Last time I wrote about the departure of Glen Mazzara, former showrunner of AMC's highest-rated television program The Walking Dead, I laid a fair amount of the blame at AMC's feet. It wasn't an unfair assumption to make; in fact, The Shield creator Shawn Ryan did the same when he heard the news, and tweeted:
With FX, Showtime, HBO, Starz, Cinemax, A&E, TNT and others to sell to, it's a real question now why good show runners should sell to AMC?
Kurt Sutter, creator of Sons of Anarchy, shared similar feelings, but in a bit more straightforward a manner:
AMC is run by small-minded, bottom-line thinkers who have no appreciation or gratitude for the effort of its creative personnel... I hope their fucking stock takes a dive and the shareholders line up Sapan, Dolan and Collier and shit in their open hands. Cunts.
Strong dismount, Kurt. Even the Russian judges approve.
Well, turns out we were wrong. It's not really AMC's fault on this one. Turns out, the fault lies where it normally lies when The Walking Dead takes an inexplicable turn for the worse.
Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman.
According to an article from the Hollywood Reporter, Mazzara was forced out of his job because Kirkman, a producer and writer on the show, began feeling a "proprietary" about his story, and made his dissatisfaction with the show's direction known. A quote credited to "insiders" states the case thusly:
I believe Robert wants to maintain a certain amount of his control, and AMC needs Robert for the fan base.
Here's the thing: No they don't. The Walking Dead doesn't need the comic, or the blessing/approval of the comic's creator to succeed. The show was not launched off the back of Kirkman's legitimacy, but Frank Darabont's. And the decision to veer strongly away from the events in the graphic novels (which is overall a wise decision, as Kirkman's plotting is slipshod, and his characterization is pretty fucking hollow and facile) puts even more distance between the two. The show's rise in Season 3, both in ratings and acclaim is strongly credited to Mazzara's hand at the helm, not Kirkman's contributions to the show. Of the 7-10 million weekly viewers, what percentage of those do you think are also monthly buyers of the monthly Walking Dead comic? Even counting the fact that collected Walking Dead trade paperbacks make up 70% of the top ten bestselling graphic novels of 2012, you're talking about a crossover between audiences that numbers, if you're lucky, somewhere in the hundreds of thousands. At best.
And yet, when forced to choose between a showrunner and a glorified staff writer with an inferiority complex, AMC gave the boot to the showrunner, and deferred to the guy who has never run a television show before, for fear of alienating a fanbase that probably gives less than zero fucks about Robert Kirkman. Hell, the most successful iterations of his idea have occurred in media he has minimal to zero control over: Mazzara's season of the television show, and Sean Vanaman/Jake Rodkin's Walking Dead adventure game for Telltale Games.
But according to the article, Mazzara didn't do himself any favors, as apparently production shut down on the show a couple times due to there not being any material to actually shoot, which caused other producers on the show to have their own problems with the showrunner.
Mazzara will appear at the January 11th AFI Awards luncheon honoring the top shows of 2012, which shouldn't be awkward at all.