Yesterday, AMC announced that it was renewing zombie horror drama The Walking Dead for a fourth season. This was no surprise, considering the show's strong ratings in its third season, which is thanks in part to a renewed creative momentum for the series. That's why it was surprising when AMC also announced that showrunner Glen Mazzara would be departing the series as well, according to an "amicable" decision "that there is a difference of opinion about where the show should go moving forward [and] that it is best to part ways."
This led to some rather loud murmuring amongst the blogosphere: why would AMC creatively disagree with the man who has made The Walking Dead not only but a ratings but a critical triumph? The general conclusion is that it probably was about money, not creativity. Of course, as with Darabont's firing, we probably won't find out. But that doesn't mean that there aren't already some big names coming to Mazzara's defense. His former 'Shield' coworkers Kurt Sutter (now showrunner of 'Sons of Anarchy') and Shawn Ryan (showrunner of the recently cancelled 'Last Resort') have taken to Twitter to defend their former co-worker.
Sutter was the more vitriolic of the two, sparing no profanity in his rant against the network: "AMC is run by small-minded, bottom-line thinkers who have no appreciation or gratitude for the effort of its creative personnel. Time and time again we see events like what happened today with Glen Mazzara. They continue to disrespect writers, shit on their audience and bury their network. Mazzara took the work-in-progress that was 'Walking Dead' and turned it into a viable TV show with a future. Without him, that future is dim. Showrunners are not development executives, we're not cookiecutter douchebags that you plug into a preexisting model. TWD will suffer. Even Zombies need consistency. 'Mad Men' and 'Breaking Bad' will be gone soon. So will AMC. I hope their f*cking stock takes a dive and the shareholders like up [the network executives] and sh*t in their open hands." He then ended the note with a word even more unprintable than those that I censored.
While we can note that Sutter is clearly happier at FX, a network quite noted for allowing creative types (Louis C.K., for instance) to flourish, the same can't be said of Shawn Ryan, whose show Last Resort saw the executioner's axe earlier this year after a short run on ABC. Ryan's response, however, was a little more measured.
"Breaking my Twitter silence to comment: AMC, WTF?" Ryan tweeted. "Common knowledge that AMC cut Breaking Bad shorter than it should have been. Now you have creative differences w/ biggest hit's savior? With FX, Showtime, HBO, Starz, Cinemax, A&E, TNT and others to sell to, it's a real question now why good showrunners should sell to AMC."
We can't help but feel like Sutter and Ryan have a point. What do you think?
You can check out our five suggestions for Walking Dead showrunner replacements here.