“The Walking Dead” can’t catch a break. After losing Frank Darabont as showrunner after the first season, the show carried on with a lower budget (and a new writing staff) under the tutelage of Glen Mazzara, growing in viewership (it's now the biggest drama on TV, networks included) and, by most accounts, in quality too. Despite maintaining the same level of viewership, in fact the mid-season finale had a record high of viewers tuning in, and a fourth season renewal, the zombie show is once again without a showrunner, with Deadline reporting that Mazzara has left the show after creative differences with network AMC.
Although never quite matching the same heights as the Darabont-helmed pilot, Mazzara was able to keep the show more-or-less afloat under the reduced budget given by AMC. The network is famously stingy and combative towards its flagship programs, as “Breaking Bad” and “Mad Men” showrunners Vince Gilligan and Matthew Weiner can attest and, as Deadline notes, has a history of other showrunners quitting in frustration.
For what it’s worth, two fellow showrunners have taken to Twitter (via Deadline) to criticize the network over its treatment of the creative forces behind its programs. “The Shield” creator Shawn Ryan tweeted “AMC, WTF? Common knowledge that AMC cut ‘Breaking Bad’ shorter than it should have been. Now you have creative differences w/ biggest hit’s savior? 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?”
Kurt Sutter, the infamously profane creator of “Sons Of Anarchy” didn’t hold anything back when he tweeted “AMC is run by small-minded, bottom-line thinkers who have no appreciation or gratitude for the effort of its creative personnel. Time and time again we see events like what happened today with Glen Mazzara. They continue to disrespect writers, shit on their audiences and bury their network. Mazzara took the work-in-progress that was ‘Walking Dead’ and turned into a viable TV show with a future. Without him, that future is dim. Showrunners are not development executives, we’re not cookiecutter douchebags that you plug into a preexisting model. TWD will suffer. Even Zombies need consistency. ‘Mad Men’ and ‘Breaking Bad’ will be gone soon. So will AMC. I hope their f*cking stock takes a dive and the shareholders line up (Josh) Sapan, (Charles) Dolan and (Charlie) Collier and shit in their open hands. C*nts.”
So, yeah, it’s fair to say the network is taking a pretty good beating regarding its treatment of their creative staffs. Currently there’s no word on who will be taking over as showrunner for “The Walking Dead” but we’d imagine AMC is looking to get somebody named as a replacement fairly quickly.