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Mad Men Held Hostage: Drama over Advertising on an Advertising Drama

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I had unofficially resolved not to blog on any of the gossip and reports over the negotiations for the Season 5 return of Mad Men, figuring I’d just pick up the news when the inevitable renewal announcement finally came. It hasn’t, but from the reports, things are getting interesting.

Don’t get me wrong: whatever egos and money grabs are involved, I still believe that AMC and Matt Weiner are reasonable enough not to scuttle the channel’s flagship show and awards-hardware magnet. But things have dragged on long enough that the show will not be returning for its usual summer debut (USA Today says early 2012 is more likely).

[Update: AMC has “green-lighted production” for a fifth season, though that is apparently not the same as having a deal, and the network has confirmed that Season 5 will not air before 2012.]

If current reports are true, the Madison Avenue drama is being held up at least in part over — yep — advertising.

Reports Deadline.com: AMC — which butted heads with Weiner two years ago by asking for more commercials during the hit show — wants to cut another two minutes for commercials, work in more product integration and, by the way, cut a couple cast regulars to save cash. Lest I suggest that AMC is the only dollar-sign-eyed party here, it’s fair to note that Deadline says Weiner stands to make $30 million on a two-year deal, which it says would make him the highest-paid basic-cable show runner, even though Mad Men is not the highest-rated basic-cable show.

I’m not going to play arbitrator here not knowing the ins and outs of the negotiations, but I do hope AMC sees that it will do no one any good to compromise the show that made the channel’s brand for quality overnight. Yes, Mad Men still runs longer than most network dramas, but you know what? The length seems to be working for it. Two years ago, AMC compromised by letting the show run longer than an hour to fit extra ads, and I’d gladly have it run for 90 minutes if that meant letting the show tell the stories in the measured way that has made it great.

At this point, it seems like someone needs to sit at a table with these people and tell them to drop the BS and make some money and good TV together. Anyone have Bert Cooper’s number?

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