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TV Column
Posted at 10:44 PM ET, 03/31/2011

AMC’s ‘Mad Men’ back with Matt Weiner for three seasons

AMC and Lionsgate on one side, and “Mad Men” creator Matt Weiner on the other, have ended their game of high stakes chicken, and the period drama will return, with Weiner at the helm, for three more seasons.

AMC had announced earlier this week it had triggered its option with Lionsgate to bring back the series, about Madison Avenue in the ‘60s, for a fifth season, with or without Weiner.

Weiner went skiing.

Though the two companies had put on the table a deal for Weiner that was reportedly valued at $30 million over three years, he’d been holding out against efforts by the companies to help defray the cost of that salary, and then some, by adding yet another commercial break into the show, cutting its actual programming length from around 47 minutes per episode, to 45 minutes.

There was also some talk of cutting costs by trimming the large ensemble cast, which set TV critics to playing a game we like to call “Who Is Expendable?”

Sorry, January Jones – the consensus among the arbiters of TV taste seemed to be that your Betty Draper character is irrelevant and a downer. In the plus column, January, your name is still listed among the cast in Thursday’s announcement, as is Jon Hamm, Elisabeth Moss, Vincent Kartheiser, Christina Hendricks, John Slattery, Jared Harris, Rich Sommer, Aaron Staton, Robert Morse, and Kiernan Shipka.

AMC also wanted to raise some more coin off the show by beefing up the amount of product integration in program, and by working out some arrangement to allow advertisers to advertise that their advertisements were embedded in the show. Yes, really.

Thursday night, Weiner told the TV column “cast decisions will be made based on creative decisions, not financial decisions.”

And “product integration remains the same.”

But, AMC got its way on the extra-ad-break gag; 11 of next season’s 13 episodes will be cut to 45 minutes in length to accommodate that additional commercial break – ka-ching!

The season debut and finale will be treated like somethin’ special – status quo now qualifying as “special.”

On the bright side, Weiner’s going to deliver all 13 episodes at 47-minutes. If you want to pay to see the “missing” two minutes on DVD, they’ll be there; likewise, eight days after each episodes premieres on AMC, it will be available via digital VOD with the extra two minutes, which will be called “Mad Men: The Final Cut.”

In its announcement earlier this week about the return of “Mad Men” for a fifth season with or without Weiner, AMC had put on its sad face and said that key non-cast negotiations had blown hopes of bringing the show back in the summer, which is when it usually runs. And by key non-cast it, of course, meant Weiner.

Thursday, Weiner told The TV Column: “It was decided in October that the show would be back on in March of 2012. AMC is launching four shows – it was always decided on for March of 2012. I made it a negotiation point I wanted it on this year, and they told me that was impossible.”

Weiner said he’ll be back at work tomorrow and will start shooting in July “and we hope people will wait for us.”

“I’m overjoyed,” Weiner concluded, in re the new deal.

Thursday’s announcement also includes a lot of hot air from AMC and Lionsgate suits. But we’re giving you back the two minutes it would take you to slog through all that drivel about how thrilled they are and Matt’s creative genius, because why should you give them two MORE minutes of your time?

By  |  10:44 PM ET, 03/31/2011

 
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