The negotiations between AMC and "Mad Men" creator/showrunner Matt Weiner have officially reached crisis level. Deadline reported this morning that the relationship has become so strained that Weiner may not be back to helm the critically-acclaimed hit series. And, AMC released a statement to Variety saying, "While we are getting a later start than in years past due to ongoing, key non-cast negotiations, ‘Mad Men’ will be back for a fifth season in early 2012."

Weiner isn't mentioned at all in the statement, but if you read between the lines, AMC is clearly ready to move on, with or without him. Apparently, Weiner was offered $30 million for the next two seasons, but has broken off talks because AMC and studio Lionsgate Television have asked to make some objectionable changes.

Apparently, the sticking points are that AMC and Lionsgate want to cut 2 minutes of run time, add more product placement and eliminate/reduce two regular cast members in order to generate/save money.

Weiner spoke with the New York Times today and confirmed that AMC had, in fact, asked to reduce the cast and cut down the run time of each episode. Weiner feels these changes would make it a fundamentally different show saying, “I don’t understand why, with all of the success of the show, they suddenly need to change it ... All I want to do is continue to make my show, and make it in the way I want to, with the people I want to make it with.”

I have to side with Weiner on this one citing the odd adage, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Plus, Weiner is involved in every detail of the show making sure everything is tonally perfect that if he's not on board I think there will be a drop-off in quality. Although, maybe he could take a couple million off that huge contract to appease the network and studio. That's probably all this is anyway — gamesmanship by AMC and Lionsgate to knock a few bucks off Weiner's contract. Quick screwing around and get "Mad Men" back on the air. This isn't the NFL for Christ's sake!