AMC was once a little-watched cable network that showed nothing but old movies. In an effort to attract more viewers, it greenlit series like Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and The Walking Dead. These shows became critical and ratings successes, earning AMC the kind of prestige that had once been reserved for the likes of HBO. But Breaking Bad ends its magnificent run in a few weeks and Mad Men will wrap up next year, leaving AMC with two gaping holes in its schedule. How can it bottle that kind of lightning again?
AMC’s answer: spinoffs! In addition to the recently announced Breaking Bad spinoff featuring underworld attorney Saul Goodman, the network is also developing a companion series for The Walking Dead. It isn’t difficult to understand AMC’s rationale: people liked the original series, so perhaps they’ll like these similar shows. While this strategy sometimes works (see Frasier and The Colbert Report), it more often doesn’t (see Caprica and Stargate Universe). One of these new shows might get traction, but the odds are long that both will be successful. For a network that made its name taking risks on unconventional stories, AMC’s investment in these new shows bears a noticeable whiff of desperation.