Thursday, January 08, 2009

Dispatch from press tour: Mad Men on schedule (more or less), Breaking Bad back in March, Prisoner looks good

Some notes and quotes from AMC's session -- including the state of contract negotiations with "Mad Men" creator Matthew Weiner, the premiere date of "Breaking Bad" and some observations on "The Prisoner" remake -- coming up after the jump...

• AMC president Charlie Collier announced that "Mad Men" would be back sometime in the summer, though he avoided giving a specific date. That may be because Weiner still doesn't have a contract with the Lionsgate studio to stay at the helm of the reigning Emmy winner for best drama.

"Lionsgate continues negotiations with Matt, so I won't go deep into discussion of that," Collier said, "but we remain optimistic that Matt will still be with the show. Third quarter (of 2009) was always the plan, we're still on schedule."

He added that they still have "a couple of months" to close the deal with Weiner in order to make the targeted premiere window.

"Breaking Bad," AMC's other reigning Emmy winner (for star Bryan Cranston), will be back on March 8. The show's first season only ran 7 episodes due to the writers strike, which creator Vince Gilligan said was a blessing in disguise.

“If we did our last two episodes of season one and the strike hadn’t interrupted us, I wanted to have a big season ender, which would have been too much story too soon,” Gilligan said. "I took a breath and realized I wanted to slow things down a bit. The strike saved us from doing too much too soon.”

And he promised "a slam bang ending" for season two, instead.

• AMC's miniseries remake of "The Prisoner," starring Jim Caviezel and Ian McKellen, won't premiere until November. The clips we saw in the room (filmed on location in a very real and very odd-looking African town that needed very little set decoration) looked very promising -- though, admittedly, I say that as someone who never saw the original '60s series with Patrick McGoohan. I can finally rectify that mistake, though, now that AMC is streaming all 17 episodes on their website.

McKellen, re-appearing at the tour a day after the whole "Gandalf may be gay" thing, had himself a fine old time on stage, at one point switching into character as the malevolent, controlling Number Two in an attempt to cow a critic whose question displeased (or, more likely, confused) him. I'd post the full quote, but the words on a screen don't remotely convey the cheerful menace in his voice as he said them.


Anonymous said...

Matt Weiner's huge ego is already well known, but seriously how greedy and ungrateful can he be? I'm sure his current salary is nothing to scoff at (especially considering how few people actually watch the show.) And let's not forget, AMC is the only network that would put his show on the air. They took a huge financial gamble on him. And they gave him something almost unheadr of on TV... full creative control.

And in return, he's delivered one of the greatest TV shows ever. A show that has made already made him a great salary, and will insure that he gets offered a GIANT development deal with any network he wants when the show is over.

So why be so greedy?

Although if he continues to be labeled as "difficult" (which he will be if he doesn't make a deal) then fewer networks will want to work with him.

Anonymous said...

So why be so greedy?

Because he's in the TV business?

Why was Weiner only signed to a two year contract when the cast was locked into the six year deals? The answer, presumably, is that at the time he was, as an off camera presence, viewed as more easily replacable. Weiner then proceeded to make himself thoroughly irreplacable, thereby putting Lionsgate behind the 8-ball.

TV is a fickle business. When you achieve some amount of success, you better squeeze as much money out of it as possible, because these windows don't stay open long.

Anonymous said...

Weiner really has to be careful. He's getting to Sorkin levels of arrogance.

And while he deserves complete credit for making one of the best shows of the past decade, it's true, the ratings are just terrible. I actually felt bad for AMC after they spent all those heavy millions in promotion for season two, just to have it settle at basically the same point as season one.

Alan: was there any news about the Red Mars mini-series?

Anonymous said...

Any chance you are going to blog those episodes, Alan? Maybe as your summer project?

Matt Weiner doesn't owe anyone anything. He created a show and sold both it and his services as showrunner, to AMC for a maximum term of two years. If the show had been shitty, or if AMC didn't have faith in the ratings after season 1, they could have cancelled the show and not paid him for the second year.

