Mad Men Season 5 Guaranteed Despite Contract Disputes

Mad Men Season 5 was briefly in danger for a few hours yesterday. Some reports made it look like Season 5 would be canceled, given the difficult negotiations with creator Matthew Weiner. Perhaps that made AMC act quickly to renew the show and eliminate fears that Don Draper wouldn’t make another pitch again. Yet both the network and Weiner are still a long way away from making the right pitches to each other before 2012.

The initial news yesterday morning was ugly, as reports alleged a total breakdown in contract negotiations. Although AMC was offering $30 million to Weiner for two or three years, they also allegedly insisted on more product placement, shaving two minutes off episodes, and cutting two regular actors for budget reasons.

The Daily even claimed that if they couldn’t breach the gap, AMC would consider canceling the show that put them on the map. Yet doing that to their most visible hit seemed outlandish, and it was ultimately proved that way hours later.

Right after these worst-case scenarios broke out, the network officially renewed Mad Men for a fifth season. However, due to the remaining contract disputes and a crowded schedule, the series can’t return until sometime in early 2012. Yet even before yesterday, this delay was expected – and is certainly better than having no return at all.

But even if the series is safe, its future is still in jeopardy. If AMC prevails in the negotiations, it may not impact things that much – except for the plan to fire cast members. In fact, Weiner even told show fan site Basket of Kisses that the network’s real plan was to cut two regulars every season. None of them would presumably be the major six actors and characters – yet they might have to get to them a few years down the road.

Those hiccups could be much ado about nothing, however, considering the other worst-case scenario. If the two sides are really that far apart, and if the network is still committed to an early 2012 return, Weiner could become expendable. Without the man who made the series a cultural phenomenon, it’s unclear if fans and critics would like the results.

The show survived having Don and company leave their old firm, as well as the Drapers’ divorce. But a Season 5 with new Mad Men in charge could be another matter, although both sides still have time to avoid that crisis. Waiting almost another year for the new drama at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce will be hard enough – especially with the much less fun, and more real-life, behind-the-scenes drama in its place now.


New York Magazine- “AMC Orders Fifth Season Of Mad Men, With or Without Matthew Weiner”

The Daily- “Bullying Don Draper”

Basket of Kisses- “Don’t worry, I’m fighting for the show”