The announcement that showrunner Glen Mazzara is leaving “The Walking Dead” is another indication that AMC and its top creatives often don’t see eye to eye on key issues concerning the net’s most important series.
Mazzara’s sudden departure of the most-watched scripted show on cable or broadcast follows the exit of Frank Darabont, who left the zombie skein only a season after the show’s debut.
Darabont’s departure, which focused on both budget, production and creative differences, made room for Mazzara to step up as showrunner, and now he’s gone too on the heels of a season four pickup.
Mazzara will continue as exec producer going forward and will guide a hand in post-production in preparation for the second half of season three, which will restart in February. A new showrunner has not been named.
What made the announcement all the more unusual is that it occurred the day before a long holiday weekend, a day that is usually fairly light in terms of breaking news and one in which networks and studios don’t want to make major announcements.
Reps from both AMC and Mazzara would not speak on the record about the specific “creative differences” that caused the rift beyond the statements issued. It’s unclear if the dispute is based on both upcoming storylines, production issues or budgets, or a combination of all.
Said AMC: “Both parties acknowledge that there is a difference of opinion about where the show should go moving forward, and conclude that it is best to part ways. This decision is amicable and Glen will remain on for post-production on season 3B as showrunner and executive producer.”
Added Mazzara: “My time as showrunner on ‘The Walking Dead’ has been an amazing experience but after I finish season three, it’s time to move on. I have told the stories I wanted to tell and connected with our fans on a level that I never imagined. It doesn’t get much better than that. Thank you to everyone who has been a part of this journey.”
The Dec. 2 midseason finale of “Walking” drew 6.9 million adults 18-49 (a 5.5 national rating in the demo) and 10.5 million viewers overall.
Darabont was vocal in voicing his frustration with how the network treated the show when he was in charge, and now with Mazzara’s departure, issues on how AMC makes decisions and works with its showrunners concerning their top properties are arising again.
Said Darabont a year ago to website Screen Rant: “I was really given no choice. I don’t understand the thinking behind, ‘Oh, this is the most successful show in the history of basic cable. Let’s gut the budgets now.’ I never did understand that and I think they got tired of hearing me complain about it. It’s a little more complicated than that, but that’s as far as I want to go with it.”
In addition to the Darabont exit, AMC and producer Lionsgate had a long dispute with “Mad Men” creator Matt Weiner over his deal and how long the critically applauded 1960’s Madison Avenue drama would continue.
On “Hell on Wheels,” showrunner John Shiban departed after he and the network were unable to see things in unison. And the cabler went through a public relations meltdown with showrunner Veena Sud following the first season of “The Killing,” which it canceled earlier this year before deciding to bring it back in May.
Exec producers Gale Anne Hurd and Robert Kirkman, who created the comic for which the series is based, offered support for both Mazzara and for the upcoming fourth season of “The Walking Dead.”