‘Mad Men’ returning for fifth season in early 2012

After months of speculation as to the fate of “Mad Men,” AMC announced Tuesday that its marquee series will return in the early part of next year. That marks a shift in scheduling for this three-time Emmy winner for Best Drama Series that could alter its awards strategy.

Each of the first four seasons of “Mad Men” began their original 13-week runs during the summer months. The Emmys, unlike the Oscars, do not follow the traditional calendar for eligibility. This year, entries for the Emmys must have aired between June 1, 2010 and May 31, 2011. In the past, this timing has meant that a new season of “Mad Men” was on while TV academy voters were judging the previous summer’s shows.

In a statement, the basic cablecaster said it, “has officially authorized production of season 5 of ‘Mad Men,’ triggering our option with Lionsgate. 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.” However, there was no word as to whether show creator Matthew Weiner (photo, left), who has won the writing Emmy for three years running, will be returning to the helm.

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