Why do bad things happen to good fans? Whether it’s atrocious art, ridiculous writing or something else entirely – some crimes against fandom cannot go unanswered. When that happens, it’s time to say “BLAARGH!”
In just six short years, the cable channel known as AMC has transformed itself from a little-seen basic cable network that specializes in edited-for-television presentations of classic feature films to one of the most popular and profitable networks on television. This is of course due to the highly-rated and critically acclaimed original series that air on the network, from the 1960′s period drama Mad Men to the modern crime thriller Breaking Bad to its newest and biggest hit, the ensemble horror drama The Walking Dead, based on the best-selling comic series. Because of the growing success the network has enjoyed in the past six years, one would think that all would be well with the network, and yet there have been several reports of a growing rift between the corporate heads at AMC and the creators and show-runners behind many of its more popular shows, especially The Walking Dead, which this year became the most-watched show in basic cable history.
The first reports of unrest between AMC and the creative minds behind their shows came in the spring of 2011, when the network slashed the budgets of both Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead after Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner threatened to move his show to another network if he did not receive more money. During this time, the network also fired The Walking Dead co-creator and show-runner Frank Darabont for reasons that were never fully revealed. Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead didn’t suffer too much because of the cuts, and new show-runner Glen Mazzara actually managed to improve The Walking Dead when he took over, but this action was distressing all the same. It seemed that, no matter how well these two later shows did with critics and audiences, AMC was still willing to do all they can to make the people behind Mad Men happy, even to the detriment of their other shows. Mad Men of course remains very popular and acclaimed, but this blatant show of favoritism no doubt left a bad taste in the mouth of many writers and producers. AMC seemed to be acting like a parent who doted on their oldest child while ignoring or understating the accomplishments and triumphs of their younger children.
After The Walking Dead returned with record-breaking ratings for its third season premiere, it seemed that all was well, but then a few weeks later, it was announced that Glen Mazzara was leaving the show, and it was only recently revealed that he was fired by the network, much like his predecessor. What’s even more puzzling about this news is that AMC has yet to reveal exactly why Mazzara was fired, especially with the show doing so well with both critics and audiences. The news of Mazzara’s dismissal led other prominent showrunners like The Shield and The Last Resort‘s Shawn Ryan and Sons of Anarchy‘s Kurt Sutter to publicly criticize AMC on Twitter and in interviews. Some are speculating that both Darabont and Mazzara’s dismissals were due largely to creative disagreements with Robert Kirkman, the creator of the original Walking Dead comic book, but since nothing has been officially revealed by AMC on the nature of these firings, we many never know the whole truth. Regardless, these events may be doing irreparable harm to the network’s future, as many talented writers and producers may refuse to even pitch new shows to them after seeing how they treated the creative minds behind some of their biggest shows.
With so much competition from basic and pay-cable networks such as FX, HBO, Showtime, and even TNT, it seems that AMC is not thinking long-term with their professional and financial decisions. Breaking Bad is currently in its final season, and Mad Men will more than likely end soon, which means that the network will have to find shows that will not only fill the slots left by these departing series but will also be well-written and compelling enough to keep people watching after these more well-known shows have gone. The Walking Dead dodged a bullet when Mazzara took over as show-runner and actually made the show better, but with his departure, who knows if the show’s quality will be as consistent? Also, if the reports are true that Kirkman is really that hard to deal with, it may prove difficult to hire talented writers, producers, and even actors for the show. If AMC wants to maintain its current success and continue to grow as a prominent network, it really needs to step up its game and take care of the people who create the content that makes them money. It remains to be seen if AMC will learn from its mistakes or if they’ll mismanage themselves out of the TV business entirely.