The good news is that AMC has officially renewed smash hit The Walking Dead for a fourth season. The bad news is that executive producer Glen Mazzara will be stepping down as showrunner when the third season wraps up.
Despite shattering basic cable records since its third-season debut in October, the popular post-apocalyptic drama will undergo a change in showrunners for the third time in as many seasons. In a statement, AMC explained that the separation is due to creative differences. "Glen guided the series creatively for seasons 2 and 3. AMC is grateful for his hard work. We are both proud of our shared success," said the network. "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."
In a statement of his own, Mazzara thanked the fans for their support. "My time as showrunner on The Walking Dead has been an amazing experience, but after I finish season 3, it's time to move on," he said. "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."
For his part, creator and executive producer Robert Kirkman appreciated Mazzara's input and looked forward to the future of the series. "I am in full support of both AMC and Glen Mazzara in the decision they have come to and believe the parties came to this decision in the best interest of the future of the show. I thank Glen for his hard work and appreciate his many contributions to The Walking Dead and look forward to working with him as we complete post production on Season 3," he explained. "I am also excited to begin work on another spectacular season of this show that I know means so much to so many people. This show has always been the result of a wide range of extremely talented men and women working tirelessly to produce their best work collectively. I believe the future is bright for The Walking Dead. Thank you to the fans for your continued support."
Executive producer Gale Anne Hurd also offered her comments on the change. "I am appreciative and grateful to Glen for his hard work on The Walking Dead. I am supportive of AMC and Glen's decision and know that the series is in great hands with one of the most talented and dedicated casts and crews in the business. I look forward to the show's continued success."
Feature film director Frank Darabont was the original showrunner when The Walking Dead embarked upon its initial six-episode season in 2010. However, days after appearing at Comic Con 2011 to promote the show's 13-episode second season, Darabont was unceremoniously ousted from his position and replaced by Mazzara. At the time, AMC had been embroiled in messy public feuds with the creators and showrunners of its other two top series, Mad Men and Breaking Bad, and sources claimed that the issues stemmed from the reduced budget for the zombie drama's second season. Nevertheless, Season 2 broke records in the key demographics with its October 2011 premiere, February 2012 midseason premiere, and March season finale. Driven by its amped-up edge-of-your-seat drama, Season 3 crushed those numbers as well and has earned accolades from viewers and critics alike. Factoring in repeat showings later that night, the October 14 season premiere amassed a staggering 15.2 million total viewers over the course of the evening. Although the ratings dropped slightly the following week, the series has averaged 10.1 million total viewers each week, an astounding number for basic cable.
While changing showrunners in the midst of such a successful season might seem like a red flag, it isn't unexpected from AMC. Seeing how this season has burned through several issues' worth of storylines from the original comic book series, perhaps this is a way to slow things down and get a fresh perspective on the show.
TV Rage's own Sam McPherson has put together his own must-read list of hilariously inappropriate possibilities to fill the vacancy. How do you feel about the change in showrunners?