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Matthew Weiner: It Was ‘Disappointing’ That HBO Didn’t Even Read the ‘Mad Men’ Pilot

Former "The Sopranos" scribe Weiner recalled feeling hurt that HBO did not even respond to the "Mad Men" pitch before the series landed at AMC.

Don Draper (Jon Hamm) - Mad Men - Season 4, Episode 13 - Photo Credit: Michael Yarish/AMC

“Mad Men”

Michael Yarish / AMC

After writing “The Sopranos” episodes, Matthew Weiner thought he was part of the HBO “family.”

However, the “Mad Men” creator revealed that new executive management at the network following visionary Chris Albrecht’s exit led to him being ignored, per the new book “It’s Not TV: The Spectacular Rise, Revolution, and Future of HBO” by Felix Gillette and John Koblin.

According to the oral history of the network, then-HBO President Carolyn Strauss “snubbed” Weiner and HBO did not even respond to the “Mad Men” pitch, despite “The Sopranos” showrunner David Chase urging “everyone at the network to give it a look.”

Weiner recalled, “It was very disappointing to me, as I pushed the rock up the hill, that they did not notice me. Because I was part of the family.”

Eventually, “Mad Men” landed at cable network AMC, whose goal was to “do an HBO kind of series,” as Weiner said. The 1960s-set “Mad Men” marked breakthrough performances for Jon Hamm, Elisabeth Moss, Christina Hendricks, and January Jones, garnering 16 Emmy wins across seven seasons before concluding in 2015. The series is heralded as ushering in the second wave of Golden Age TV.

“That’s been [former HBO CEO] Richard [Plepler] ’s bugaboo forever,” Strauss said about losing out on “Mad Men” under her tenure. “Tell me a programmer who hasn’t passed on something. If you want to hold that as my grave, original sin, guilty.”

Strauss parted ways with HBO in 2008, one year after “Mad Men” premiered on AMC. Strauss had also passed on Marc Cherry’s “Desperate Housewives,” which was directly inspired by the critically acclaimed HBO series “Sex and the City” and “Six Feet Under.”

Cherry sold “Desperate Housewives” to ABC, packaged as a “network version of what an HBO show is.” The soapy suburban drama beat out HBO’s “The Wire” in the Sunday Nielsen ratings, leading to HBO putting a financial squeeze on the Baltimore-based crime series that later received a second audience and cult status. “The Wire” did not win any Emmy Awards during its run from 2002 through 2008, but it was later named one of the best TV series of the 21st century and helped launch the careers of Idris Elba, Michael B. Jordan, and Michael K. Williams.

“Every season, we were on the verge of not coming back,” co-creator David Simon previously said. “In fact, the studio actually waited until after everyone’s contract had lapsed to begin talks. I assured them that everyone would come back and there would be no budget increases, without actually knowing if that was the case, if anyone would come back. I had to call them all, and fortunately they all agreed to not ask for bigger trailers or anything like that.”

For the 20th anniversary of the series, co-creator Ed Burns claimed “The Wire” would not be made today on HBO.

“Now, it’s got to be ‘Game of Thrones.’ It’s got to be big. It’s got to be disconnected from stepping on anybody’s toes,” Burns said. “I’ve watched a couple of the limited series on HBO, and they’re good shows, but they’re not cutting new paths. They are whodunits or these rich women bickering among themselves in a town. I don’t see anybody saying, ‘Hey, that’s a really great show.’”

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