There was much ballyhoo when AMC announced that Mad Men would contain two more minutes of commercials in season three. The initial response from the faithful was one of shock and horror. Fans of canceled shows may have thought this a great problem to have, but two minutes less of a show known for it's languid pace could leave the devoted feeling shortchanged by the end of one of these brisker episodes. Of all the outcries, this one from go-to Mad Men blog Basket of Kisses summarizes the issue elegantly. Who would want to do without Don's Carousel speech just for more ad time? Not even Don, I would think.
This decision by AMC put show creator Matthew Weiner in an awkward position: certainly he would want to fight against efforts to curtail his show, but when that show is built on an appreciation for the best advertising has to offer, quarreling about greater ad content could come off as disingenuous at best and snide at worst.
Luckily, Weiner benefits again from airing his show outside of the major network structure. Certainly it was no surprise that AMC came up with a compromise that pleases everybody, and a good thing that they have the elastic airing schedule that allows them to simply let the show run past 11pm. Creator is happy, fans are happy, advertisers are happy. AMC emerges as the good guy. Right?
It is a decision that is easy for AMC to make and look good for making. But did they really have a choice? Negotiations for Weiner's return as show-runner took longer than expected (although, as Don tells Roger about the Cuban Missile Crisis: "We don't know what's really going on. You know that.") and while they may have played some political brinkmanship in an effort to get the best possible deal, there was never a real doubt that Weiner would sign to return. But from a PR perspective, is there anyway they could be seen as forcing the creator of their signature show into a position of artistic compromise?
The interesting thing about this move is that AMC gets to take credit as the great compromiser, all for a decision that major networks make anyway. Not that any of the Big Three (I still refuse to look at Fox as anything other than an upstart--call me old fashioned) let shows air past their scheduled run-time as a standing order, but it does happen. I can't tell how many times I've had difficulty programming one show on my ExpressVu receiver because the previous show's end-time is listed at one minute past the top of the hour. I can't help but see this as anything other than an attempt to stem the tide of switchovers from a strong lead-in to a fledgling show.
In the end, everyone is happy and we all get to enjoy Mad Men in it's full glory come August 16th. And I suppose that's enough to give AMC a pass on this one. But barely.