Is AMC in Trouble? Why the Network Could Be Making the Wrong Moves

Published 11 months ago by , Updated October 16th, 2013 at 10:01 am,

Jon Hamm in Mad Men The Better Half Is AMC in Trouble? Why the Network Could Be Making the Wrong Moves

Through the grace and might of their past skill and good luck, AMC has transformed from a repository for grey-tone cinema into a source for some of the best television drama in the history of the medium. But as Breaking Bad sprints to its end – with Mad Men right behind it – is AMC in trouble?

The last few weeks paint a portrait of a network in transition. Despite heavy promotion, Low Winter Sun‘s ratings don’t bode well for a long and fruitful run; Hell on Wheels isn’t setting the world on fire; The Killing is dead, Mad Men‘s final season is being stretched out over two years, and AMC looks like it is going to ape the style of past successes, but not their substance, with two spinoffs – Better Call Saul and an expansion of the Walking Dead universe coming down the pike.

Back in 2008, it seemed as though AMC’s ambitions were less centered on maintaining the status quo. To borrow a phrase, “they were in the empire business,” but they were on the ground floor, with only a well-regarded but minimally watched period drama about advertising in their stable. AMC then gambled on a dark drama about cancer, drugs, crime, family, ego, power, and the slicked path to monstrous behavior, starring the guy from Malcolm in the Middle. In the time since, that gamble has paid out like a busted ATM machine for them – but they don’t seem to have the same taste for adventure now, as the network is green-lighting safer material that has failed to light a spark in the way that their past risks have.

Bob Odenkirk and Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad Tohajiilee Is AMC in Trouble? Why the Network Could Be Making the Wrong Moves

Breaking Bad had a novel concept that unfurled to reveal its true mastery, but the Saul Goodman prequel spin-off isn’t likely going to be  as novel and won’t be blessed by a lot of carryover between the Breaking Bad writing staff and the Better Call Saul writer’s room.

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[Breaking Bad Spoilers Follow]

Is there an appetite for more and an affection for Bob Odenkirk’s character? Of course, and hit shows have been spawned from far less – but can’t we walk away from the table satisfied for once? Like a dog with a trash can full of food, we eat until we make ourselves sick or pass out when it comes to our beloved shows and movies; but would it be so bad if Saul Goodman disappeared into the exhaust cloud of a vacuum cleaner repairman’s mini-van? Would it be so bad if there were lingering questions, and something left unsaid about his beginnings?

I know that Saul Goodman is a Jedi, I don’t need to know all about his Midi-chlorians.

Besides, this is a character with a complete arc. A broad character and a weasel of a man, who at long last saw Walter White for what he is: mad, weak, and powered only by violent fantasy, selfish motives, and a barrel of money. Saul Goodman said no to that man – finally – and parted gracefully. When the curtain falls, that may be the best ending that any character on this show is afforded – and yet that perfection may be undone or, rather, undermined by his spinoff show.

[End Spoilers]

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The idea of a psuedo-second incarnation of AMC’s less critically adored but higher-rated zombie drama, The Walking Dead, seems grand on its face – but is this AMC messing with a good thing that can’t be easily repeated?

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NEXT PAGE: Walking Dead and AMC’s future…

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The Walking Dead Season 3 Midseason Premiere Ratings Is AMC in Trouble? Why the Network Could Be Making the Wrong Moves

Greg Nicotero is an unrivaled genius when it comes to creating zombies, but this is not a show about zombies, but rather, it is a show about  about survival, the monsters that desperation conjures, and Rick Grimes, Daryl, Michonne, Glenn, Maggie, Carl, and the others. The characters are what keeps us coming back, but AMC seems to think that they can take this concept and recreate it with new characters and other stories about survival, even though last season’s Woodbury heavy episodes lacked the punch of the ones featuring the main cast.

Despite that, you can see how this would be appealing to Walking Dead concept creator, Robert Kirkman. Chained to a blueprint created by his hand, there are always complaints when Walking Dead the TV series diverges from the comic book – something it has to do, and something it does often. For Kirkman, the Walking Dead spin-off is a chance to explore the world that he created without as many pre-established boundaries, but can both shows be serviced equally, or could AMC’s most important show suffer?

There’s also the question of timing: The Walking Dead “companion series” wouldn’t air until 2015, right around when The Walking Dead will enter its sixth season.

The Walking Dead Companion TV Show Series Announced Is AMC in Trouble? Why the Network Could Be Making the Wrong Moves

Typically, a TV show will get more expensive as it ages. An actor’s status can be elevated by these shows and they can get more opportunities elsewhere, thus granting them leverage in salary negotiations or an excuse to leave. Writers leave too; they start their own shows or simply move on to other projects – and all of a sudden, a show starts to feel very different, ratings start to fall, and critics start to chip away at these once beloved titans. Look at ER, The West Wing, Dexter or True Blood for examples of what that looks like.

