“I’m shocked,” said Matt Weiner, when I told him CTV had dropped Mad Men in Canada.
The creator and executive producer of the coolest show on TV had no idea CTV was no longer carrying his hit series when I spoke with him late last month on the first day of press tour.
Weiner and several stars from the series, including John Hamm and January Jones, made the scene at a TCA cocktail party the first evening of press tour. Most returned less than a week later when TCA saluted Mad Men as the best drama on television for the second year in a row.
That a Canadian network does not carry TV’s best drama is a bit of a shocker. CTV programming boss Susanne Boyce told me in early June at her network upfront in Toronto that she had decided to not re-up for season three, which starts tonight at 10 p.m. on AMC. CTV is spinning this, of course, as part of their “broken business model” ploy as they continue to pressure Ottawa and the CRTC for carriage fee bailout loot.
The real reason they’re not picking it up again is that Mad Men didn’t really do that well on CTV, despite plenty of hype. It started on CTV, got bounced to A and wound up on Bravo. Then again, only 1.5 million Americans watch it each week on AMC. It’s a smart, adult show and it’s not for everybody.
Not everybody in Canada gets AMC. It is one of those cross-border specialty networks (one of the best, in my opinion). Bell Expressview doesn’t offer it to their customers at all, which seems pretty churlish or strategic or both. Why wouldn’t you dangle the hottest US cable channel, the home of not only Mad Men and Breaking Bad but also the soon to launch remake of The Prisoner at customers who are already up to here with their skyrocketing cable bills?
Canadians without AMC can download the season three premiere after midnight Sunday on iTunes. (Read more about that here). Surprising that Rogers, big spenders now as they bolster Citytv and their OMNI channels, didn’t jump on Mad Men after CTV ditched, but clearly even they balked at what must have been a premium asking price. The Internet-only experiment should be interesting, as more and more consumers switch to steaming. ITunes has also recently made deals to distribute top HBO fare like Sex and the City and The Wire. If the Mad Men/iTunes deal is a big money maker, Canadian broadcasters could find themselves out of the import loop. Now there’s your broken business model!
Wrote more about Mad Men‘s season three premiere in Saturday’s Starweek magazine. There’s still no web link to Starweek stories, so here’s an excerpt, below:
Season Three begins in a pivotal year in American history, 1963. Ad agency Sterling Cooper has been taken over by a British firm and nobody’s job is safe. Don (Hamm) and Betty (Jones) are back together and seemingly happy but for how long? On the very first new episode, we find him cheating again. “Well, Don is out of town,” says Weiner, “so in his mind that might not really be cheating.”
Weiner likened Don’s storyline this season to the unwrapping of an onion. “He’s survived a lot of things; he’s more secure, although we see the work is less secure than ever in some strange way.”
The whole season is about change, says Weiner. “Some people embrace change, some people are terrified by it and dig on.”
Even viewers who’ve never seen an episode of Mad Men have heard or read about it. In the last year alone, it has been parodied on everything from Saturday Night Live to The Simpsons, homage’s that delighted both Weiner and series lead Hamm, with the actor hosting SNL and diving straight into parodying his own too-perfect character.
“Hosting Saturday Night Live was a dream come true,” says Hamm, very generous and accessible to critics this press tour despite his sudden A-List status. “I’ve been a massive fan of sketch comedy in general and this show in particular since I was seven years old.” He said what everybody says, that hosting SNL is a killer of a week but incredibly rewarding in the end. “I had a great time, Amy Poehler had a baby, everything happened that week.” See a short clip of the Don Draper SNL parody here.
He also was thrilled to get the call to join the cast of 30 Rock for a memorable episode. “I was sitting in my dressing room at Saturday Night Live when the call came,” he says. He can’t remember what came first—saying yes or a lot of jumping up and down. “It never fails to make me laugh,” he says of the NBC comedy.
The Simpsons homage, with Homer falling from New York skyscrapers just as a silhouette of Don does in the Mad Men opening, was the ultimate honour for both Weiner and Hann. Check it out here.
Hann also called it “pitch perfect” and has the ultimate Simpsons souvenir, a pencil sketch from the animated Mad Man sequence framed and hanging on his wall. “A friend of mine is an animator on the series,” says Hann, who is also acquainted with voice over star Hank Azaria (Moe, Wiggums, Apu and others).
Weiner called it a perfect satire. “I was so flattered. You check off the things that in your fantasy you would want to happen. That’s at the top for me, I’m an avid Simpsons viewer, have been since the beginning.”