AMC's "Mad Men" will have a hard time getting much press coverage for the next several months: Though it's in production, it won't be back on TV until mid-2012. But series creator Matthew Weiner has managed to find an interviewer willing to give him more than an hour of air time to talk about the show, and himself: his sister.
Weiner is the star of the latest episode of "Media Mayhem," a web series hosted by his sister, Allison Hope Weiner. And though you might think the familial relationship would cause Matthew Weiner to relax his usual standards and tell her all kinds of plot details about the coming fifth season of "Mad Men," it...didn't.
The sitdown is more than an hour long, which means there's no chance any normal person on the internet is going to get through it. But I take my responsibility to you, dear reader, very seriously: I patiently watched the whole thing so that I could present you with the most compelling highlights.
1. Was Thomas Jane really Weiner's first choice to play Don?
When "Mad Men" star Jon Hamm guested earlier this month on Marc Maron's podcast, "WTF?," he mentioned that Thomas Jane was suggested to play Don Draper, the role that eventually went to Hamm. Weiner explains that his agency presented Jane to him as a possibility to play the lead, but that the suggestion went no further than that because a pre-"Hung" Jane was adamantly opposed to doing TV — and anyway, at the time these extremely preliminary talks were taking place, "Mad Men" had not been set up at any production company, never mind a network. "There was nothing close to casting. It was literally 'can I get a meeting?'...There was no future for the show at that point."
2. Did Weiner delay the fifth season of "Mad Men" due to his outlandish salary demands?
He says no. According to him, AMC and Lionsgate were in talks that didn't include him, and that by the time those companies got around to talking to him earlier this year, it was too late to assemble a season in time for its usual berth, airing in the summer and fall. Weiner says the story describing him as a greedy holdout was planted by AMC, which has since taken it back, but too late. "They told the public that the show was going to be delayed due to non-cast negotiations, and that was not true....It's irreversible."
3. What might Weiner be doing if he were not employed as a writer?
Allison jokes that he could go back to "Jeopardy!": He was a "Jeopardy!" champion for a day.
4. How does Weiner respond to network showrunners who are bitter about awards getting lavished on cable shows?
Allison mentions a recent interview she conducted with showrunner Ed Bernero ("Third Watch," "Criminal Minds"), noting that Bernero doesn't think it's fair for a 22-episode network drama to have to compete with a 13-episode season of a cable show. Weiner doesn't agree that the playing field isn't level, but reframes the question so that his true antagonists are not other showrunners, but executives at the few media companies that control all of television. "They feel that the Emmys are theirs, and they're there to promote network television."
5. How did Weiner end up a writer?"
"I'm like most writers: I'm a frustrated actor....When I realized that I wasn't a leading man, I was frustrated by that. I didn't realize there was anything else to do. ...'Why am I always being cast as the weirdo?'"
6. Did Weiner prepare for life as a TV writer by watching lots of television as a kid?
In fact, he did not. "We were not allowed to watch TV as children — me in particular, because I was being punished."
7. Where did Weiner learn to be so tight-lipped about his show?
From his former employer, David Chase, with whom Weiner worked on "The Sopranos." "David Chase never shared anything. It was a complete secret. And I'm a blabbermouth."
8. What '60s events has he wanted to portray on the show, but didn't?
He had an idea for a story that would send Harry (Rich Sommer) to Los Angeles around the time of the Watts riots. However, when Weiner researched contemporaneous media coverage of the event, he discovered that it wasn't as big a story at the time as it became after the fact:
"It just sort of passed by."
9. What does he think of "Boardwalk Empire," another period drama produced by Terence Winter, a former "Sopranos" colleague?
"I always say to [Winter], 'Just be glad that there's nobody alive from your period to tell you how wrong you're getting it.'"
If you have the hour to watch it, here's the full interview.