Whoa: ‘Walking Dead’ Showrunner Quits. (UPDATE: Mazzara Named Successor)

07.27.11 7 years ago 7 Comments

This is a bombshell: “Walking Dead” showrunner Frank Darabont, who spent five years trying to get the zombie series onto television, has left the hit AMC show. Darabont wrote and directed “The Walking Dead’s” brilliant pilot and later fired the show’s writing staff after the abbreviated Season 1 sputtered in later episodes. More from Deadline:

There is speculation that Darabont might be off the show completely, but I hear talks are still ongoing about him possibly staying on in some capacity. Darabont… hails from the feature world, and I hear that he never quite adjusted to the daily grind of producing a TV series…

It is unclear if  The Shield alum Glen Mazzara [right-hand man/exec producer], who has showrunning experience, would now step in to run Walking Dead. I hear that the behind-the-scenes turmoil has not affected production on the show, which continues as scheduled.

UPDATE: Mazzara will indeed succeed Darabont.

This is bananas. Darabont is quitting the most-watched show in AMC history on the eve of the Television Critics Association press tour, and just days after appearing at “The Walking Dead’s” Comic-Con panel. But before we go leaping to conclusions about what this means for Season 2, let’s get some measured analysis from Alan Sepinwall at HitFix:

As for how this will affect “The Walking Dead” overall, I don’t know. On the one hand, Darabont’s pilot episode was far and away the best episode of that abbreviated first season. On the other, his name was on some episodes that were much less interesting, and I have no idea how heavy an editorial hand he had on the scripts where he didn’t receive a credit. Some showrunners rewrite nearly every word, even if their name isn’t on the script; others leave their staffers’ drafts alone.

Keep in mind also that the show is more than doubling its episode order this season, from 6 to 13. The abbreviated season (which was the only way AMC could make the Halloween premiere date with the windows in everyone’s schedule) was no doubt a big reason for why some of the storytelling seemed rushed, why some characters seemed so broad and others so undermotivated. It’s entirely possible that with Darabont or without him, the extra time was going to lead to greater consistency.

Or it could be that Darabont’s storytelling sense was actually keeping the show more under control than it otherwise might have seemed with someone else in charge, and things could get very messy, very quickly, with the new season.

I’m a big believer in creative continuity on shows – though at least Robert Kirkman, who writes “The Walking Dead” comic, is still on staff – and at first glance this certainly doesn’t seem like great news for season 2. But there are too many unknown variables here to say for sure.

So… are characters on the show still gonna be smashing in zombies’ heads? Yes? Very well, I shall continue watching it.

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