Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Dispatch from press tour: 'Mad Men' creator wishes he had something to tell us

Tonight's press tour event was a cocktail reception with members of the Directors Guild of America, where I ran into "Mad Men" creator Matthew Weiner, who unfortunately didn't have much more to say about his ongoing contract negotiations with Lionsgate than he did last night at the Golden Globes.

"I wish I had something to tell you," he said. "It will be decided, one way or the other, very soon. And I had an amazing year, and I love doing the show."

He said that he's not concerned about a potential late start to the writing process, since season two was also delayed by the writers strike. And he admitted that while he hasn't done any actual writing yet, "I'll be honest with you. You're writers. I think about it all the time."

16 comments:

LA said...

Thanks, Alan. I'm keeping the faith they'll come to mutually satisfying terms. Soon.

Anonymous said...

I don't really understand the situation with Matthew Weiner. Aren't most contracts for TV shows fairly long? Why all these renegotiations after only 2 seasons? And does anyone really think there's a chance in hell he'd ever walk away from the show?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Aren't most contracts for TV shows fairly long? Why all these renegotiations after only 2 seasons?

Actor contracts tend to run five seasons, but writer contracts can be all over the map. Weiner was only signed for two years, which I supposed gave the studio and AMC some flexibility if the show wasn't working out, but now it means they risk trying to do the show without the man who essentially is the show.

BigTed said...

Are there really execs at AMC who are idiotic enough to think they can do the show without Weiner? "Hey, this guy got things started, but now everything's moving along just fine... We've got an attractive cast, some record albums from 1964, and a researcher who can come up with a couple of spot-on period references for each episode. What more could we need? Although, now that I think of it, we could make all the characters a little bit nicer.... Of course, Don should make up with his wife, and Peggy should take care of her baby, and Joan should marry that handsome doctor of hers. And, hey, how come we're not doing any product placement? The possibilities are endless!"

Anonymous said...

BT: AMC execs have alreadys said that thye arem oving ahead on schedule with the 3rd season, regardless of whether or not MW is aboard. That says it all.

zodin2008 said...

I'm the biggest "Mad Men" fan in the world and I am counting the nanoseconds to season #3, however, Matthew Weiner needs to come down from his high horse - his salary demands are excessive, unrealistic and appalling and I come down 100,000% on AMC's side here.

Yes, "Mad Men" is arguably the best show on TV and it has now won the Emmy and the Golden Globe. It's the most buzz worthy thing on Cable and has several breakout stars including Jon Hamm, Christina Hendricks and January Jones.

All that aside, Weiner's asked for a raise of epic proportions. This is still a CABLE channel and while "Men" now is a well known entity, the ratings are still minescule compared to Network TV. I'm not saying "men" isn't a better show than about 98% of what's on networks, but to ask for $10 million A YEAR (which I believe is like a 90% riase) and especially IN THIS ECONOMY, I have ZERO sympathy for weiner.

When I look and see people around the country being laid off, stores, banks and businesses closing, to see Weiner ask for the level of raise he's requested is disgusting to me. He has every right to ask for a raise and he's deserving a solid raise considering the attention he's brought the wayward Cable channel and the awards being heeped on something not on HBO or Showtime is unprecedented.

But I think he may have been earning about $2 million a year (which most of us could retire on), and even doubling his salary to $4 million maybe warranted and deserved.

But he wants to jump from I believe about $2 million to $10 million - AMC has every right to balk and remove him as showrunner and I am sure there is a top flight writer on that writing staff, ready for his opportunity for a promotion.

But I am too disgusted by Matt Weiner's salary demands to remotely take his side...even at "risk" of 1 of my top 2 or 3 favorite shows.

kathy said...

I'm sure this will be an unpopular opinion but I think Matthew Weiner should STFU and sign already. I adore "Mad Men" and I think he's created something absolutely amazing here. No one loves this show more than I do, believe me.

But NO ONE is watching! I understand that there is a value to AMC in all the press and acclaim the series has gotten but the goal of making TV shows is to get viewers to watch them. That's the business you're in. If you create a show that 30 million people watch, they back the money truck up to your house and start unloading. If you create a show that 2 million people (on a good night) watch, the money truck slows down when it passes your house and still tosses a hefty chunk of cash out but it ain't CSI level money. It just ain't.

Obviously, I don't know the details of the contract negotiations but I'm guessing the gist of it is, he wants more money than they want to give him. And really, don't we all want more money than our bosses want to give us? So I get it. But I don't understand how this show can be making any kind of big profit, given the size of the audience.