Maybe we don’t need to worry about AMC and Robert Kirkman robbing Peter to pay Paul. Maybe the Walking Dead spin-off is actually the main series’ much cheaper eventual successor. That’s not to say that The Walking Dead is fated to die in 2015 so that this show might live, but it doesn’t seem like AMC likes expensive things, and at that point, The Walking Dead will likely be a more expensive thing.

Whether AMC is simply cheap, or sadly limited is a matter of perspective, but reputations matter, and AMC’s is decidedly mixed as the money issue has always hovered around the numerous controversies that have popped up between the network and the vaunted triumvirate of Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and The Walking Dead.

is amc in trouble rv Is AMC in Trouble? Why the Network Could Be Making the Wrong Moves

These controversies – which involve budget cuts, creator exits, and slashed episode orders – are as much a part of AMC’s history as their successes have been (thanks to the frequency with which these fights have spilled out into the public square) but could they also damage the network as it moves forward?

Last year, Shield creator Shawn Ryan took to Twitter to comment on Glen Mazzara’s exit from The Walking Dead (which followed Frank Darabont’s disastrously handled exit), saying:

“With FX, Showtime, HBO, Starz, Cinemax, A&E, TNT and others to sell to, it’s a real question now why good show runners should sell to AMC?”

With AMC’s decision to siphon off of both Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead with spin-offs, the frustrating postponement of the Mad Men conclusion across two half seasons, and the network’s recent development losing streak, one has to wonder if we are seeing other showrunners ask themselves that question.

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Breaking Bad‘s series finale airs Sunday September 29th and The Walking Dead returns to AMC on Sunday October 13th.

Source: THR, Vulture

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TAGS: breaking bad, hell on wheels, mad men, the killing, the walking dead

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  1. Go HBO go!!!

  2. the walking dead is the most overrated show in years.

    i really have no idea why people love it so much.

    • Shut your mouth heathen! True the second season was boring for the first half and the third had a lack luster ending but over all its a good show.

      • Correction: First season was decent and that’s really all that needs to be said about the show.

        • Yup.

          B

          • Yeah, I don’t get why it’s so popular. Acting is horrible, writing is horrible, pacing is mind-numbingly slow, the picture quality is bad (‘gritty’ on purpose maybe?). I hate pretty much all the characters. I find myself rooting for the zombies to kill them off.

            • So why do you continue to watch?

              • he is hoping it would get better … truth is it wont cause they killed off the important characters .. to introduce … “new ” ones

                • Can’t say I made it past episode 3 of season one.

                  Have thought Andrew Lincoln was great since This Life, but the show was just dull.

                  Seriously, they’re zombies, got get a tank and s***. how hard is it?

                  Do they ever explain how come the unfed zombies are still alive after all this time and who’s cutting all the lawns?

        • I like the first season and felt it ended well. That’s right, I felt it ended…well…and then for some reason kept going after the end like a bad hashed off movie plot where the heroes fly off into the sunset and then awaken again a week later and nothing’s changed. A story with no end is only as enjoyable as long as you can tolerate the shortcuts required to make it endless. There’s only so much characters can develop in a stoic setting before it starts to become dull.

    • Overall, I like TWD. Season two was utter crap. I guess the novel didn’t translate well to the screen. I wish they took just one theme and stuck with it like in 28 days later. It had such a strong message of loneliness and loss, and what that means for humanity and how they cope. Some might argue that is has that, but I think it’s has more of a family drama take to it.
      The idea of the governor, that was cool.

      • Personally I think from the barn episode to the end season two was awesome and on par with season 1. But the finale of season 3 just ruined the whole season for me to the point I don’t think I’m watching season 4.

    • Yeah sure, keep telling yourself that. Correct me if im wrong, which im not. Did TWD have 13.4 million viewers for a few episodes last season? Yes its a terrible show, slap yo self!

      • High ratings doesn’t equal great show. It just means 13.4 million might have terrible taste.

        I mean, 8 million tune into The X Factor weekly over here but that show has always been crap. Meet The Spartans was an abomination of a movie but made millions in the US box office.

        Slap yo self and take yo ridiculous gangsta verbiage with yo, boi. Word.

        • I disagree. Success to the film industry (and me) is dollar bills. It’s obvious people have poor taste. That doesn’t make those shows unsuccessful. The term “great show” is relative. High ratings = great show to those making said show. Word.

    • Oh, it’s awful, but it gets numbers. AMC is only in trouble for brilliant stuff. Unless they get really lucky and find another BB or MM out there somewhere.

      B

    • After the last season I will not watch TWD ever again. They stretched it out too much and it dragged on with the big setup. They shouldn’t have gotten greedy and tried to pad the season with a few more episodes.

