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August 27, 2015

What the hell? Lionsgate calling around for a new Mad Men show-runner

by Joel Keller, posted Oct 29th 2008 9:55AM
Matthew WeinerAmong the Hollywood industry insider columnists, Nikki Finke's hit rate is pretty high, so it's troubling to read a report from her about the acrimonious contract negotiations between Lionsgate and Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner. It's gotten so bad that Finke is reporting that Lionsgate is calling around looking for someone to replace Weiner as show-runner.

As everyone else in the industry is saying: What the hell?

Mad Men just finished its second season with record ratings. It's the first basic cable show to win an Emmy for Best Drama, and Weiner is the show's heart and soul. Believe me when I tell you that it's his vision and attention to detail that you see in every scene. Weiner gave critics a tour of the sets during the July TCAs, and he was able to speak about the look and feel of the show as easily as he was able to talk about the stories and characters. I can't imagine anyone else running the show, even if it's someone that's already on staff.

According to Finke, Weiner is looking for $10 million per year for a multi-year deal, a number that Lionsgate is unwilling to pay because of the show's basic cable budget. AMC has a contract with Lionsgate for two more years of the show, whether Weiner is a part of it or not.

Look, I can't tell Lionsgate how to spend their money, but in this case they're going to need to meet Weiner's demands. Without him, the show may be able to continue and do well, but the quality hit will be just enough for the show's fans to notice and stop watching. When a show-runner is so closely associated with a show, the fans can tell when their influence is no longer there: ask the fans of Gilmore Girls, The West Wing, and Seinfeld what happened when those shows' famous show-runners left.

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I just read Verne Gay's column and he hinted at what's really going on. It sounds like Weiner wants out of Lionsgate and AMC....AND he wants to take Mad Men with him. Gay's speculation is that HBO or Showtime is willing to pay Weiner a bundle for his services, but they want Mad Men in the deal. But there's a catch: AMC just renewed Mad Men, so they technically "own" it. So whoever wants Mad Men will have to pay a lot to AMC. I think Weiner is trying to force Lionsgate and AMC to let go of Mad Men by threatening to abandon it and daring them to continue the show without him.

October 31 2008 at 8:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

And another thing, remember what happened to Deadwood? Different situation, but again the network as the death of it's own show, it's own success. Why do these great shows get messed with until they're destroyed? Just give them what they want and let them create their art for you. They're making your network, don't let politics destroy it.

October 30 2008 at 6:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

My god, I went through this with the WW. I stopped watching after season 4, the writing was everything--it was the great acting, directing, commentary, themes. Please just give him what he wants! Or there has to be some compromise. I would not watch the sow without Wiener.

October 30 2008 at 6:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

After watching the season finale I am fully convinced that this is the best show on TV with a few more seasons could definitely solidify it's place as an all time great. After reading more and more articles and hearing interviews, it's clear that the reason for this is Matt Weiner. He is passionate about his creation and I think he is worth every penny.

October 29 2008 at 3:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Show Him the Money!!!! Keep Weiner no ifs ands or buts!

October 29 2008 at 12:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This news comes as no surprise to me. Lionsgate, an indie, has been hit hard by the downturn in the economy. There's talk that they may not be able to weather this crisis. They were not going to give Matt Weiner what he wanted, period.

Money aside, there's another reason why Lionsgate won't cough up the money for Weiner. Weiner isn't quite the "wonder boy" everyone thinks he is. I can't really go into it in depth, but Weiner has essentially ripped his plotlines and characters for Mad Men from other sources. Weiner is supposedly paying homage to the influences that led to Mad Men's creation (one in particular), but it veers too closely to plagarism in my opinion. And I'm sure the honchos at Lionsgate know this.

October 29 2008 at 11:57 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to C C's comment

CC, you can't do an accusation like that and simply say, "I can't really go into it in depth...". I'm curious to know what is your basis to say such a thing. Unless you were just trying to be funny... If not show us arguments.

And I agree with others, $10M per year it's a lot of money for Lionsgate. Hope they can reach an agreement.

October 29 2008 at 12:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

They need to contact more companies to talk about their campaigns, etc., on the show - stat! Do they get paid for representing Clearasil, etc., as if it's product placement? Good God - they have to do something! Keep that Weiner around!

October 29 2008 at 11:16 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Uhm... nothing?

Sorry but I didn't notice the difference on WW, GG or Seinfeld at all. They all ran for seven seasons (Seinfeld too if you look at the episode numbers), so they ran their course and then went off the air. They even wanted to keep on going with Gilmore Girls but weren't able to because one of the leads didn't want to do it (Lauren Graham). And on Seinfeld it was Seinfeld who called it quits. Maybe fans noticed a difference but honestly sometimes you think there's one just because you were told there's something different. I mean sure - the first ten episodes of season 7 GG were horrible but they really got their act together later on.

The situation with Mad Men is totally different. Every season is only 13 episodes and it's the first cable show to win the drama Emmy. To be honest I like this post up until the last paragraph where you really tried too hard to give examples. They simply don't fit.

I mean "Heroes" still has Tim Kring and it is still nowhere near the quality it had on season one simply because it was a story that should've been told as a one shot and now they keep dragging it out like chewing gum.

October 29 2008 at 11:07 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to StillBash's comment

ummm... I think those comparisons are very accurate. season 8 and 9 of Seinfeld, and season 7 of Gilmore girls still got decent ratings, but reviews and critical acclaim went way down.

October 29 2008 at 11:30 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

"- the first ten episodes of season 7 GG were horrible but they really got their act together later on."

The first ten episodes were awkward and cringe-inducing because the new showrunner had to undo organically all the damage the old showrunners had done to the main characters and the show as a whole in Season 6. Didn't anyone else notice that when all that crap was jettisoned, GG became a lot lighter and more enjoyable, more like it was before Luke's daughter was invented? The Christopher cancer had to be cut out first, though, and that was painful.

November 12 2008 at 11:14 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I kinda have to side with Lions Gate on this one. $10M per year is very high, at least for a channel like AMC. Maybe he just threw that number up there hoping to get half that. Maybe LG is shopping so he will lower that crazy number quickly. If they pay him that then how much will Hamm and Slattery ask for? Looks like they done ruined the show. They should have locked them all in after season 1 with 4 year contracts so they wouldn't have to keep re-signing everyone yearly and they could finish the show.

October 29 2008 at 10:22 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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