I guess my point is, I don't see this as a situation where AMC is hoarding some massive amount of cash they are raking in from this show and depriving Matthew Weiner of his share of some big profit. It's in their best interest to keep this show on the air, and I'm beginning to think the situation has got to be that he has unreasonable expectations about his compensation.

kathy said...

zodin2008, you beat me to it while I was typing :) Glad to see I'm not the only one who feels this way.

Pandyora said...

AMC execs might be light in the brain stem department, but they look like geniuses compared to the suits at HBO who turned down "Mad Men" in the first place...

dark tyler said...

So now he says that "I don't know anything about next season — I don't even know if it's happening. And I don't even know what to tell you. I don't know what to say... I've done everything I can. That's all I can tell you."

I'm guessing that sooner rather than later one side will call the other side's bluff.

Andrew said...

Maybe Weiner is being greedy. Maybe AMC & Lionsgate are being stingy. I don't really care. As a fan, I have the luxury of not caring who is in the right or who is being reasonable. All that matters to me is the show, the show will be worse, possibly not even good, without Weiner at the helm. Weiner could be asking for the Lionsgate CEO's daughter as a sex slave, and I still wouldn't care. The show needs Weiner. That's the bottom line. Right and wrong are just distractions.

Kathy said...

"Right and wrong are just distractions."

Roger Sterling, is that you?

Anonymous said...

I never begrudge artists the money.
2M/yr seems like a lot, but in that industry, it ain't. The ratings may not be that high, but I expect the cash registars are ringing on the video sales. I just bought my S1 copy (in Blu-Ray.
The HIMYM cast just renegiotated at about 250K per epi (or 1M/epi for all 4 of them), so whats that 5 - 6 M/season for each?
Weiner is probably worth 10M.

OBTW, I hate bad math zod, a 90% raise to 10M would be a raise from 5.2M. A raise from 2m to 10M would a 400% raise, though we'd probably say "he's making 5 times as much as he did"

Flame away,

Puff

Anonymous said...

That's the first I have heard of any number Weiner was asking for. If it's true it only validates for me what I thought all along, that Weiner is in the wrong here.

His value to the show probably equals David Chase's value to "The Sopranos" but it is and never will be the money generator that show was.

He doesn't deserve Chase money because that can't be justified-financially, on any level.

The guy's ego is huge. I was watching "The Supper with 'The Sopranos'" extra on the complete series DVD set and Weiner would NOT shut up for a second. He loves to hear himself talk. Chase and the rest barely could get a word in.

kassy said...

Isn't it standard practice in negotiations to start with a large number and argue back and forth until you meet in the middle?

And btw, Weiner is not negotiating with AMC, he is negotiating with Lionsgate (who just agreed to purchase TV Guide network for $255 million in cash). AMC is simply the customer who has purchased the right to air the show and their deal is with Lionsgate as well.

Anonymous said...

Well Kassy you're mostly right and yet kind of wrong.
AMC sold the show which it had owned outright (it had paid for 50% of the pilot split with another investor -- which it then bought out) to Lionsgate after it was determined that it didn't want to be responsible for costs on the show - Lionsgate stepped up and made, by all accounts, a deal with AMC that amounts to highway robbery. AMC, not being well versed in the vagaries of television series financing, and not smart enough to hire a lawyer that did, got well and truly screwed, but maintained domestic distribution rights (i.e. the show will first-run on their network).
It is LIONSGATE that is holding up this negotiation essentially as it is that company which cuts all of the checks to the employees of the show. They are understandably dragging their feet as they figure:
1) Everyone will blame AMC if the deal doesn't get done
2) AMC has WAY more to lose than they do at this point and may well kick in EVEN MORE $$ to LG further sweetening their deal and lessening their exposure to risk.
3) The prevailing opinion is that artists are greedy jerks (!) that don't deserve just compensation for creating something memorable.
Remember -- this is the first basic cable show that won a "Best Drama" Emmy. The first basic cable show to win back-to-back Golden Globes for best drama. And the show nominated for the 2nd most Emmys EVER (second only to "30 Rock" and only by 1 -- 16 to 17).
The point is this is groundbreaking material and to use the audience numbers as the only measuring stick of this (or any) show's worth in the current media landscape is shortsighted, naive, and wrong.
But what do I know -- I mean, I'm just anonymous...