AMC vs Artists? Fallout Of Frank Darabont’s Firing From WALKING DEAD

AMC has a history of public battles with their show runners. The latest one got really ugly. Why? And what does it mean for the network?

What’s up with AMC? It’s not unusual for networks to have semi- to full blown adversarial relationships with show runners, but I can’t think of any other network that has become so publicly embroiled in fights. First it was an 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.

The Hollywood Reporter has a mildly well-reported version of what happened, but even their article, which is filled with anonymous sources, doesn’t clear things up. I don’t completely understand why Darabont was fired, and what it had do with this section:

Sources say an early episode came in with footage that was not usable. The director had shot a successful first-season episode and was a mutually agreeed-upon choice. Darabont was editing the episode in an effort to fix it but by then, an insider believes, AMC was looking for a pretext.

The issue with The Walking Dead is an interesting one; AMC owns the show outright, unlike Mad Men or Breaking Bad, which has studios who act as intermediaries between the show runners and the network. The Walking Dead is far and away the network’s biggest hit, but they still came after the producers looking for big budget cuts, despite wanting a longer season. They had some pretty ridiculous sounding notes, such as asking that half of each episode be shot indoors, and “Couldn’t the audience hear the zombies sometimes and not see them, to save on makeup?” (that quote, by the way, is paraphrased in the article, not a direct AMC quote).

One thing that does truly reflect terribly on AMC is the way they waited until after Comic Con to can Darabont. It just reeks of sleaziness, and you have to feel bad for Frank who went to San Diego with no idea his job was forfeit already. Beyond that it’s hard to make too many judgments - the article is obviously largely sourced from within Darabont’s camp, and there’s nothing that reveals AMC’s thinking beyond some speculation that Darabont’s a pain in the ass, which whatever.

But beyond that this is troubling for the network. AMC has been going places, with the network’s dramas having that old HBO must-see feel to them. Again, it’s not unusual for networks to fight to make shows cheaper, more mainstream, etc, but it rarely happens in public as much as this. At one time AMC was the scrappy upstart who attracted talent looking to make something different from what was on network TV, but how long will they keep attracting top tier talent if they continue battling with that talent in such public ways? Frank Darabont wasn’t just some random show runner - he’s a very talented director who is HUGELY respected in Hollywood.

Get your shit together, AMC.