“I’m thrilled,” a happy Matt Weiner said in a phone interview shortly after his new three-year $30 million deal for Mad Men was announced. He is going back to work tomorrow, the writers room will get up-and-running in 4-5 weeks, and production on the much-delayed Season 5 of the Emmy-winning AMC drama will start in July, the same month the fifth season was originally slated to premiere.
But the deal almost didn’t happen. “I walked away from it 4-5 times in the last few days,” said Weiner who had been objecting to several proposals made by series producer Lionsgate TV and network AMC, including shortening the episodes’ running time from 47 to 45 minutes to make room for more commercials, introducing more product placement, potentially reducing the number of regulars on the show and pushing Season 5’s premiere to March 2012. “It’s never been about money,” Weiner said. “I wanted to do the show I wanted to do and the show the audience has come to expect.”
Now, “the cast is safe from financial concerns” for all 3 seasons, Weiner said, adding that he reserves the right to cut actors “on creative basis.”
In terms of product placement, Weiner said that there will be no changes to the series’ existing policy. He noted that there have been only 3 instances of product placement in Mad Men‘s first four seasons. “I don’t want the audience to feel they are being sold on the show,” he said.
Additionally, Weiner will be able to continue to do 47-minute versions of Mad Men‘s 13-episode Season 5 for VOD, DVD and all auxiliary platforms, though on AMC, Episodes 2-12 will air 45-minute cuts made by Weiner. (The season premiere and finale will remain 47 minutes.)
The only thing Weiner and AMC couldn’t agree on was the return date for Mad Men. Weiner had insisted on a 2011 Season 5 premiere but he said AMC had informed him back in October that, because they have 4 series to accommodate, no premiere before March 2012 would be possible.
While the pickup of Mad Men is for 2 more seasons, Weiner’s 3-year deal with Lionsgate makes that essentially a 3-year renewal. “These will be the last 3 seasons” of the period drama, Weiner said. “I’m going to take it one year at a time without the distraction to ever have to go through this again,” he added, referring to the long, tense renegotiations. “I’m incredibly grateful for the outpouring of support and overwhelmed that I get to finish telling the stories I want to tell.”