Breaking Bad ended its otherworldly third season in early June, leaving its fans breathless and wanting more just like the meth addicts the series’ Walter White cooks for.
Unfortunately, it looks like we will all be waiting just a little bit longer than expected.
As Deadline is reporting, season four of the critically acclaimed series will not debut on AMC until July 2011, instead of the normal spring start time. That means that fans of the series will have to go more than a whole calendar year to see new full-length episodes. I say full-length because the Deadline report mentions that AMC will produce short 3-4 minute online mini episodes to whet the palates of Breaking Bad junkies everywhere.
Of course, this sucks. But beyond that, this decision is at least partially perplexing.
On a more basic level, making people wait and build up the anticipation for new content seems like a great strategy, but by the end of season three, the whoopla surrounding Breaking Bad was as big and as loud as it has ever been. Multiple critics referred to the third season as one of the best full seasons in the history of the medium. That’s the lofty kind of praise, but not the false kind. Thus, why take the extra time off without really giving any reasoning? Of course, this is still just a report (albeit one from a reputable source) and perhaps AMC will comment and pass along some crucial production detail that explains the delay. In the longterm, no one is going to look back and knock Breaking Bad for taking some longer time off between seasons three and four — unless things go terribly wrong — but in the present, it’s surely puzzling.
Moreover, if Breaking Bad isn’t coming back until July of 2011, it presents an interesting conflict with the airing schedule of Mad Men, which has always debuted in late July or early August. At first glance, airing two powerhouse series back-to-back seems like an amazing idea, though one that would keep critics and wannabe critics like myself up super late on Sunday nights. But I am sure that AMC has heard of the network/channel policy in the industry to not air your two best series on the same night. AMC is smartly airing Rubicon with Mad Men in hopes of building a new series, but putting Bad and Men together would disallow the burgeoning cable power from doing that in the future and would surely lump all the major ad rates into one night for 13 weeks instead of stretching out somewhat lower rates into 26 weeks. And as Deadline points out, season four of Breaking Bad would be ineligible for any Emmys next year, something that should certainly be disappointing to a still growing cable channel that’s been given lots of pub because of its Emmy noms.
Of course, as Jeremy Mongeau and I both suggested on Twitter, there’s probably more to this involving both Breaking Bad and Mad Men. If Breaking Bad takes a more extended leave until July, we can probably expect that once Mad Men goes away this fall, it will take longer time returning in 2011 as well, perhaps even to late fall. Mad Men does lend itself to a more “fall” feel for whatever reason and perhaps AMC has some desire in getting higher ratings and ad rates during the fall (their decision to launch the much-anticipated Walking Dead in the fall lends credence to this idea). But theoretically, if Dead is a hit as well, AMC will have wrestled up success in both the late fall and summer-early fall brackets while giving up that small hold on early spring that Breaking Bad has previously held down. Maybe AMC has a new series coming they feel comfortable launching in the spring, maybe they have a bigger and better plan that all of that. Or maybe this all doesn’t matter as much I think it does just because I’m so upset I’ll have to wait three more months for the best series on television.