Mad Men Mess Made Minor

Well, I linked to the news about Mad Men negotiations going awry, so I also have to link to the less suspenseful news about the resolution of those negotiations. Short version: creator Matt Weiner will stay on for this coming season (in preparation for 2012) and two more seasons after that, and then he’ll probably be ready to end the show.

As to the budget/advertising issues, it looks very much like Weiner lost on the issue of running time, but gets a way to say he didn’t lose. Only the first and last episodes of the season will be the usual running time in all formats. The other episodes can be as long as Weiner wants in other formats (including online) but on AMC they will run 45 minutes — and the AMC version, of course, is still the one most people are going to see for now. The need to deliver episodes that make sense in the shorter cuts may change the rhythm of the show in subtle ways; certainly many “extended cuts” of TV episodes feel like over-long versions of regular-length episodes.

It’s probably not a big deal for the show itself; lots of long-running shows have had to adjust to shrinking running times. I just find it a bit sad that the battle for longer running times and fewer commercials in TV is being lost everywhere: if Mad Men can’t win this then no cable show can, and certainly no broadcast show will for a long time. And it does suggest that things have changed a bit at AMC since two years ago: either the network can no longer afford to give Weiner whatever he wants or he can no longer expect to get it.

On the bright side for Weiner, the network and/or the studio appear to have backed off on the demands for cast cuts, and the article plausibly implies that it may have been a negotiating tactic to scare him straight on the matter of budget overruns. (Just getting word out there that the show came this close to genuinely damaging budget cuts, in other words, could make the producer more budget-conscious.)

The thing that probably doesn’t matter much one way or the other is the product placement issue: there are few shows where product placement is less obtrusive than a show about advertising. As long as Weiner gets to say how the products are incorporated and they don’t start giving Don an iPod, there will be no change.

Weiner talks to Mary-Kaye Schilling about the deal and how he’s “thrilled” that it went through at last.

I’m running out of clips from movies that may have influenced Mad Men, but there’s still Lover Come Back, the ultimate cynical ’60s comedy about the advertising business (cleverly disguised as a Doris Day/Rock Hudson romantic comedy).


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