It’s always hard to figure out who’s the good guy and who’s the bad guy in a public fistfight. I personally have heard stories from various camps regarding “The Walking Dead”, AMC’s live-action series based on Robert Kirkman’s incredible comic. All that I was able to deduce, and reported way before the press got ugly, was that showrunner Frank Darabont and AMC were head-to-head with steam spouting out of their ears. My outside observation was the show wasn’t living up to its potential, therefore I blame the showrunner — but a new feature piece in the Hollywood Reporter suggests that maybe AMC is to blame by taking on a project too big for their own britches.
They tease: “The cast is “scared,” the crew is crushed after Darabont is canned while working to fix an episode that a director turned in with unusable footage…“
Inside you’ll find a few blurbs out of this massive article that could shed some light on the issues at hand, and why the show could eventually fall flat on it’s face.
…There also have been no public comments from the cast, and a source with knowledge of the situation says AMC has been “terrorizing” them and their representatives to discourage them from speaking out on Darabont’s behalf. “They’re scared,” confirms another insider. “They’re on a zombie show. They are all really easy to kill off.”
…What remains a central mystery, even to those closely involved, is what triggered AMC’s move to fire Darabont. As noted, AMC’s decision to cut the budget dated to the previous fall, when the network instructed Darabont to produce 13 episodes for a second season, up from six for the first season, for less money. Not only would the show get a lower budget, but AMC also decided that Walking Dead would no longer reap the benefit of a 30 percent tax credit per episode that came with filming in Georgia. Now the network was going to hold on to that money.
What is also hugely significant is that Walking Dead is the only show AMC owns, which means the network bears all the financial risk (and could reap much greater rewards in success). That is not the kind of chance that the network had been willing to take before. AMC developed Mad Men and even fully financed a pilot before the company decided that the cost of the first season, about $25 million, was too much to bear. So AMC sold the idea to Lionsgate and licensed it from the studio. Lionsgate owns Mad Men, and Sony Television owns Breaking Bad
…But this source says that AMC had its own ideas about how to make the show more cheaply. The show shoots for eight days per episode, and the network suggested that half should be indoors. “Four days inside and four days out? That’s not Walking Dead,” says this insider. “This is not a show that takes place around the dinner table.” That was just one of what this person describes as “silly notes” from AMC. Couldn’t the audience hear the zombies sometimes and not see them, to save on makeup? The source says Darabont fought “a constant battle to keep the show big in scope and style.”
This is some absolutely remarkable stuff as the article suggests that AMC took on a project that was too big for them to afford, and thus it’s forcing budget cuts and idiotic executive decisions such as tightening the scope. The last time I read a story this depressing, it was regarding HBO’s “Deadwood,” which died a similar death. The fact that AMC execs are more focused on tightening the budget than doing what’s best for the show is the biggest red flag of all. I’m truly scared that “The Walking Dead” is (literally) on its last leg…