AMC thinks that zombies should be heard and not seen. Read a few of the terrible money-saving ideas AMC reportedly threw at showrunner Frank Darabont, before throwing him out the door. A new report claims there was more to Darabont's precipitous departure than anybody realizes. Just days after AMC trotted out Darabont at Comic-Con, who not only revved up thousands Walking Dead fans but also delivered one hell of a season two trailer, the studio allegedly fired the director, producer and writer of the most successful show they've ever had. What the hell happened?
The Hollywood Reporter has an interesting article about the what really happened behind the scenes on AMC's zombie show, and it's not encouraging. Simply put, Darabont was tossed out because he fought for a show he believed in. According to a collection of sources and insiders the aggressive budget cuts demanded by AMC for the second season of Walking Dead were the spark that started this whole mess. And wait until you read about the studio's ideas for making a cheaper series:
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.
At the time, a source says, the show's producers decided not to get into a confrontation. "To have a fight over a number when they didn't know what the show was going to do didn't make sense," says this source. But when Walking Dead began to break AMC records, those involved figured that a negotiation would take place and the cuts might be reduced.
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."
Oof. Did anyone writing these notes even watch the series? Because clearly, they never read the comic books. Part of Walking Dead's success was directly due to the look and feel of the series. We live in the golden era of TV making, and Darabont was changing the small screen permanently by treating it like a feature film. The audience, and AMC both benefited from this. It's sad to think that Mad Men and Breaking Bad (while both wonderful series) were only averaging 2.3 to 4.3 million viewers, meanwhile WD brought in 6 million viewers on the season finale alone. According to THR, "In the 18-to-49 demo, it chalked up the biggest number ever for any drama on basic cable." Walking Dead was basically paying its own way.
We're not sure what we're more frustrated about, the fact that Darabont (and the fans) were so cruelly lied to at Comic-Con, the lack of budget negotiations AFTER Walking Dead proved to be a financial and critical success, or the notes. We know Darabont isn't a pussycat when it comes to getting his way, but this is all just a damn shame.