It was a good news/bad news day for fans of AMC’s The Walking Dead. On the good side, the network officially announced that the show would be returning for a fourth season. The bad news, however, is that showrunner Glen Mazzara would be “parting ways” with the series after the end of the current third season. Why is that bad news? Well, for one thing Mazarra’s leadership is largely credited with the much-improved quality of the current season. Nearly as troubling is that this is the second showrunner to split from the series: Mazarra took over from The Mist director Frank Darabont, who left under less than friendly circumstances during the second season. Now two of Mazzara’s former colleagues from FX’s The Shield have come to the defense of their friend with harsh words about AMC.
The Shield’s Kurt Sutter and Shawn Ryan have gone on to produce shows such as FX’s biker drama Sons of Anarchy and ABC’s excellent but already-cancelled Last Resort, respectively. Sutter also has a history of blunt honesty, and he had previously lambasted AMC in the aftermath of Darabont’s departure. No surprise then that he didn’t pull any punches in the wake of Mazarra being shown the door from The Walking Dead. Here’s Sutter (some NSFW language):
AMC is run by small-minded, bottom-line thinkers who have no appreciation or gratitude for the aleffort 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 audience and bury their network. Mazzara took the work-in-progress that was Walking Dead and turned it into a viable TV show with a future. Without him, that future is dim. Showrunners are not development executives, we’re not cookie-cutter 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 fucking stock takes a dive and the shareholders line up [AMC president and CEO Josh] Sapan, [AMC parent Cablevision founder Charles] Dolan and [AMC president and GM Charlie] Collier and shit in their open hands. Cunts.
Shawn Ryan’s comments on Twitter weren’t as bombastic, but were no less harsh. Over the course of several tweets, he said the following:
- Breaking my Twitter silence to comment: 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?
It’s a very good point. AMC has made a name for itself by letting smart creative people be smart and creative, and the renewed quality of The Walking Dead is a testament to that. Like the saying goes, you don’t mess with success, but AMC more and more seems to be doing exactly that. With more cable networks getting into the original content business and hungry for new content, AMC’s meddling may well poison the very environment that allowed shows such as The Walking Dead, Mad Men, and Breaking Bad into certifiable pop culture phenomenons. And that’ll be a damn shame.