He may not be expecting a phone call from Frank Darabont just yet, but Glen Mazzara, outgoing showrunner for AMC's hit drama The Walking Dead, is enjoying the support of other TV executives following the announcement that creative differences have forced him and AMC apart.
Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter, who worked with Mazzara on The Shield, took to Twitter today, calling AMC executives “small-minded” and ‘bottom-line thinkers who have no appreciation or gratitude for the effort of its creative personnel.” He added, “Time and time again we see events like what happened today with Glen Mazzara. They continue to disrespect writers, shi– on their audience and bury their network.”
Last Resort's Shawn Ryan, who also worked with the pair at FX, piled on: “With FX, Showtime, HBO, Starz, Cinemax, A&E, TNT and others to sell to, it’s a real question now why good show runners should sell to AMC?” He noted, as have many in the conversation today, “Common knowledge that AMC cut Breaking Bad shorter than it should have been. Now you have creative differences w/ biggest hit’s savior?”
By "savior," of course, he's pointing out that The Walking Dead, while a formidable performer last year, was critically maligned and started to alienate its audience. Following the firing of Frank Darabont, the series was criticized for feeling slow and directionless, even while setting ratings records for AMC.
This year, though, spectacular reviews and an action-packed season have pushed the show to the next level, making it the highest-rated series on television in the key demographic for networks and advertisers. It was the first cable series ever to carry that distinction, beating out all broadcast shows.
It's likely the hand-off won't be quite as rocky next year; while Darabont appeared to have been fired abruptly and replaced by Mazzara just before the start of the season, Mazzara will remain on for the second half of season three and leave at the start of the just-announced fourth season of the series. That should, at least in theory, allow for a smoother transition, although the creative differences that forced the two parties apart may well manifest themselves a bit in the final few episodes as next year's direction is charted.