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The Globe and Mail

What was everyone watching? Mad Men ratings disappoint

Jon Hamm poses at the premiere for the seventh season of the television series Mad Men in Los Angeles, California.

Mario Anzuoni/REUTERS

Maybe Mad Men sold the sizzle instead of the steak?

Even with all the advance buzz and ceaseless promotion, AMC's Emmy-winning drama returned to dismal ratings on Sunday night. The first episode of the final season took in a paltry 2.3 million U.S. viewers.

For those keeping track, that's a 1.1 million dip from the 3.4 million viewers who watched the sixth-season premiere. Sunday's night's premiere was Mad Men's least-watched season-opener since the second season kickoff in 2008. (AMC does not measure or monitor Canadian ratings for its programming.)

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Of course, the first scripted series from AMC has always been more about winning awards than capturing viewers. Mad Men collected the Emmy for best TV drama four consecutive times. And in its wake, AMC ratings hit like launched Breaking Bad, and The Walking Dead.

But then again, the slow start may have AMC rethinking their master plan to send Mad Men off in grand style. AMC has decided to split the final season of the show into two seven-episode seasons; the final seven shows will be saved for next year.

And the tepid viewer response to its return is bad news for other AMC product: Two weeks ago, the cable channel introduced the period-piece drama Turn, set during the Revolutionary War, which drew 2.1 million U.S. viewers for its debut episode.

On Sunday night, the second episode of Turn attracted only 1.9 million viewers, even with Mad Men as its lead-in show.

All told, the numbers for Mad Men are feeble when compared to, say, Game of Thrones. HBO's medieval fantasy epic has been averaging a steady U.S. viewership in the 6.5 million-viewer range since returning for its fourth campaign a few weeks ago.

It's not exactly sixties fashion, but perhaps it's time for Don Draper to consider a sword and codpiece?

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