Mad Men Chat: Renewal Edition

Mad Men Chat is briefly back with a small discussion surrounding it’s renewal and subsequent delay until 2012.

Mark: How relieved are you that AMC and Matt Weiner have reached an agreement? What about when you consider the timeframe?

News broke on recently that AMC and Weiner/Lionsgate Television have reached an agreement to continue Mad Men, probably for three more seasons (more on that in a sec), an agreement that hinged on a smallish change: two minutes will be cut from each episode (down from 47 minutes to 45). What’s more is that some of the rumors surrounding the agreement seem to be unfounded – especially the one that the show would be cutting characters. However, new episodes won’t air until 2012.

I’m actually not that upset by this. First off, I’m happy both sides came to an agreement which doesn’t effect the show all that much: while no show since Lost has been dissected as much, I don’t think two minutes makes a world of difference – even if the two minutes will be released eight days after the initial broadcast. A 45-minute show isn’t a Ray Carver story; not every second means something in the overall whole. I’m also happy that no characters are going to get cut, too. And really, I don’t mind waiting. Did either of you two watch The Sopranos back in the day? They used to take breaks like this during production; I think there was 24 months between seasons one time and 12 between halves of a season another time. It’s a wait, but I’m willing to wait for 13 great episodes rather than have rushed production creating eight great episodes and four okay ones.

Heather: Couldn’t have said it better myself, Mark. I’m saddened by having to wait that long, yes – because I miss my show, but I’d rather wait and have my mind blown twice as hard as it normally would have been and it’s not like it’ll be the last season. I do miss gazing at Jon Hamm’s beautiful face, though.


Jenn: Honestly, I’m just counting down until 2012 at this point. It’s when we get the new Batman movie, new Star Trek movie, the Avengers movie and now the new season of Mad Men. Can we just fast forward time until then?

I’m glad they aren’t rushing production to give us a half-assed season, but I’m still disappointed they didn’t hammer this out sooner. They’d normally be in production by now, with episodes schedule to air in July. Thanks to all these long out contract renewals and back-and-forth in the press, they don’t even have any episodes written. I feel like it’s just a long time between seasons. By the time season five rolls around, we’ll be like “what happened last time again?”

Mark: Let’s say they do decide to cut a character. Which main character do you cut and why?

Most of the disagreement seems to be hinging on cutting costs for the show. One point would be to cut the pay of characters who aren’t regulars – in other words, don’t pay a minor character who only appears four or five times the same as you’d pay Jon Hamm. Which is fair. But another way to look at it would be to can one of the characters. Who could you live without?

For me it’s Betty Draper and it’s not even that close. I really like the angle she brought to the show – she was stiff and wooden and prissy, like an overgrown child, and she was a nice counter to Do: he was fake, but seemed really authentic, she was real but seemed like somebody acting the way she ought to. But after her split from Don and especially the last season where she made her new husband unhappy, I’d have no problem if she left the show. Yes, it’d leave a hole, but I think it’s one that I could live with.

Jenn: Everyone’s been taking this “dump a character” as a chance to petition for the removal of Betty, which I understand. Of the main crew (Don, Peggy, Betty, Pete, Roger and Joan) she’s probably the most expendable, but I’d still like to see her stay for a couple of reasons. Number one, she’s interesting and brings drama to the show. Last season wasn’t her best but that’s not the fault of the character. Her interesting storylines (seeing the child psychiatrist, still having feelings for Don, fucking things up in the Francis family) were cut short, sure, but could have been good season long arcs. I’d keep her around. The second reason I’d keep her on board is January Jones. She’s perfect as Betty, in my opinion, Emmy-nominated, just did a Liam Neeson movie and has X-Men coming up this summer. Why cut out an actress who’s likely to get even more popular and bring attention to the show?

What do you mean we won't be back until 2012? I just ordered a crate of slacks and sweaters!

Heather: I could definitely live without Betty Draper, but at the same time – she gives me someone to hate. I don’t know what’s up with me and enjoying actually disliking a character so much that it becomes part of the experience of the show. She creates some key drama in the show, I don’t think they’ll get rid of her just yet. Maybe at the end of the next season.

