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Matthew Weiner on Whether Playboy Club and Pan Am Are Ripping Him Off

Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner.

Vulture bumped into Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner Friday night at Entertainment Weekly’s annual pre-Emmy bash. His show has nineteen nominations this year, and nowhere is its success more evident than in the fact that this fall the major networks are launching two sixties period-piece dramas, The Playboy Club and Pan Am. We asked Weiner: Homage, rip-off, or none of the above? We also put the question to him whether all was really forgiven after last spring’s battles with AMC.

A lot of critics are saying that The Playboy Club and Pan Am are trying to rip off Mad Men. Do you think that’s the shows’ aim?
Define “ripping something off.” I don’t own the period. I see the whole experience as a vindication. The same people who are green-lighting these shows hated [the notion of a period drama] when I pitched it eleven years ago. It’s a thrill that these same people now are seeing something commercial in it. I wish them the best. We’re not competing. I lived through Far From Heaven, and people saying, “Oh, they did your [script].” So I can’t worry about it. I’m not being magnanimous, either: I don’t own the period.

People always seem to be skeptical about period shows working, especially on broadcast.
When I was growing up in the seventies, the two biggest shows were Happy Days and M*A*S*H. I kept saying,”Period shows can succeed.” And people were like, “No, they can’t.”

Do you consider your whole AMC battle to be behind you?
It is behind me. I have my three seasons left, the running time is intact, I’m coming in on budget, [and] they’re very excited about the show. We’re kind of all getting along. I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.

What did you make of Kurt Sutter’s theory that the reason Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead had budget issues was because there was less money available after your deal?
It’s just not true. [My] show is a billion dollar business, that’s No. 1. No. 2, they’re in a business doing what they’re doing. And my deal had nothing to do with it. They were trying to cut the budget on The Walking Dead before they were even negotiating with me. I don’t know Kurt Sutter. It was strange to hear someone theorizing about it, but I don’t know him.

We recently did a story about all of AMC’s recent headlines, and wondered whether or not someone like you would work with the network again. Would you?
I’ll be honest with you. No one else wanted to do my show. And I feel a great deal of loyalty to them for taking a chance on it. However, they have never asked me what else I wanted to do. So for the time period, there is no other show.

Not that you’re planning anything before Mad Men ends, right?
I can’t do anything else at the same time. I may make a movie between seasons … I haven’t had any time in between seasons before now. But I’m about to.

Is it possible you might shoot during your next hiatus?
I hope so. But you never know when movies will get made.

When does production on the new season finish up?
I’m shooting episode four now, and I have written through episode six. We finish shooting in January, post will be done in February, and we go on the air in March.

You love spoilers. Want to tell us anything about the new season?
Nope! I just hope people come back and see it. We’re working really hard on it.

Matthew Weiner on Whether Playboy Club and Pan Am Are Ripping Him Off