So Mad Men creator/EP/spiritual shepherd Matthew Weiner realizes he's sitting on something pretty special with his cast of desk-hopping, Brylcreemed creatives over at Sterling Cooper. Perhaps it was the 16 Emmy nominations that tipped him off. ("Don't think of them as Emmy awards," his inner Don Draper will intone on the big night, "Think of them as tiny angels, flapping their pointy wings to a place where fear doesn't live. They're saying, 'You are OK, Matt...It's all...OK.'") Weiner's contract with the show's studio, Lionsgate TV, is up at the end of this season, and Variety reports he's been shopping himself around town to the highest bidder:

The creator and exec producer of AMC's critical darling is set to make the rounds of the majors in the next few weeks as he shops for a big-bucks overall deal. The timing is hardly accidental, given the approach of Sept. 21's Primetime Emmy Awards, in which "Mad Men" is a top contender with 16 noms.

It's understood that "Mad Men" producer Lionsgate TV and AMC have just begun their discussions on a third-season pickup for the period ensembler. Weiner's continued involvement with the show, a passion project that he nurtured as a spec for years before getting a yes from AMC, is sure to be part of those talks.

What a Mad Men might look like without the notoriously (from what we hear) controlling showrunner would be difficult to imagine, though it's safe to say that minus Weiner's indelible creative imprint, the AMC drama would be in danger of morphing into a different series altogether. We'd hate to see Season 3 begin with the title card "23 Years Later..." only to find our treasured rotation of series regulars replaced by cheaper unknowns, puzzling over how best to market a Rubik's Cube as Sterling Cooper discovers its wackier side in the Me Decade.