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'Mad Men' set for 5th, 6th, maybe 7th season

Don Draper (Jon Hamm), Joan Harris (Christina Hendricks)

Don Draper (Jon Hamm), Joan Harris (Christina Hendricks) and Roger Sterling (John Slattery) in AMC's " Mad Men" Episode 6, "Waldorf Stories" airs Sunday nights at 10 p.m. Credit: AMC

Finally: "Mad Men" creator Matthew Weiner and AMC/Lionsgate have their deal. Announced an hour or so ago . . . no surprises. It's all been out there -- that Weiner was struggling to get a fifth and sixth season deal in place, which he now has, along with a cherry on top: a seventh, which will almost certainly be the last.

“I want to thank all of our wonderful fans for their support." Matthew Weiner said. "I also want to thank AMC and Lionsgate for agreeing to support the artistic freedom of myself, the cast and the crew so that we can continue to make the show exactly as we have from the beginning. I'm excited to get started on the next chapter of our story.”

What does all this mean? Well, trade reports say production begins in July, but while no word on launch date for the fifth, a launch in '12 remains likely. Good reason for that -- why launch "Men" in the fall crush? AMC might even do well to wait until next summer; viewers will gripe, but they will return in force. Weiner's statement also implies -- it seems to me -- that he got what he wanted -- no major cast cuts, no additional commercial cuts. But that's just a guess.

Meanwhile, here's the big news. Weiner told Variety that the seventh will be the last season. That's right -- the end. This means "Men" will wrap during Richard Nixon's first term -- around 1970 -- which will keep this strictly a '60s series. "Mad Men" in the '70s is just too much to contemplate right now.

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