Matt Weiner Scoffs at Mad Men's 'Advantage' in Emmy Race, Names No. 1 Threat to Record 5-Peat

The Academy is still mad for Mad Men, which for a fourth straight year has garnered the most Emmy Award nominations of any drama series, with 17. The AMC series’ latest bounty – including Jon Hamm for Lead Actor, Elisabeth Moss for Lead Actress, directing and three writing bids – also make it the most-nominated basic cable drama of all time, with 85 nods to date.

TVLine spoke with series creator Matt Weiner about what it all does (and doesn’t) mean and get into what he feels could be the biggest threat to Mad Men making history with a fifth straight Best Drama win come Sept. 23.

RELATED | Emmys 2012: American Horror Story, Mad Men and Modern Family Lead Nominations

TVLINE | As of this morning, Mad Men became the most-nominated basic cable drama of all time. When all is said and done, what will a superlative like that mean to you?
I did not know that [fact]…. I think that, having visited other countries where they don’t even understand the difference between basic cable and broadcast and pay cable, in the future no one is even going to care about that particular statistic. [Laughs]. What I love is that we’re five seasons into it and still getting nominated; that’s really what’s been amazing.

TVLINE | Any thoughts on what episodes you’ll submit for Best Drama?
The ones that were nominated for Writing [“The Other Woman,” ” Commissions And Fees” and ” Far Away Places”] are three of our six. I assume we’ll add “Signal 30” in there, which John Slattery directed and I wrote with Frank Pierson; it was a very special episode. I guess I have to find two more!

RELATED | Emmy Nominations 2012: The 37 Biggest Snubs

TVLINE | Well here’s another statistic: This is the first time all of the Emmys’ drama nominees came from cable, with not one broadcast contender. And with that comes some squawking that cable and its 13-episode format have an advantage….
Yeah…. I don’t buy any of that. There’s no advantage, no. And honestly, every single one of these shows was offered to network TV and they had no interest in them. They don’t make shows like this. It’s kind of confusing to me, because I look at it as a vertical integration for them. Viacom owns The Good Wife, The Mentalist and whatever, CBS has a bunch of shows, and Showtime is part of it. So I look at Homeland and Dexter and think these are just other divisions of broadcast TV; they don’t want to put these shows onto the networks that require the largest audience to support them. A lot of the shows throughout time – Hill Street Blues, The West Wing, L.A. Law – none of those shows would be on broadcast TV nowadays. They just have a different business model. It’s nice that they have these cable divisions, a place where you can do a show that does not need to get 20 million people. What’s even more exciting is when you do one of these shows and you actually do get that gigantic audience, even though you’re on basic cable. They could take a risk on one of these things; I don’t run their business, though. But they’re doing great!

TVLINE | So you are saying the parent corporations should find solace in the fact that any of their properties get Emmy nominations and not make it about broadcast versus cable. That “a win is a win.”
That’s how I see it, yeah. Absolutely. If I worked at Viacom I would be pretty psyched about Homeland breaking through. [Mad Men] could totally be on network TV. The smoking was the biggest problem; but there is no explicit sex and no explicit language.

TVLINE | Of course the hot topic is Mad Men facing a possible record-setting fifth straight win. What’s the biggest threat to that happening: Boardwalk Empire, Breaking Bad, Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones or Homeland?
You know what, that’s for other people to say. I think the biggest threat is people feel like someone else should have a chance. All I can say is that as far as we’re concerned, we did our best work this past season. I hope they don’t just, like, say, “Oh, that’s enough for them.” I hope they really look at the show.

What do you think, TVLine readers: Is Mad Men poised to five-peat? If not, which other nominated drama series will play spoiler?

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Rebecca says:

    Ugh. Hate Mad Men…hoping they finally don’t win. Go Homeland or Game of Thrones!!!!!

  2. Sally says:

    Breaking Bad better win.

    • KevyB says:

      I didn’t think I could hate the Emmys any more, but if Breaking Bad doesn’t win the Emmy this year I think I can find even more hatred for them.

