A few weeks ago AMC proudly declared that the new season of their smash hit zombie saga The Walking Dead would feature a 90-minute, feature length opening!

That’s great news for all us Dead fans… but hidden in the announcement was a slightly less welcome tidbit. Turns out AMC will be SPLITTING the next season of The Walking Dead. So we’ll be getting 7 episodes starting October 16th, followed by a 2 months break, and then the last 6 episodes of the season will air.

Okay a two-month break isn’t exactly a huge deal. But try telling that to the makers of Men Of A Certain Age or Heroes or V or even Glee – all shows that took breaks of varying lengths of time and saw their ratings crumble as a result.

Men Of A Certain Age is a prime example of what can go wrong when schedulers start playing tricks with the audience. Season 1 of the TNT show was a decent sized hit for the network and the first half of Season 2 also performed okay. But then Men took a 4-month break and died a death. The last episode before the break hit 3.3 million viewers. The first episode, post break, crumbled to 1.8 million – and the show never again scored higher than this lowly rating. A few weeks later Men was officially cancelled.

Then there’s Heroes. The troubled NBC superhero series had a stellar season 1 and maintained strong ratings into season 2. But then Heroes took a long 9-month break, mainly due to production troubles. When it returned in Sept 2008 the decline had set in and the show lost viewers week after week until it’s eventual Season 4 cancelation.

 

The fact is audiences get into a rhythm on a show and when that routine is disrupted they go elsewhere. We know that Sundays at 9pm is True Blood and that Tuesdays at 8pm is Glee. Many people plan their evenings around their favorite shows. So even with plenty of promotion it’s easy to forget when a show is set to return once you’re out of the routine.

Plus a show hiatus breaks up the momentum of a series. You either have to insert a mid-season cliffhanger (which is what I suspect The Walking Dead will do), or hope that audiences will be sufficiently committed to your plots to return a few months down the line. Plus they then have to remember what was going on, pre-hiatus!

The Walking Dead is of course in a far different place to shows like V and Heroes. Season 1 was a smash hit and anticipation for season 2 is equally as high. If any show can survive a hiatus it’s The Walking Dead. But am I the only person who thinks that shows – especially on cable – should run straight through?

But what do you think? Do show breaks bother you? And which hiatuses have bothered you the most? Fire away…