When Frank Darabont appeared on a Comic-Con panel July 22 to promote The Walking Dead,
he didn’t realize he was a dead man walking. Neither did the cast and
crew. Everyone was shocked when news broke three days later that AMC had
taken the extraordinary step of firing Darabont from the network’s
biggest ratings hit.
In hot, sticky Atlanta, where production on the second season had been
under way since June, the cast was summoned to a lunch meeting with AMC
vp scripted programming Ben Davis, who confirmed that Darabont was out.
The crew was briefed separately. One insider says those gathered were
stunned at “the duplicity of AMC” for having used Darabont to promote
the show at Comic-Con before firing him. And they were angry about the
lack of explanation; they were simply told, cryptically, “This isn’t
working.” Above all, they were disheartened. “It’s a crushing blow,”
says the insider. “Even when you have a hit, they can still destroy
Oh. Oh damn. That’s not good. THR’s story — which goes on for quite some length, and is pretty interesting, if disheartening — says Darabont turned in an episode with unusable footage, which is bad, but mainly fought and bitched about AMC’s budget cuts on the show, which were a pretty massive $650,000. Although AMC is reportedly being as evil as they can be — the show was getting a pretty sizable tax credit for filming in Georgia, and instead of putting that money to the show’s budget, as in the first season, AMC just decided to keep it. Also:
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.”
Man, you know what also makes for productive employees? By threatening to fire them for criticizing you for stupid decisions. That’s just great. Oh, but don’t worry — AMC had some very helpful ideas how to keep those costs down!
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.”
Fuuuuuuuuck. The story also confirmed one other thing — that Walking Dead was AMC’s most viewed show, far more than critical darlings Mad Men and Breaking Bad, by a large margin. So, in summary: AMC fired the dude most responsible for their most popular series, cut the budget drastically, terrorized the crew, and basically advised that the show become shittier in many significant ways, just to pocket some cash. Awesome. You know, I thought Fox and SyFy were the only genuinely evil and stupid TV networks out there, but I guess there’s always room for one more!
You know what’s funny? It’s that Walking Dead had it right all along. The real danger isn’t zombies — it’s other humans.