Mad Men executive producer Matt Weiner says he's made up his mind: The critically acclaimed AMC drama will end its run after three more seasons.
"I think that's how long the story is," he tells TV Guide Magazine. "I'm not The Simpsons. They're amazing. I don't know how they do it. I look at TV shows that I admire, and I think this is the length that they should be. At a certain point you're driven to a desire not to repeat yourself. I want the show to end before the machinery has worn out."
Weiner, who struck a deal Thursday with AMC and production company Lionsgate that keeps him at the helm of a fifth and sixth season (with the option for that seventh), says he was ready to throw in the towel several times in recent weeks.
"It was never about money," he says. "I was willing to walk away from this, and did so four or five times over the last few days. I have always believed that the success of the show and the reason the audience has grown every year is because of its uniqueness."
Under the new deal, AMC will air a full 47-minute season opener and season finale of Mad Men, but edit other episodes down to 45 minutes. Weiner will still be able to release a longer "final cut" for other platforms, such as online, video-on-demand and DVD. It was that compromise that finally turned things around.
"It's an elegant solution," Weiner says. "Both sides are very happy." Weiner says his producer's cut may be longer that 47 minutes some weeks, but that he'll show restraint.
"I try to be disciplined," he says. "The show has an organic length to it."
As for the question about series regulars, Weiner promises that any cast changes "will be made for creative reasons and not financial ones" and that product integration won't look dramatically different than what already takes place on the show.
Weiner says he has immediate plans to start writing on Friday, and that he'll open up the writers' room within the next month — with shooting likely to commence in July.
As for the March 2012 return of Mad Men, don't get your hopes up on an early reprieve. Weiner says the decision to delay the show 17 months between seasons was already put forth last October.
"They're launching four more shows at AMC," he says (including season two of The Walking Dead). "I applaud them on their success. But this is the way they have to do it." The delay, he adds, "at this point is a blessing to me. I don't have to rush it and do it badly. My hope is people will wait for it and be glad to see it return."
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