The business model in American television dictates that most shows run for as long as they continue to be profitable. Even a place like HBO isn’t immune to that way of thinking, as then-network boss Chris Albrecht kept backing up dump trucks full of money to David Chase’s house for more “Sopranos” episodes when even Chase wasn’t sure how long he wanted the show to continue.
Albrecht now runs Starz, and was among the men responsible for a decision you don’t see every day, as everyone involved with the “Spartacus” franchise – the channel’s biggest hit by far – has decided to end the series after the upcoming third season, “Spartacus: War of the Damned,” which will premiere next January.
In the press release announcing the decision, Albrecht and “Spartacus” creator Steven DeKnight said that they wanted to let the needs of the storytelling supersede any business concerns.
“We did not come to this decision lightly,” DeKnight said in the statement. “It was an extremely difficult and emotional decision for my partners and I. Yet, in the end, the story was best served by rolling all of the remaining action and drama of Spartacus’ journey into one stunningly epic season that will be extremely satisfying for everyone who’s been along for the ride.”
Albrecht added, “We are in agreement with our partners in the decision to conclude the story after ‘War of the Damned,” as we believe it is the best way to maintain the integrity of the series and secure its legacy.”
In an interview with Maureen Ryan, DeKnight added that other factors were in play, including the many bumps in the road that came from the tragic death of original “Spartacus” star Andy Whitfield. (After Whitfield was first diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a six-part prequel miniseries “Spartacus: Gods of the Arena,” was produced in the hope that it would allow him the time to recover. When it became clear that he wouldn’t, Liam McIntyre was cast to succeed him in the second proper season, and will continue into “War of the Damned.”)
I was never able to see in the series what Mo and Ryan McGee and some other critic friends did, and I’m sure many fans of the series are disappointed that they’ll only have 10 more hours of it to go. But considering what so often happens to TV shows that live past their expiration date, solely because they’re too valuable to dump, I imagine in the long run, the “Spartacus” fans will look back on the series more kindly than if Starz had tried to drag it on forever and ever the way Showtime is doing with “Dexter.”
What does everybody else think? If you’re a “Spartacus” lover, would you rather it burn out quickly, or would you rather it fade away slowly?