AMC, the Possible Decline and Not-Yet Fall

Following up the departure of Frank Darabont from The Walking Dead, The Hollywood Reporter has a long article on the subject, saying that he didn’t quit, AMC fired him. Though the article’s sources don’t shed a lot of light on why that happened, or exactly what happened. Someone does mention the point, previously mentioned here and elsewhere, that Darabont was unused to the job of showrunner, but the person who mentions it is an “agency source” – people closer to the show insist he was doing fine in terms of bringing the episodes in on time and on budget.

Their sources seem to confirm that AMC is under increased pressure to show profits, and that the network squeezes every penny, even by the usual standards of cable networks. (And let’s remember that working on the average cable drama, good or bad, means really long hours and less-than-pleasant working conditions for crews. These shows wouldn’t exist if they couldn’t be shot faster and cheaper than even the usual TV drama.) I said earlier that we were hearing less about the AMC/Walking Dead negotiations because the network owns the show, which means we don’t have the studio leaking things to the press to improve its bargaining position. The article notes another effect of AMC’s ownership: the studio can’t threaten to shop it to another network, the way Sony threatened to take Breaking Bad away. People have wondered why AMC is being tighter with Walking Dead, the biggest hit it has, than with the shows that don’t get a third as many viewers. It may be partly because the network has more latitude to cut the budget on its own property, while the studios provide a buffer between the network and the creator on Mad Men and Breaking Bad. It’s one of the downsides of the “vertical integration” model of networks owning their shows.

Amusingly, the entire article goes without a single mention of The Killing, which (until the Walking Dead news started to break) was the biggest sign that AMC was losing its way. It’s coming back for a second season and already nobody remembers it.

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