TV shows used to end in one of two ways, neither of them pleasant, according to "House of Cards" show runner Beau Willimon. Either the series would end abruptly, like being hit by a car, or it would slowly decline and die, lost and forgotten, its audience having abandoned it long ago.
These days, writers have to put a little more thought into exactly how their show will end, but exactly how long it takes to get there "is not just a creative decision," according to "Masters of Sex" show runner Michelle Ashford. "It's actually informed by a lot of very big corporate business decisions."
Ashford and Willimon joined fellow TV writers Scott M. Gimple ("The Walking Dead,"), Julian Fellowes ("Downton Abbey") and Joel Fields ("The Americans") to discuss how and when their shows will end at the Envelope's Emmy round table with Times TV critic Mary McNamara.
Although many shows on broadcast TV still meet abrupt ends, these show runners operate in the world of cable, which affords much more creative license in allowing shows to conclude.
"There is a moment when the bloom goes off the rose," Fellowes said. "And you want to get out before that happens."
So how long does Fellowes see himself being happy writing the adventures of the residents of "Downton Abbey?" He has a number in mind, but watch the video to find out if McNamara succeeds in getting him to say what it is.