AMC has the rights to the show. They own it. And as a result of that ownership, they have gotten prestige, awards, and an ability to air original programming that people will pay attention to, not to mention increased ad revenue that they never got for their 900th airing of Jaws 2.

Matt Weiner has gotten the same prestige and awards, in addition to the money he was contractually obligated to recieve (which was no doubt significantly less than what he would have recieved on a more prestigious network). That's the deal.

Now, if he wants to negotiate for more, he has that right. that's why he signed a two year deal. AMC has benefited more than they could have dreamed from Mad Men. Why shouldn't Weiner benefit more as well?

Anonymous said...

Count me among the rabid MM fans who won't return if MW doesn't. Sorry, but these crestive showrunners who got the whole story down are the ones who deserve all the credit and bucks. That being said, MW should know that his show is not getting the ratings that enable him to get more $$$. He already has complete control and probably makes afortune so why does he need more? If this were the #1 show on TV in the ratings, there'd be no question of unloading a Brinks truck up to his door, but it isn't and they can't.

I just don't see how I could watch the show if his vision isn't the one going forward. to me, it would be the same thing if those 2 other guys besides JJA got fired or quit LOST. they know the show, how it will end and the show NEEDS them. Same with MW and MM. I really hope both parties play ball cause htis will end up being of the great blown chances in the history of TV. period.

Anonymous said...

Hey Alan, did you feel the earthquake at around 7:50?

Keeping my fingers crossed for a Weiner deal all parties can live with.

Anonymous said...

Count me in as someone else who is very interested in any news of Red Mars . I suspect a TV show would have to dump a lot of the science but otherwise it seems like the perfect medium for an adaptation. It's also the kind of SF that could probably be done well on a limited budget.

Anonymous said...

including the state of contraction negotiations with "Mad Men" creator Matthew Weiner

I say give him all the it's, don'ts, and can'ts he wants :-)

That earthquake warn't nothin'. Barely felt it here (then again, I'm closer to the epicenter than where Alan presumably is).

Alan Sepinwall said...

Stupid typos. Thanks, Dez.

And there was an earthquake? Really? I had no idea.

Nicole said...

The earthquake must have been caused by Weiner's huge ego.... but seriously, I can't feel bad for AMC which has been put on the map as a result of Mad Men. They have won awards that have not been given to "the Wire" or received as little recognition as "the Shield" so what's wrong with forking him over a bit more money? Weiner is only as good as his next show, so if he doesn't take advantage of this opportunity, he may never be able to do so again. And the threat of Mad Men without Weiner is a good one.

Unless AMC is bleeding money like GM, I can't feel sorry for them not giving him what he wants.

I am looking forward to the new Prisoner, as I did catch the original in the past year. Considering the other sci-fi that aired in that era, it was definitely groundbreaking and so weird yet so interesting. Also seeing Rumpole in his younger days was also a treat.

Anonymous said...

dez - I felt it quite strongly in Seal Beach, but then again, my house is on liquifaction.

Unknown said...

Never saw The Prisoner!!??!!


I'm tempted to say, "Run to your computer and watch it right now!"

But the serious episodes are "attention television" and you should really catch each epi when you have time to absorb it (especially the series finale).

I think watching these are going to be a lot more essential to understanding the new one than original BSG to 2003 version.

Anonymous said...

Actually I've changed my mind; I don't want to hear anything about Red Mars. Who's stupid idea was it to pick action writer Jonathan Hensleigh as the showrunner of a slow burning, character based drama?

The Prisoner, on the other hand, seems like something worth waiting for. I only hope they don't feel the need to explain the whole village set up. It's way too loopy to wrap up in a bow.

Anonymous said...

Master Prudent: Well, there goes any hope I had for it. It barely registers as action, and like you said, is extremely character driven. In my mind, as far as show runners go, my ultimate pick would be JJ Abrams (for the sci-fi factor) and James Manos (the guy is pure talent).

