High-priced salary negotiations and holdouts are an everyday occurrence in the sports world, but rarely do they bubble to the surface in the television world. Such is the case in MadMenGate 2011, which forced AMC's critically shlurped Mad Men to miss its 2011 summer start date due to a stalemate at the negotiation table.
From what we know from the trades, Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner and AMC are arguing over the following:
--Matt Weiner wants a $30 million dollar salary over two years
--AMC wants to cut two minutes from each episode for more commercials
--AMC wants to add product placement for additional revenue
--AMC is asking to cut two characters from the show for budgetary reasons
The argument in favor of Weiner (hee hee) is simple: Mad Men is considered by many to be the best show on television right now and is a podium hog at awards shows. Mad Men is also a cultural phenomenon that put AMC on the map and arguably made the cable channel what it is today. Think about it: where would AMC be without Mad Men? More so than other shows, Mad Men is an artistic endeavor, and the three points AMC is trying to implement are in direct conflict with Wiener's creative vision.
The argument for AMC is also simple: $30 million dollars!? That would make Weiner basic cable's highest-paid showrunner. Product placement isn't out of the norm anymore (and would be pretty easy to integrate given that the show is about advertising), and two fewer minutes of Mad Men would still give Mad Men one of the longest runtimes per hour (most one-hour programs clock in at 43-44 minutes per hour. Mad Men is current in the 47-48 minute range). Add that to the fact that Mad Men isn't even the network's biggest hit (The Walking Dead, in its first season, averaged over 5 million viewers, Mad Men, in season four, was just under 3 million), and you can see why AMC is hesitant to pay out all that cash.
The Hollywood Reporter's Tim Goodman makes his case for why Wiener should get paid: AMC was a nobody before Mad Men came along. Now they have some of the best original programming on TV and have become a power player. Goodman essentially says AMC owes Weiner, and he should be paid thusly.
Taking the side of AMC, interestingly enough, are two of the industry's more famous (and outspoken) showrunners. Lost's head honcho Damon Lindelof tweeted: "Not that I'm sour grapes, but TEN MILLION DOLLARS a year for 13 episodes of a single show seems pretty fair, no?" But my favorite stance on the situation comes from Sons of Anarchy boss Kurt Sutter, who tweeted: "You can't ask a network for 10 million, then bitch when they want to expand their ad revenue source. Whore or saint, pick one." It should be noted that both Tweets weren't takedowns of Weiner directly, but rather commentary on the business side of the industry.
I always have a problem when people argue over salaries that are already absurd. How many yachts do people need anyway? But incorporating product placement and cutting the jobs of actors is never good for a show, especially one as cherished as Mad Men. I'm rooting for compromise.
Where do you stand on the situation? Do you think AMC should meet Weiner's demands, vice versa, or should there be some sort of compromise?
Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom