Matthew Weiner is back in the fold and won't waste any time assembling the troops for the third season of Mad Men.
"Matt's gathering the writers this week," said Charlie Collier, president of AMC, which airs the retro advertising series and worked closely with producer Lionsgate TV to bring Weiner back for a two-year deal that was finalized Jan. 16. "They're going to jump right in."
Collier said 13 new Mad Men installments will return to AMC's air sometime this summer, although a third-season start date has not been finalized.
AMC and Collier are "very happy" that Weiner, whose two-year pact with Lionsgate expired with the conclusion of the second season, signed a new two-year deal to continue as executive producer and showrunner. "It's been something we've been focusing on. Matt's created a world in which he knows every detail. We look forward to seeing more."
That, however, doesn't mean that Mad Men officially has a fourth season ahead of it -- just yet.
"We're glad to have Matt back in the family," said Kevin Beggs, Lionsgate's president of television of programming and production. "We look forward to next season and many more to come."
Collier, who was attending the Sundance Film Festival, echoed those sentiments, during a phone interview.
"We expect to be in the Mad Men business for a long, long time," said Collier, noting the show was renewed for a third campaign, between its second season's fourth and fifth episodes. "It's obviously worked out well for us."
Indeed, the highly acclaimed show counts Peabody, Golden Globe and Emmy Awards among its honors. Mad Men, which has tracked the professional and personal lives of the members of fictional 1960s ad shop Sterling Cooper, became the first basic show to capture the best drama Emmy last year.
Although he wouldn't delve into the financials, which reportedly call for seven figures and also gives Weiner the opportunity to develop a feature for the studio, Collier said AMC "stepped up with our partner Lionsgate. That's how it works with many of cable's top original series."
AMC already had invested heavily in the franchise, funding the script and the production of the pilot, outlays Collier deemed "pretty rare."
Collier said series star Jon Hamm, who plays the philandering protagonist, advertising creative genius Don Draper, and January Jones, who plays his wife Betty and had a much more prominent role during the show's second season, are under contract.
As Weiner shopped for new deals in Hollywood, AMC in October declared the show would go on without or without its creative force.
Collier wouldn't engage in a reporter's hypotheticals about how the show might have been difference without Weiner: "Our primary focus was on bringing Matt back and know he's returned."
As writing and production begin on Mad Men's third campaign, Collier is also looking forward to the second-season debut of Vince Gilligan's Breaking Bad. Returning March 8, the series stars Bryan Cranston. He won the best actor Emmy for his portrayal of Walter White, a high school chemistry teacher who turns his knowledge of science into a lucrative crytal meth business to secure his family's financial future after finding out he's terminally ill.
Breaking Bad 's first season was truncated to just seven episodes, falling victim to the Writers Guild of America strike. This time there will be 13 installments.
"The series is picking up right where it left off," said Collier. "We're looking forward to some incredible storylines."
Collier said AMC had received an outpouring of sympathy from fans of Patrick McGoohan, who died last week. McGoohan played No. 6 in the ground-breaking 1960s series, The Prisoner, which AMC is currently streaming on its Web site, as a prelude to its "re-imagining" as a miniseries, scheduled to premiere on the service late this year.
"There has been a lot of outreach from Patrick's fan. The Prisoner was an iconic program for the psychological drama, thriller genre," said Collier. "We're very sorry he's not going to be with us for the screening."
Collier said the shooting on the miniseries wrapped before the holidays.
"It's great to be working with Jim Cavaziel (as No. 6) and Ian McKellan (as No. 2). We're in the editing process and can't wait to present The Prisoner in the fourth quarter."