    • The only spectacular thing about the Walking Dead is the Zombies, they are designed and handled perfectly. Everything else about the show is just meh. It’s good, but it ain’t that good.

  3. Season 4 of TWD looks great and the first half of season 3 was fantastic IMO.

  4. I think Better Call Saul will run on Breaking Bad hype for a while but won’t do anything itself. I don’t think it’s actually anything people want to see. The Walking Dead spinoff could do something as long as it doesn’t retread too much of what the parent show did. It’s much easier to make successful spinoffs for genre shows.

  5. I don’t want to fully defend AMC because I think something does have to change but AMC is in a tough spot especially when it comes to money.
    Almost every other network has the backing of a major studio or company and with that comes the luxury to be able to order pilots for a bunch of shows every year and then pick and chose what they think will work. If a show works great, if not there’s always next year.
    AMC doesn’t have that luxury. If they order a pilot and then commit to series they have no choice but to air it and hope for the best. They can’t even afford to cancel a show mid-season.
    So that’s always going to handcuff the network and almost forces them to play it safe.
    When it comes to The Walking Dead like many others I thought letting a talent like Darabont go was a ridiculously dumb move and the show has suffered for it but if the reports are true about what was going on under Mazerras direction he had to go. They were over budget and there would be days with nothing to shoot and that wouldn’t fly at any network let alone a place with the financial restraints AMC has.
    So maybe there will be a few down years, or maybe they catch a break and find the new Breaking Bad or Mad Men but no matter what unless something changes structurally or financially for the network this will be a conversation we have for while to come.

    Wow! That was quite the rant. Sorry ;)

  6. Just sit back, watch quality TV, let the network and suits figure out their own direction.

  7. I want to like other stuff they do, but I can’t. I tried with Low Winter Sun..gave it two and a half episodes of my attention…. couldn’t finish. Great actors but couldn’t get into it.

    • yah same tried to watch low winter sun its not bad the 2 main actors are very good but other then that the show really doesn’t have anything going for it. Its all the same that we seen before. stopped watching around ep 3

  8. I also tried to get interested in Low Winters Sun. This show has no place to go. I mean are they going to spend the next two or three years having two crooked cops play cat and mouse with Internal Affairs. How do you expand on characters who have no futures past the first season? Plus, I personally don’t find any of the characters likable or sympathetic.

  9. AMC will be fine.

  10. amc will be fine the walking dead is awesome and it keeps breaking records with each season getting more views then the last.

  11. Splitting the last season of ‘Mad Men’ into two was both panic and stalling as they look for new projects. Also helped by the baffling love towards ‘The Walking Dead’ (just a personal opinion is all. I find it to be laughably audience plot ABC trash, but it has a load of viewers so it has tapped into something people like).

    The simple truth is this. ‘Breaking Bad’ is something all concerned should be proud of. But it is going to cast one hell of a shadow not just on AMC but on every other network to primarily up their narrative storytelling game. The biggest mistake AMC could make though is trying to find another ‘Breaking Bad’. Sometimes a one-off is just a one-off. The show is so well known now that people will smell a cynical cash in a mile away, whether it be from a spin off or a similar type show (“How about… a PE teacher wants to become an adult movie star?”).

    AMC will be fine. Eventually. Just celebrate the moment and open the field up a little more to what may follow.

  12. Low Winter Sun is getting low ratings?

    Why?

    It’s a brilliant show. I hope this isn’t yet another great show ruined by dumbass Americans not tuning in to quality programming. Maybe if it had crude sexual humour or zombies or meth labs, it might get a ratings spike?

    The amount of people over here sick of good shows being cancelled because US viewers don’t watch and US networks panic and pull the plug way too soon….people are scared to start watching new shows because of those two factors. The common thread I’ve heard is “Why should I watch a show now if stupid Americans cancel it just as I’m getting into it?”.

    • It’s getting low ratings because it’s a generic show. It’s a brilliant show to you and not many else. You’re in the minority here. Calling people dumbasses is unnecessary.

    • Dazz, you blame Americans for all of the Tv and Movie industry’s problems, and then you try and defend things like Low Winter Sun and Pacific Rim, which are for the most part generally unliked, and then you hate things like The Avengers, which are almost unanimously loved.

      I know you’re entitled to your opinions, but come on man. Your stereotypes are ridiculous and I’m getting tired of hearing about how it’s all America’s fault for low ratings and low box offices. Everyone gets it by now Dazz, you hate Americans. We ruin television. We hate everything you like.

      Don’t cut yourself on all those edges bro.

  13. I like the ideas of these spin-offs but they need some top quality original shows to be starting in the near future.

  14. I thought “Better Call Saul” was supposed to be a prequel. Therefore it won’t owe anything to Breaking Bad.

  15. To use a sports’ analogy here:

    Nolan Ryan was one of the best pitchers ever to play in Major League Baseball. He pitched 7 no hitters in his career between 1973 and 1991. He is referred to as a “once in a lifetime” talent.

