of those shows are an outright disaster at this point–well, with the exception of Weeds–they’ve all clearly lost a step from their high water marks.
In contrast, we all love Arrested Development, Freaks and Geeks and the original version of The Office. Survey your friends’ Facebook pages and we guarantee you’ll find them mentioned more than any other television show from the last fifteen years. We decry their too brief existence; why’d they have to go so soon! But, if they hadn’t ended, would we still remember them as fondly? Or would we complain about how the fourth season of Arrested Development wasn’t nearly as funny as the third?
So if this is the end of Mad Men as we know it, we’ll shed a tear and then smile knowing there is another brilliant show to add to the rolls. Because let’s be honest, the last thing anyone wants to see three years from now is Don Draper rocking sideburns around Haight-Asbury.