  3. Neva says:

    Love love love Mad Men. Even though all the other dramas were really great this past year, Mad Men managed to have their best season to date. I’ll be rooting for them.

  4. james says:

    Ugh, he comes off as a complete jerk — yeah, i guess if you keep winning every year you don’t see the difference in the 13 episode format vs the 22-24 episode format. This show is not that great people, i cannot wait for this show to end so that more deserving shows get nominated.

    • AJ says:

      There isn’t a difference. No one forces the writers to produce “filler episodes” to prolong the story. I have seen plenty of shows on the networks that ran for years and never had any filler, or very little. That only happens on shows that are weak in the story department. Like Lost. It was full of filler because in the end, the story major story arc was too weak to get 6 seasons out of it. In the end it is just an excuse people use to defend shows with bad writers.

      • C says:

        I don’t think its just about “filler episodes”. While I admit, The Good Wife (which is one of the few broadcast shows that tries to produce at the same quality level as most cable shows and puts out virtually no filler) took a little bit of a dip this season in how their narrative played out, the 22 episode format DOES hurt them. Any way you look at it, it hurts them. Even if their overall budget is bigger, their per episode budget can’t be. The time they have to shoot and edit is condensed. The sheer amount of story that they need to tell in a season has to be more robust (it’s like writing an epic novel vs writing a novella). And unlike cable, they do have to worry about the fact they are playing to a much broader audience. They aren’t just targeting a specific niche crowd. And without the audience, good quality, smart television doesn’t survive on network.

        The fact is, if Mad Men had debuted on network in a 22 episode format, it likely wouldn’t have pulled in the long-term numbers it needed to stay alive. And even if it did somehow pull in the numbers, I’m not sure that anyone can predict whether or not they could sustain that quality with an almost 50% increase in material. So network shows DO have a harder job and it DOES make a difference.

        • KevyB says:

          I agree having a 22-episode season hurts network shows. But the networks CHOOSE to use that faulty model. The good writers all tend to WANT to work on cable because they don’t want to work with the faulty network model. On cable, not only are the seasons shorter, allowing for a better planned season, but writers are allowed to go into areas networks would never allow. AND they tend to have the autonomy to do whatever they want, avoiding the network interference – notes, suggestions, demands, product placement – that so often happens, helping destroy what little creativity is often allowed. The networks absolutely know the 22-week-season model does not work, yet they insist on keeping it. How many mid-season 13-episode shows have done well, only to falter in their sophomore 22-week season? ABC had great success the last two years with short-season comedies plugged into their Wednesday night lineup. Why couldn’t they have run 13 or so episodes of Happy Endings and then 13 or so episodes of Cougar Town in that same slot this past season? They were getting similar ratings in that slot. Instead they disastrously plugged Cougar Town into the post Tim Allen slot. At the same time, they filled in the old Cougar Town/new Happy Endings slot with ANOTHER successful short midseason replacement, Don’t Trust the B, and that worked out as well! Now THAT show will have a 22-episode order, and that’s going to be a tough idea to keep up for so many weeks, meanwhile they’ll plug several other shows in their schedule which will most likely not have the fanbase Cougar Town did. On top of all that, it’s pretty much crap to claim most of these shows film for 22 straight weeks anyhow. They tend to film starting in summer and then take a long winter break, just like the shows themselves do, then start filming again in the new year. Which means they are basically DOING TWO SHORT SEASONS. If the writers for network shows can’t use the downtime between filming to better their shows, I don’t see how that’s cable’s problem. Do you think Matthew Weiner or Vince Gilligan spend all their downtime playing golf? THAT’S why their shows are up for Emmys!

        • joybrennan says:

          Exactly! As for that nonsense about Hill Street Blues and The West Wing, the ACTUAL truth is those shows today likely WOULDN’T GET NOMINATED. Hill Street Blues would be boxed in as a “procedural” and West Wing would suffer a similar fate as Good Wife.

