"I called my agents to thank them, my wife, and Jon Hamm — in that order," said Matthew Weiner of his first move after his deal with AMC and Lionsgate to make at least two more seasons of Mad Men was finalized today. In the end, he got nearly everything he wanted, including no cast cuts and no change in policy for product integration. "Jon Hamm wasn't there," he added. "I left two messages. Then I called the rest of the cast."
It's a big change from two days ago, when Weiner talked to us and described the negotiation experience as "sickening and horrible." At the time, he said he was "stunned" by network claims that the reason the negotiations were dragging on was because he was holding out for more money. "That just blew my mind," he said. "I couldn't believe they were painting me that way."
His voice was dramatically lighter tonight; he even giggled a few times. "I'm thrilled," he said. "It was an education for sure, but I get to make the show the way I want to, and that's all that matters. It was never about the money."
The show is still coming back in early 2012. Weiner says he hadn't wanted to wait that long, and claims that the network stalled negotiations with him until three weeks ago. He heard a rumor last October that Mad Men would not be back in July 2011, its usual summer debut: "People told me to make a movie, but I just wanted to get back to work." He said the delay wasn't confirmed by the network until a lunch in early March, which was AMC's first meeting with Weiner since the last season had ended, and two months after his contract had expired. At the lunch, Weiner requested that the show come back in July, but AMC said it wasn't possible; they had already scheduled other shows. "I just hope people come back next year," he said. Weiner also adds that even post-deal, he has still not talked to anyone at AMC, including network president Charlie Collier.
Another sticking point, the length of the episodes (AMC had wanted him to cut an additional two and a half minutes), has been resolved: The premiere and the finale will run at 47 minutes, just like last season. However, AMC will broadcast the rest as 45-minute episodes, with 47-minute versions airing digitally eight days later.
Weiner plans to start writing tomorrow. "I have some ideas," he said. "But I'm going to have a monastic four or five weeks before the rest of the writers come in. I'm just so happy that I get to do what I do. And I love doing it."