"Mad Men" creator Matthew Weiner says negotiations with AMC and Lionsgate over season five became so strained that he at one point walked away. He's back of course, and the show will be too, following a 17-month absence, with a two-hour premiere on March 25.
"I had come to terms with the fact that it was over," he told the New York Times in the first of a two-part Q&A. "There was a terror in me that someone else would come in and do it. And I don't know how they would do it, but I would have to live with that."
Weiner said that even that wasn't enough to get him to change his stance.
"I did not feel that it was worth going back to work to make a show that was not the show I'd been making, " Weiner said.
Weiner said that if the new season has a theme, it is getting "back to normal."
"Who hasn't felt that right this minute?" Weiner said. "That is a lot of what the season is about. ... I think that's the state of the United States. And it's not because we were riding so high and all of a sudden we got knocked down. It's been a fairly steady stream of [awfulness]."
Weiner said that he has not had a difficult adjusting to getting back to work, and that he's hoping the audience won't either.
"Whatever events that were out of my control -- the ones that were in my control have conspired so that people, by the time [the premiere] gets here, might have forgiven us. That's why I have a two-hour premiere. I did not want to be gone. Here is a double helping. Stuff yourself. Don't be like that snake that Don talked about and choke on it."
Weiner was understandably reticent to spill plot points, but did say there would be very little "setup" for viewers who might want a season four refresher.
"It's a TV show," he said. "No matter what happens, you'll be able to understand it. It's not “Finnegans Wake.” There's people, they're in costumes, they're kissing, they're arguing."
That will be true even for the plot line that closed the previous season, with Don suddenly proposing to his secretary Megan.
"I think it was very abrupt for people that he suddenly did this. It seemed very impulsive. But a man of that age and era will not stay on their own. And in the end, the choice was a youth versus age thing," Weiner said. "It's not about the substance of the people.