Unknown said...

I only hope they don't feel the need to explain the whole village set up. It's way too loopy to wrap up in a bow.


I remember reading "The Official Prisoner Companion" or some other remaindered book at Barnes and Noble, and it related that ITN had commissioned one last episode (Fall Out) to end the story. After the episode, people wanting closure were mystified and pissed off. I think it beats the Sopranos ending....

Toby O'B said...

I second the suggestion that you find the time to properly watch the original "Prisoner" with time to absorb each episode.

But most importantly, I think we all want you to blog it after each episode!

I always tell people that "The Prisoner" (my all-time favorite series) was made 40 plus years ago and is still twenty years ahead of its time.

Matthew said...

ITN had commissioned one last episode (Fall Out) to end the story. After the episode, people wanting closure were mystified and pissed off.

I don't know if it's true, but I heard that McGoohan actually went into hiding for six months after the final episode because reaction was so bad. It's a brilliant rilliant episode, but I completely understand the reaction.

Anonymous said...

dez - I felt it quite strongly in Seal Beach, but then again, my house is on liquifaction.

I think you're also farther from the epicenter than I am, so the shockwaves would be stronger where you are. I honestly thought it was a sonic boom because I heard a loud noise and things rattled a bit, but that was it. The cats couldn't even be bothered to hide, though they did stop eating briefly (I was feeding them at the time of the quake). The only thing that happened here was one of my hurricane lights being left slightly askew when it was over.

Contrast that with a friend in Woodland Hills who felt the earth rolling (she's also on the fourth floor of her building) and had the added bonus of all the scaffolding outside her building knocking against the walls. She thought it was a big one, whereas I was more like Alan--"There was an earthquake?"

Sorry we couldn't pony up a bigger one for ya, Alan. The way these things are played up by the press around here and elsewhere, I would have thought your entire family would call you to see if you were okay :-) And sorry for the long digression :-)

Anonymous said...

How many episodes is there going to be in Breaking Bad season 2?

Anonymous said...

Never seen The Prisoner either, it was before my time. I recall that during season 1 of Lost, many fans compared it to The Prisoner. I've been curious to check it out ever since. AMC is awesome.

I also look forward to new Breaking Bad! Those comments about the strike's impact on the first season are interesting.

Anonymous said...

What, nobody asked Vince Gilligan what he thought of I Want to Believe?

Anonymous said...

"I am not a number, I am a free man!"

The Prisoner! I'm very excited to hear good news. Nothing could top the original show, but hopefully they'll put a different spin on it and do it justice.

I also nominate The Prisoner as a candidate for blogging next summer, if you have the time, Alan.

I've heard similar stories about "Fall Out" as Buzz and Matthew L. Supposedly McGoohan wrote it in a few days right after finding out the show would be canceled. It was a much bigger deal in Britain than in the US, where CBS aired it in 1968 - except for one episode that featured an American Wild West setting and a strong anti-war message. The show had a troubled production, but what they produced was stunning - Toby's "always twenty years ahead of its time" statement is right on.

Do you know anything about Bill Gallagher? I see he doesn't have a lot of IMDB credits, and they're mostly British shows I'm unfamiliar with. Was he at the session?

Unknown said...

MM TV ratings are deceptive. S-2 averaged more than 2x as many viewers as S-1. In addition, the reported top line ratings and viewership numbers fail to take into account that the show is rebroadcast again at 11:00 PM and 1:00 AM, nor do the figures inclued the number of people that record (TiVO etc) the show for later viewing during the week. By some estimates, total viewership is as much as 5mm per episode. More conservative estimates cluster around 3.5mm however. Either way, the total figures are much higher than what is reported. Why is this important ? Because AMC and Lionsgate make a lot more money on the show than is reported.

MW may be getting the rep of difficult, but he is a proven success. Hollywood pays for success, no mater the personality involved. As long as he continues to deliver, he will get paid. Ultimately AMC and Lionsgate need MW more than he needs them.