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TheWrap.com, Published September 18 2013

Why AMC's 'Mad Men' split is good news for 'Breaking Bad'

NEW YORK - Here's an Emmys prediction a year early: "Breaking Bad" is the show to beat at the 2014 awards.

While the rest of Hollywood speculated about Sunday's Emmys, AMC made a big move Tuesday that's certain to shake up next year's race. The network said that it will split the final season of "Mad Men," airing it in two seven-episode sections in 2014 and 2015.

The "Mad Men" decision is good news for "Breaking Bad." Here's why.

For months, it looked like the final season of "Mad Men" would air entirely in 2014. The final episodes of "Breaking Bad" are now airing. That would have put AMC's two most award-winning shows in direct competition in the Emmys' 2014 Outstanding Drama Series race.

The shows have competed before in the category. But this time their final seasons would have been going head-to-head. The last season of "Breaking Bad" is probably its best shot at finally winning an Outstanding Drama Series Emmy, because by recognizing the last season, voters could in effect honor its entire run.

But Emmy voters might also want to tie a bow on "Mad Men," which has already won four Outstanding Drama Series Emmys. "Breaking Bad" has also won a slew of prizes, including three lead actor Emmys for Bryan Cranston and two supporting actor awards for Aaron Paul.

Thanks to Tuesday's decision, Emmy voters won't have to choose which show to give the ultimate drama prize for its final season.

Emmy voters can give "Breaking Bad" best drama next year, and perhaps recognize "Mad Men" for the last time in 2015. (Maybe they'll also, in 2015, finally award Jon Hamm in the lead actor category, one in which Cranston has beaten him repeatedly.)

"Looks like AMC is using the ol' Wrigley Doublemint Gum strategy by breaking the final season in two - double your pleasure, double your fun," said Tom O'Neil, editor of the awards predictions site GoldDerby.com.

"Certainly, this makes all 14 episodes more precious by doling them out more slowly," he told TheWrap."It's significant that AMC plans to air them in the spring, which is the tail end of Emmy voting when 'Mad Men' will be top of mind as these episodes air.

AMC executives were unavailable to comment on their strategy Tuesday.

In an interview weeks before Tuesday's "Mad Men" split, TheWrap asked "Breaking Bad" creator Vince Gilligan what he thought about the final seasons of his show and "Mad Men" facing off.

"I don't think we'll ever beat "Mad Men," he said. "I don't mean to sound negative, but I think we got officially passed over once and for all last when "Homeland" won. It probably will never happen for us. But I'm fine with that because I never even thought we'd have a horse in the race."

"Homeland" won last year. Of course, it's always possible that a show other than "Mad Men" or "Breaking Bad" could swoop in next year, or the year after.

But "Breaking Bad" seems a shoe-in - at least a year out - because its final episodes are earnings raves, and buzz for the show is stronger than ever.

There is one other thing to consider: "Breaking Bad" or "Mad Men" could win the best drama Emmy this Sunday. A "Breaking Bad" win would take off the pressure on Emmy voters to honor the show in the drama category next year.

And of course, Emmys are only one consideration for AMC as it chooses when to air its shows. Splitting up "Mad Men" will give it more time to restock its lineup. The drama put AMC on the scripted map, and will be tough to replace.

AMC president Charlie Collier noted in a statement Tuesday that splitting "Breaking Bad" in two for its final season proved a ratings boon, saying the show "nearly double the number of viewers to its second half premiere than had watched any previous episode." On Sunday, the show set an all-time viewership record.

Gilligan has said splitting the last season of "Breaking Bad" in two gave his writers more time to plot out Walter White's final episodes. Weiner said in a statement that "Mad Men" will be more intricate, too.

"We plan to take advantage of this chance to have a more elaborate story told in two parts, which can resonate a little bit longer in the minds of our audience," he said.