Mad Men won big at the WGA Awards on Saturday. But months after the end of the fourth season of the much accoladed AMC series, there is still no deal with the network for a Season 5 or a new pact for creator Matt Weiner to return. That certainly is making writers on the show uneasy and clouding what should have been a night of celebration for the writing team. Mad Men swept the drama categories at the WGA Awards, winning for best drama series and best drama episode, the Erin Levy-penned The Chrysanthemum and the Sword. Some in the audience were joking that Weiner might use his acceptance speech for best drama series to thank the show’s writers and announce that they no longer had jobs. He didn’t of course, and the show going away is extremely unlikely — though all the scribes feted on Saturday are not guaranteed to stay on as Weiner is known for shaking up the writers room between seasons.
The last time Weiner went through renegotiations was 2 years ago when the two deals — between AMC and Lionsgate, and between Lionsgate and Weiner — closed simultaneously on January 2009. And that was a few days after Mad Men triumphed at the Golden Globes for a second consecutive year as best drama series. This time, negotiations have stretched into February, and I hear the two deals may not close at the same time. As an indication of the slow movement, Weiner is leaving for Europe for the next 2 weeks.
Meanwhile, the deal between AMC and Lionsgate is expected to close this month when the network’s option on the show expires. At TCA last month, AMC’s SVP Joel Stillerman said the network’s plan is to bring Mad Men back for a fifth season. (Lionsgate already picked up the options for the cast which expired a the end of December.) Dealmaking is not moving fast, especially with AMC reinforcing its legal team this time with top entertainment attorney Jim Jackoway.
With Mad Men being such a critical success and a pop culture staple, Weiner is asking for a much bigger paycheck and Lionsgate is trying to get a higher license fee from AMC, too. (Its current one is a little over $2 million an episode.) It won’t be easy to close the deals but let’s face it, who can imagine Mad Men on another network or with another showrunner?