          Mad Men gets away with alot of sexual violence and misogynist themes because it’s a period piece – and it’s on cable. Frankly between the advertisers and the FCC I can see why the networks might passed. I’m not suggesting that Mad Men isn’t good. But the idea that it or cable doesn’t have an advantage is total BS. Even with a 13 episode season, picture trying to do Game of Thrones or Homeland on a Broadcast network… Yeah, no. Between the sex, language, and violence, the shows would have to be vastly watered down and some storylines completely cut. (Mad Men would likely also have to lose some storylines, Mystery Date? On broadcast TV. Good luck. Even if the dream sequence got past the FCC, the public outcry would probably get sponsorship pulled. ) This is why cable and broadcast shouldn’t even be in the same category, because what can be done on cable simply CAN’T be done on broadcast. Broadcast should be judged based on what they achieve within the restrictions that come with being a broadcast show.

    • AJ says:

      Basically, saying that a 13 episode lower budget drama on cable has an advantage over a Network funded series is like saying the guy that runs in the Olympics on two prosthetic blades has an advantage over Usain Bolt.

  5. Jay says:

    He’s such a d-bag. Breaking Bad will claim its throne this year. Prepare Wiener.

  6. CatLyons says:

    The drama category is going to be really tough this year. I was RIVETED by Mad Men, Homeland, and Breaking Bad. They are all so good. I would be happy with any of them winning, though it would be a nice change if something besides Mad Men won. I’m just happy that there are so many excellent dramas on tv right now.

  7. AJ says:

    Wow Matthew Weiner said almost word for word what I said about the argument to split cable and network series into different Emmy categories. There is no advantage, and if networks want more recognition they need a different business model instead of being slaves to the ratings in every single time slot. All that comes from that is a steaming pile of “Reality TV”, signing shows, medical dramas, and police procedurals. None of which break any creative barriers in the least. And sure enough, I was right when I said these shows were offered to the networks and they passed on them.

  8. Rrrrrr says:

    This past season of Mad Men was terrible. Granted, it was better than 95% of everything else on TV, but when stacked up against Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad and Homeland, there should be no real reason for it to win.

    • tripoli says:

      Agree, with the exception of it being better than 95% of everything else on TV. Never gotten the absurd amount of hype for the show, even after watching every episode to date. The Emmy should easily go to any one of the other nominees, in particular Breaking Bad, which never falters in it’s awesomeness.

  9. Pixley says:

    Last I looked, PBS was not a cable network…

    • AJ says:

      Downton Abbey premiered on ITV which is not an American Channel at all. It is the PBS channel in the UK. Maybe that is why it is not being counted.

      • Terry says:

        In America Donton Abbey is a PBS show. You don’t need cable to watch PBS.

      • AJ says:

        Yes I know that but PBS is not a typical network either. When they say network TV they are talking ABC. CBS, NBC, Fox, and maybe the CW. But you are right, it isn’t cable for sure.

  10. Corinne says:

    I have to disagree with MW, this was not Mad Men’s best season to date. While it had some good stuff, much of it was unwatchable for me. The bigger upsetvl this year would be if they won best drama, not lost

  11. Alex says:

    Ugh, I do think it’s time for someone else to win. If for nothing else that to prove that Emmy voters have, in fact, watched other dramas in the past few years and aren’t just checking the Mad Men box on autopilot.

  12. Tania says:

    I watched the first season of Downton Abbey and I found it to be just okay. It’s been done before which is probably why I don’t get the whole hysteria over it. I’m rooting for both Boardwalk Empire and Homeland. Either one winning for Best Drama would be just fine with me.