Jenn: If I had to cut a character, I’d say leave the main cast alone and cut from the (admittedly large) supporting. Ken Cosgrove is only there to be Pete’s rival, Bert Cooper’s all but left anyway, Don’s new wife can head right out, we don’t need to see Trudy Campbell or Roger’s wife anymore and honestly? I’d even let them take Lane if that means the Dream Team are still in tact. I will however put my foot down and refuse to let Harry Crane leave. He is the minor-ist minor character but he is my favourite and I love him and he can’t be written out, okay? They took Sal, they took Paul Kinsey, they WILL NOT TAKE Harry Crane.

Heather: Sitting here and seriously thinking about this, though, I find that I adore all of the characters and wish they could all stick around. But, there’s a few less frequent characters I could probably live without. I can’t seem to pick one, though.

Mark: Moving on, Matt Weiner is signed on for two more seasons. How much longer should the show go? Weiner has been saying for a while now that the series is only going to run for seven seasons – one assumes that it will end before Don starts dressing like this. Are either of you okay with just three more seasons – 36 episodes?

I think I am. It’s possible the series could end with under 100 episodes – there’s 52 right now; seven would be 91 – and while it’s not much compared to other shows (Two and a half men has 177, for instance) it’s still great considering the quality per episode. Some of the best shows kept the total count low: The Sopranos finished with 86 episodes and The Wire with just 60. In a phrase, all killer, no filler. And I’m down with that.

Jenn: I totally agree that season seven should be the end. I’d even be fine if they ended after six. Everything about this show is so rooted into the 1960s culture (obviously) and I don’t think they would fare well in the 70s. With all the time jumps between seasons, they’d find themselves pretty far into the next decade if they keep things going much longer. Plus, as you said, all filler no killer. Short, awesome shows will always be preferred.

Heather: I’m definitely okay with that, you can only make a character interesting for so long – then they learn from their mistakes and live happily ever after (and who wants to see that?) or they die a horrible death. I think three more seasons is just enough.

Mark: There’s talk about increasing product placement. Does that bother either of you? Do you find it distracting?

Jenn: Mad Men is one of the few shows that I think can integrate product placement well. (The other, using a completely different method, being 30 Rock) Since the show is actually about advertising, they can just sprinkle in the products like they’ve done with Heineken, Clearasil, American Airlines, et al. as companies that want SCDP’s services. I guess this will take a turn for the unrealistic if companies like Microsoft try in integrate, but so far I think it’s worked well. Half the time I didn’t realize I was actually watching a show including advertisements and not just a show about advertisements.

Heather: I won’t notice. I’m oblivious to it. When I do notice it, I laugh out loud. I don’t think it would bother me too much.

Mark: How would either of you compare Walking Dead and Rubicon to Mad Men? Do they compare? For me, both shows were kind of lackluster – I can’t say I was surprised when I heard Rubicon was canned or when Walking Dead fired it’s writing staff.

"You here to buy me a drink?" "No, I'm here to make sure never run into Emily Blunt."

Jenn: I never really watched Rubicon. I know, right? I’ve also never seen Breaking Bad. I’m letting AMC down. So basically I can compare Mad Men to The Walking Dead, and we all know how that’s going to play out. TWD might have millions more viewers each week, but Mad Men’s clearly the superior show. It’s kind of sad how in a lot of the articles I’d been reading about the Weiner/AMC showdown they used The Walking Dead to kind of put down Mad Men. A lot of “sure Mad Men gave the network their start, is the only reason anyone cares, but it’s not pulling in Walking Dead numbers now is it?” Well when The Walking Dead starts pulling in Mad Men Emmys, we can talk, alright? Until then let’s accept that AMC has a pretty great lineup, with Mad Men as the cornerstone.

Heather: No. Mad Men is way better, in my opinion. Rubicon is pretty sweet. Walking Dead has yet to impress me again. I’m let down by it. I’m pretty sure that has to do with the writers, though, not AMC.

Mark: Any wild guesses for the next season of Mad Men?

Jenn: I think all bets are off for this next season. They’ve got a year and a half to work on scripts, to try and get viewers interested again after we’ve had all this time to find new shows to obsess over (cough Boardwalk Empire). I think they’re going to go balls out and give us Roger and Joan’s secret affair (the sequel), Sally being fourteen and getting caught drinking under the bleachers, Don back on top of his game, Peggy as the future CEO of the company and Joan’s husband FINALLY dying in Vietnam. Or maybe that’s just my wishful thinking.

Heather: They’re going to make me cry. I know it.

Mad Men chat will return in 2012, or earlier if something crazy happens before then. But probably 2012.


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