Writer-producer Mazzara walks away from Walking Dead

[pullquote1 quotes=”true” align=”center”]After two years, critically-acclaimed television show searching for new brain
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BY GEORGIANNA PISANO-GOETZ ’15
Contributing Writer

AMC’s popular show The Walking Dead is losing its second show runner in three seasons. For those of you who don’t know, the popular television series manifested from the ongoing Walking Dead graphic novels by Robert Kirkman who also serves as an executive producer on the show. It was just announced before the premiere of the second half of the third season that Glen Mazzara would not be returning as show runner for the confirmed fourth season.

The split was chalked up to “creative differences.” AMC said in the following statement: “Glen guided the series creatively for Seasons two and three. [We’re] grateful for his hard work. We are both proud of our shared success. Both parties acknowledge that there is a difference of opinion about where the show should go moving forward, and conclude that it is best to part ways. This decision is amicable and Glen will remain on for post-production on Season three-B as show runner and executive producer.”

Fans have short memories and are sad to see Mazzara go after an exciting third season that brought fan favorites Michonne and the Governor to the small screen. However, Mazzara was also show runner during the sleepy second season that claimed character development, but saw Carol devolved and relegated into a blurry blob that occasionally shouted “Sophia!” The third season has picked up the pace with an exciting episode last weekend, but only time will tell if TWD will be able to find a balance between character development and action.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time a show runner has left the hit AMC show. An amicable statement accompanies Mazzara’s exit from both himself and executive producer Kirkman, which disperses any rumors of a dramatic ousting. Mazzara himself was a replacement for Frank Darabont, who spent five years trying to get The Walking Dead on television. Darabont wrote the first two episodes of the first season and oversaw the rest as well. His presence at the Comic Con panel promoting an exciting look at season two made his dismissal three days later seem like an ill-mannered and disrespectful play by AMC.

Darabont had little to no TV experience with only one series credit under his belt. During the first season, rumors popped up that Darabont was making moves to emulate the more British style of a freelance writing team versus the traditional writing staff. AMC issued a statement “that there will be no changes to the writing staff of The Walking Dead.” Kirkman also later said, “All that reporting about the writers being fired and going freelance, that was all something that never really happened.”

By dispelling the rumor, Kirkman and AMC left little reason for Darabont’s exit. The most vocal of Darabont’s “supporters” after the dismissal was Kurt Sutter, show runner of the successful FX show Sons of Anarchy, which is entering its sixth season. His Twitter claimed that Matthew Weiner, the series creator of Mad Men, “broke the bank” at AMC. Sutter posits that Darabont was fired for being upset over budget cuts proposed for The Walking Dead, which is the more successful show (ratings-wise). AMC nor Darabont have ever confirmed Sutter’s assertions.

In the end, writing team differences and budget cuts are alleged, but without them the reason for Darabont’s exit is mysteriously and most often chalked up to “creative differences,” much like Mazzara’s current position. It’s never good for a show to have so much turnover. Especially with a show that is doing so well, it begs the question as to what direction AMC would like the show to go in.

AMC’s handling of The Walking Dead has been rumored to be less than pleasant. TWD was originally passed over by both NBC and HBO, but has gone on to become the fall’s number one series with almost 10 million weekly viewers. As the number one show in the 18-to-49 demographic, The Walking Dead is “the first cable series in history to top all of broadcast in the metric,” as reported by The Hollywood Reporter.

It is not uncommon for networks to have issues with their show runners, but the likes of studio-owned shows like Mad Men (Lionsgate) and Breaking Bad (Sony Television) will have the studios act as intermediaries between the show runners and the network.

Unlike its other two successes, AMC owns The Walking Dead outright. Despite any aid from studios, Badass Digest remarks on the “endless public scuffle with Mad Men’s Matthew Weiner, then a blow out with Breaking Bad’s Vince Gilligan that saw that show shopped to FX. And now it’s Frank Darabont, fired from The Walking Dead suddenly and seemingly with little reason.” AMC’s track record shows an unfortunate repeated and very public mishandling of several very successful shows.

For now, viewers will have to be satisfied with what is yet to come in the final half of The Walking Dead’s third season. While a fourth season has been confirmed, no news has come out regarding who will be the show runner. I, for one, will be very curious to see which way the wind blows for our characters as an entirely new, third creative voice takes over. Hopefully, this show runner will be the last.

Questions? Email Georgianna at gpisanog@fandm.edu.

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