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Multiple media outlets are reporting that AMC and Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner (pictured above) are closing in on a deal for a fifth season of the boozy ad man drama. The agreement would end a protracted standoff between the two sides, who have been in negotiations since last summer. But all is not well at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. Even if a deal does go through this time, the delay is likely to bump the show's premiere from summer to autumn.

Entertainment Weekly's James Hibberd writes that the show  "typically starts shooting in the spring and debuts in July," the "protracted negotiations" mean that AMC will "probably have to delay the scheduling of the next batch of episodes" to give the writers time to catch up. There's even historical precedent for the move. "Two years ago when Weiner didn't close his deal until mid-January," recalls Deadline's Nellie Andreeva, "the season premiere was pushed to August. It's safe to say the delay will be even bigger this year." The New York Times's Brian Stelter speculates the delay could even stretch into 2012. "AMC," he writes, "is not dependent on Mad Men the way it was two years ago, the last time the contracts were renegotiated ... AMC may not have room on its schedule for Mad Men until the end of 2011 or early 2012, given that it currently schedules original shows only on Sunday nights."

This won't come as good news to the show's cast, who have expressed frustrations about the long layoff. Stelter says John Slattery told reporters at the premiere of The Adjustment Bureau earlier this month that he was "just looking for a job," Jon Hamm told Entertainment Weekly today that the whole show remains "in limbo," and, back in November, Rich Sommer tweeted that he was "operating under the assumption that there won't be [a fifth season]"

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