    Breaking Bad is to AMC what Ryan was to MLB. It will be awhile before another show like BB comes along.

  16. I think the semi spinoff of TWD could be brilliant. I say semi spinoff because from what I have heard there will not be a shared characters/stories from the current TWD and that they only share the same universe.
    If they were smart they would have entirely different creative/ writing staff for the new show and give it a chance to outshine the original. I understand that Heard and Kirkman will be overseeing it, but new direction could give the show its own identity while still serving to satisfy the audience’s want for more “Zombie” stories.
    And give it a whole new show name, please do not call it The Walking Dead: New York or some other lame name. Dont even use TWD in the name just call “End Times” or some other new show name.

    Now for my crazy pitch:
    I want to see a Terriers and Walking Dead crossover for this new spinoff. Have Hank and Brit with a new cast and then tell me what time its on so I can turn it there and destroy the remote control.

  17. I agree with the article. Saul ended on a good note. Leave it be.

  18. Hell on Wheels is SO GOOD, granted I have only just started season two and can’t speak for it or season three. But I liked its first season more than I liked Walking Dead’s. They just need to push it more. Maybe it will pick up when Breaking Bad ends.

  19. It used to be in trouble but then it was ok plus mello roos.

  20. Un-Cancel The Killing (Again)! That would be a small step in the right direction.

  21. I love the walking dead Comic. I enjoyed the 1st season, and the second when I saw it all in a row. It felt stretched week to week, but not so much when you go straight through. Season 3 started REALLY good, but DIED after the mid season break. I feel burned out on it and I am sure many others are as well. I think rating will start to decline from this season. The governor crap ruined it for a lot of people.

  22. I think amc has big issues. their tactics display it. they’re recycling actors from hit shows into other original programming. the split season crap that amc’s higher ups sell as a success due to the rating spike of breaking bad’s return this year, even though audiences did not have a choice as to when the show would return and did not bang the drums for a split final season.

    then there’s the persistent waterboarding-like promotion of their other shows on top of their successes. be it reality tv or original programming. including all of the shake ups and bland programming they shove into the public’s faces, they can only blame themselves.

  23. I see what AMC might be trying to do. However Law & Order was in it 10 (15?) years before pulling this move and even then it’s spinoffs has been hit or miss. I think they should wait it out a little more before trying to flex the Walking Dead’s brand muscles.

  24. The reason I don’t watch low winter sun is b/c Im tired of cop dramas. how many do we need at least breaking bad and walking dead are unique as far a tv shows go.

  25. AMC is definitely sucking at replacing their top shows. Mad Men was decent, but pretty elitist in it’s presentation. Those aren’t the kind of people you root for….ever. Then there was the masterpiece of Breaking Bad. Nobody can replace that show, it’s just too good. It ended it’s run perfectly with a 5 season haul. It was neither too long nor too short. It was perfect. Walking Dead is great, but it’s trying too hard to draw it out sometimes. Those 3 shows alone were the only ones anyone really watches religiously. Low Winter Sun? please…lame. Nice try AMC. The Killing?! Wow, maybe if you actually cast a versatile female lead and not one who’s face looks the same in EVERY SINGLE EPISODE it might have helped. She’s the adult version of freaking Kristen Stewart. I don’t expect her to smile at killings, but I do expect to see range in good acting. It was not there and simply another cliffhanger followed by another. It was lame TV. No wonder it got cancelled. Hell On Wheels is not compelling enough either. Westerns are great when done well, but this just feels fake every time I watch it. It’s not authentic like an Eastwood drama or Lonesome Dove or Young Guns. AMC has it’s work cut out because people are going to be leaving this channel fast, especially with a new infomercial pushing the lamest show Low Winter Sun every freaking 5 minutes. They tire out these shows so fast with their pushy advertising constantly in viewers faces. Back off AMC, your new shows ARE NOT that cool.

  26. Yet another entertainment news thread dominated with comments about The Walking Dead.
    No matter where you go, people just can’t stop talking about it.

    -AMC is great and will do just fine!
    -The Walking Dead: Hooked from start and ever since. Spinoff..can’t wait. Hope it never ends.
    -Breaking Bad: Great show. – 6 seasons was enough. I was done at the end of the 5th.
    Spin off… might be good.
    -Hell on Wheels: I was done after 3 shows. Not exciting.
    -Mad Men: Done in 15 minutes. Guess I never gave it a real chance. So what.

    Does anyone care about my taste in TV? NO!
    Probably why I don’t go all over the net trying to convince everyone that TWD is the BEST SHOW EVER!. It just is and I am good with knowing that all by myself.

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