AMC’s ‘Dead’ Showrunner Walking PR Problem

“The Walking Dead” returns this Sunday, and everyone in the media wants a piece of the show. That’s not uncommon with a major hit, and in the cable universe, hits don’t get any more major than this.

TWD_GP_309_0816_0236The problem is when it comes to talking about “Walking,” the first question everyone has to ask right now is, “What’s going on with the changing showrunners?”

Frankly, one could give AMC a bit of a pass when the writer-producer who developed Robert Kirkman’s comic, Frank Darabont, was surprisingly ousted after season one. But now that the guy who replaced him and kept the ship smoothly running, Glen Mazzara, is also leaving, it’s starting to look like AMC is the one with a problem when it comes to “Dead” heads.

Even without knowing all the particulars, if nothing else AMC appears guilty of violating the simplest rule of showbiz — namely, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Admittedly, most fans of the show are going to watch regardless. But thanks to social media producers possess a higher profile than they might have in the past, with a more direct line to the loyal core audience. And while Mazzara has consistently taken the high road in interviews, that hasn’t stopped his friends in the creative community, like “Sons of Anarchy’s” Kurt Sutter, from blasting away at AMC for their perceived lack of gratitude. (To be fair, it doesn’t take a lot to push Sutter into blast-away mode, but in situations like this, he’s a good friend to have.)

Moreover, “Walking Dead’s” value goes beyond just ratings, having provided AMC valuable leverage in its protracted negotiations with Dish Networks over dropping the service.

For AMC, the coverage has cast a shadow over what should be a triumphant victory lap, and set the network up in contrast to FX, whose topper, John Landgraf, was recently the subject of a very flattering New York Times profile regarding how much latitude he gives to the network’s talent.

As noted, it’s hard to imagine many of the millions eagerly awaiting “Dead’s” return will fret too much about who’s running the writers’ room. But in the industry, perceptions about friendliness toward the creative process do matter — and if treating showrunners like “The Expendables” starts to look like a pattern, like a few zombies I can think of, it can come back to bite you.

 

 

 

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