So earlier today we told you about reports elsewhere that had Matt Weiner and his team at Creative Artists Agency fuming because AMC wasn't willing to give in to every single one of Team Weiner's contract demands. The takeaway: Mad Men might not be back for season five. But now AMC is making it clear that the series will return, in early 2012, while some industry insiders are starting to speak up about what's been going on behind the scenes.
First, here's the statement just put out by AMC regarding the situation: "AMC has officially authorized production of season 5 of Mad Men, triggering our option with Lionsgate (Mad Men's production company)," the network said. "While we are getting a later start than in years past due to ongoing, key non-cast negotiations, Mad Men will be back for a fifth season in early 2012." While the network's statement doesn't explicitly say anything about Weiner, the between-the-lines implication is clear: If a deal can't be reached with Weiner, AMC seems ready to continue the show without him. (See also: Two and a Half Men.)
AMC's statement is actually rather mild, particularly considering today's reports in Deadline and The Daily. The latter publication, in particular, seemed hell-bent on painting AMC as a miserly outlet unwilling to spend the sums needed to ensure Mad Men remains a national treasure. Those histrionics had some industry insiders sympathetic to AMC and Lionsgate fuming this morning, with one source telling Vulture that "Weiner has been for the most part unreasonable throughout the negotiation," even though AMC and Lionsgate have stepped up financially. Indeed, these sources confirm reports that Weiner has been offered around $30 million to stay with Mad Men, which would easily make him one of the highest-paid show-runners in basic cable (and even broadcast TV). "And yet with that offer on the table and a deadline in front of him to commit and get back into the writers' room, he's taking in the slopes instead of taking this seriously," fumed one person close to the negotiations, noting reports that Weiner is currently on a ski holiday. "He's on vacation while everyone else is doing everything they can to get this deal done."
As for the points of contention reportedly holding up a deal, our industry spies are still puzzled over why Team Weiner is so frustrated. The show already features product integration and AMC has simply asked to continue that practice, and possibly expand it a bit. And while AMC has been concerned about the long running time of episodes, even with the proposed trims, the show would still run longer than any other show on cable. As for the idea of scrapping or reducing the role of two actors, insiders point out that all of the main cast are signed on for season five; beyond that, it's unlikely AMC would want to cut any core cast. People close to the talks say AMC has done all it can to make Weiner happy — particularly on the money front — and yet nothing seems to be acceptable to the show-runner. "Weiner has $30 million. The pie is only so big," one industry insider told us. "AMC can't let the show be held hostage."
Update: Weiner talked to the NY Times today to confirm that AMC had asked him to slim down the cast and shrink each episode by a couple of minutes. He said these cuts would make Mad Men a “different show....I don’t understand why, with all of the success of the show, they suddenly need to change it.... All I want to do is continue to make my show, and make it in the way I want to, with the people I want to make it with.”