Frank Darabont stepping down as 'Walking Dead' showrunner
Was the weekly grind too much for the movie veteran?
In what's become a strange annual tradition, the eve of the Television Critics Association press tour has been marked by a surprise resignation. Two years ago, Ben Silverman bailed on NBC. A year ago, Steve McPherson bolted from ABC. Today, Frank Darabont stepped down as showrunner on AMC's "The Walking Dead."
The story was first reported by Deadline Hollywood's Nellie Andreeva, and a source close to the production confirmed that account to me, which explains that Darabont - who wrote and directed the series pilot episode and wrote or co-wrote three of the other five scripts - had trouble adjusting to the pace of a weekly TV series after spending most of his career making movies.
There were reports at the end of season 1 that Darabont wanted to clean house of the show's entire writing staff, assign episodes to freelancers and do all the rewriting himself. Instead, he went with a traditional writing staff, including bringing on Glen Mazzara (who'd written the fifth episode of the first season, and who has showrunning experience (on Starz's "Crash") as an executive producer and his chief lieutenant. As Deadline reported, it's unclear if Mazzara will now ascend to the top spot or if someone else will come in, and it remains entirely possible that Darabont will remain involved with the show in some capacity - just not in the all-consuming position of showrunner.
- Check out everything there is including photos, reviews, videos.
Also surprising: that as recently as Friday, Darabont was still attached to the show and happy to appear at its Comic-Con panel (which Fienberg live-blogged). The second season debuts on October 16, so decisions have to be made quickly about who will be running the show, whether this changes any of the creative direction of the season, etc.
As for how this will affect "The Walking Dead" overall, I don't know. On the one hand, Darabont's pilot episode was far and away the best episode of that abbreviated first season. On the other, his name was on some episodes that were much less interesting, and I have no idea how heavy an editorial hand he had on the scripts where he didn't receive a credit. Some showrunners rewrite nearly every word, even if their name isn't on the script; others leave their staffers' drafts alone.
Keep in mind also that the show is more than doubling its episode order this season, from 6 to 13. The abbreviated season (which was the only way AMC could make the Halloween premiere date with the windows in everyone's schedule) was no doubt a big reason for why some of the storytelling seemed rushed, why some characters seemed so broad and others so undermotivated. It's entirely possible that with Darabont or without him, the extra time was going to lead to greater consistency.
Or it could be that Darabont's storytelling sense was actually keeping the show more under control than it otherwise might have seemed with someone else in charge, and things could get very messy, very quickly, with the new season.
I'm a big believer in creative continuity on shows - though at least Robert Kirkman, who writes "The Walking Dead" comic, is still on staff - and at first glance this certainly doesn't seem like great news for season 2. But there are too many unknown variables here to say for sure.
I remember sitting down to interview Darabont at last year's Comic-Con. He seemed so excited by the possibilities of an open-ended zombie narrative, one where the nightmare just kept going and going and going, and seemed like he wanted to be there for as long as he could with it. Instead, he's stepping down (and maybe stepping away altogether) after only six episodes were completed.
Sometimes, TV production, like the Green Mile, can just seem so long.
News From Our Partners
- WATCH: SNL Spoofs San Francisco's Bacon Bacon Controversy Mike Hogan: The Wedding From Hell WATCH: 'SNL' Takes On IRS Scandal
- Inventory: “Illusion, Michael. A trick is something a whore does for money”: 20 inept magicians in pop culture For Our Consideration: The crowd-funding conundrum: The line between bringing fans closer and taking advantage Cannes Film Festival: Cannes 2013, Day Four: The Coen brothers return to the festival with a folk-rock flashback
- 'Anchorman 2' Trailer Had Us At 'Hello': Watch Now! Fiery 'Star Trek Into Darkness' Scene Hurt The Most: Ouch! How Far Will 'Star Trek Into Darkness' Boldly Go At Box Office?
- 'Mad Men' Review: "The Crash" 'Game of Thrones' Review: "Second Sons" 'Star Wars Episode 7′ — Jonathan Rhys Meyers to Join the Cast?
- Box Office Guru Wrapup: Star Trek Softer Than Expected at #1 Weekly Ketchup: Will Smith to Star in Wild Bunch Remake? Critics Consensus: Star Trek Into Darkness is Certified Fresh
- Box Office: 'Star Trek Into Darkness' Misses $100M Domestic Mark on Opening Weekend Beyonce Pregnant Again? Sources Confirm 'Epic' Star Is Carrying Baby No. 2 'Hangover 3' Red Band Trailer: Take a Walk Down a NSFW Memory Lane (VIDEO)
- What to Watch Tonight: The Season Finales of Rectify and Hawaii Five-0 and the Series Premieres of The Goodwin Games and Motive Hey TV.com, Should I Watch The Goodwin Games? FTW vs. WTF: The TV Week in Review (May 19)
- Nicki Minaj Gives Lil Wayne a Lap Dance During 'High School' at 2013 Billboard Music Awards [Video] David Guetta, Akon + Ne-Yo 'Play Hard' at 2013 Billboard Music Awards [Video] Prince Closes 2013 Billboard Music Awards With Rare Performance Medley
The paperback is being re-released tomorrowMonday, May 20, 2013
Don and Stan get a special shot, the agency loses a leader and Sally meets her 'Grandma Ida'Monday, May 20, 2013
The Lannisters throw a wedding, Daenerys faces a new army, and Stannis meets GendrySunday, May 19, 2013
Promising pilots, puzzling scheduling moves and moreSunday, May 19, 2013