  13. Emily says:

    Weiner is right. I feel like the media industry is so intertwined, it’s hard to understand that all these different channels and shows are owned by the same companies. And networks pass on shows all the time. FX passed on Breaking Bad and Mad Men was floating around the industry for years before AMC decided to foray into original programming and picked it up. There is no way that Mad Men would’ve survived or flourished on network TV. It is a very particular show that moves at a glacial pace. I’m not at all surprised that many hate it or can’t get into it. Terra Nova would never have been financially feasible on cable, not that it succeeded on network either, but you get the point. Most things are just excuses. Entertainment is first and foremost a business, and they have to figure out how to brand, differentiate and schedule accordingly. If that means they can score 20 million viewers with one asset and win awards with another, so be it. I’m not convinced Mad Men was the best this year, but if it wins, I’m not going to die on that hill. It’s still a groundbreaking show.

  14. Luke says:

    The title of the article says that Weiner “Names number one threat to record 5-peat”. He doesn’t name any show! He mentions Homeland, but that was more of an example to prove his point. When asked which show might beat him, he just wimps out of the question.
    Misleading title is misleading.

  15. Laurel says:

    I love the actors on Mad Men but Weiner is a D-Bag.
    It’s time for someone else to win Breaking Bad or Homeland.

  16. Michael says:

    Great interview, Matt.

  17. Britta Unfiltered says:

    I always enjoy hearing what Matt Weiner has to say about things, he has a great mind. Matt, you’ve got 4 great episodes picked out so far. I think the other two you should go with are The Phantom and Christmas Waltz.
    I am a huge Mad Men fan and I wouldn’t entirely be upset if it won. However, if we are looking at the 6 nominated dramas as a whole and taking their entire seasons into account, Mad Men was a little bipolar this year. It got much better in the second half. But if we are looking at the entire season, then Homeland is the most deserving as they knew what they were doing every single episode, and knocked every single one of them out of the park. It was all very fluid, and every episode created building blocks for the next. I have never seen a show have such an amazing first season as Homeland did. Though Walking Dead comes close with their first season. I also put the last season of Breaking Bad a notch above the last season of Mad Men. It was the first season of that show that made me say, okay, I’m a fan now. Boardwalk Empire and Game of Thrones both had good seasons, but I can’t see either winning as they really weren’t amazing. But the one show I have a problem with the thought of winning, much less being nominated, is that melodramatic soap opera Downton Abbey. The more I think about it, the angrier I get that it got so many nominations. The second season was just so laughably bad and corny.

  18. EJ says:

    Mad Men is just consistently better and more ambitious than any other show on television and should be rewarded fairly for having the best season of its run even if its the FIFTH time it’s taken top honor. Also, Weiner should submit “A Little Kiss” and “Christmas Waltz” in addition to the four mentioned above. Phenomenal season.

  19. anna says:

    Mad Men sucked this season. Breaking Bad is far better and needs to win!

  20. Sarabi says:

    Breaking Bad deserves to win this year not because “someone else should have a chance” but rather because it was amazing! Don’t get me wrong, Homeland was really, really good, the 5th season of Mad Men was outstanding, but the 4th season of Breaking Bad was SUBLIME! Homeland had too many twists and turns that almost appeared to be in a some kind of pattern. Mad Men was a little uneven: some episodes were better than others (the second half was more powerful than the first one). However, Breaking Bad was consistently exceptional! Every single episode was intense and thought-provoking and suspenseful! Furthermore, Game of Thrones simply wasn’t as good as last year, and I can’t say nothing about Downton Abbey and Boardwalk Empire since I haven’t seen these shows yet.
    Here’s hoping that BB will win! :)

  21. Floretta says:

    I’ll trade best drama category (Mad Men) for Breaking Bad if Bryan Cranston loses to Jon Hamm, just this once. I like Bryan but Jon has done outstanding work for years now and has remained an Emmy bridesmaid.

  22. Free says:

    “All I can say is that as far as we’re concerned, we did our best work this past season.” – I hope he’s joking. I inhaled Mad Men’s first 3 seasons. Season 4 was okay, but started off poorly. Season 5, however, was just plain disappointing. Take away THE OTHER WOMAN and COMMISSIONS AND FEES, and it was completely unremarkable.