Something is rotten in the state of AMC.
Regular readers of TVRage may be a little confused at times when we post news articles about the goings-on at the successful network. Everyone loves 'The Walking Dead,' so we're all inclined to follow the happenings at AMC with a watchful eye--but many of us often glean the headlines and are left with lingering questions.
"Wait--didn't they just cancel that show? I guess they changed their mind."
"Waitaminute--I thought they just hired that guy?? Now he's out?"
"Hang on--they're cancelling that show!? But I love that show!"
Beginning as a specialty movie channel before reaching heights of success they never dreamed with 'Mad Men' and 'Breaking Bad,' it would seem that some of the executives at AMC are cracking a little bit under the pressure. Let's take a look at the strange goings-on with three of AMC's headlining original series to assess the situation.
First up: 'THE WALKING DEAD'
'The Walking Dead' premiered in October of 2010 and immediately garnered rave reviews from fans and critics alike. The show looked great, people loved the writing and the ratings were sky high. Showrunner Frank Darabont ('The Green Mile,' 'The Mist') brought a cinematic feel to the show and we all couldn't get enough. So how did AMC respond?
They fired Frank Darabont.
It was initially reported that Darabont left due to the strain of handling a television series schedule, but shortly thereafter The Hollywood Reporter broke the truth: AMC suits had fired Darabont over a "strained working relationship."
But have no fear: Glen Mazarra ('The Shield,' 'Life') came to the rescue and filled Darabont's boots for the third season. The result? Even more success, even higher ratings, and a season that many fans gleefully exclaim to be the very best yet (although we're still in the middle of it). Great news, huh? So how did AMC respond this time around?
They oust Glen Mazarra.
What reason was offered? Creative Differences. Or maybe a strained relationship. Who can tell? What we do know is that other television professionals were unable to keep their cone of silence over this nugget of news. Bear in mind: AMC have also been embroiled in very public feuds with the creators and showrunners of their crown jewel series, 'Mad Men' & Breaking Bad.'
WHERE WE ARE:
Glen Mazarra's former coworkers on 'The Shield' were none too pleased with AMC's professionalism and took to the interwebs to let their opinions be heard.
Kurt Sutter ('Sons of Anarchy') had the following to say: "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. *****."
Shawn Ryan ('Last Resort') also chimed in: "Breaking my Twitter silence to comment: AMC, WTF? 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."
A good question indeed.
WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS:
Well our own Sam McPherson compiled a list of hilarious suggestions for new 'Walking Dead' showrunners. I guess since anything goes at AMC, they may actually take one of them.
Next up: 'HELL ON WHEELS'
November of 2011 gave us the premiere of 'Hell on Wheels,' a gritty slice of American history about the formation of the transnational railway system. The show stars Anson Mount and Colm Meany and has developed a fan following and garnered strong ratings for the cable network. Created by Joe & Tony Gayton, 'Hell on Wheels' was sold to AMC, greenlit, and handed over to John Shiban ('The X-Files') to helm as showrunner.
I imagine that, after the 'Walking Dead' section, you can already predict where this story is going.
The Gaytons worked closely with Shiban over the course of the first two seasons, keeping a hands-on approach to their creation. Then, after two successful seasons, AMC decided not to pick up 'Hell on Wheels' for a third.
But then they changed their minds and said they would. But then they dragged their heels. And then there was controversy about the cost of producting the series. And then they went ahead and renewed it anyways.
But somewhere throughout AMC's back-peddling, the Gaytons lost their smile. Along with the announcement that AMC had officially ordered ten episodes for a third season, the show's creators and executive producers announced that they would be stepping down.
Then their close friend and showrunner, John Shiban, went with them.
Another series, another strained relationship with the creative people who actually make the series. What are AMC execs thinking?
WHERE WE ARE:
The success of 'Hell on Wheels' on DVD, BluRay and on Netflix finally pushed AMC to go ahead with a third season despite the cost of production. Unfortunately, their knuckle-dragging and penny-pinching cost them the Gaytons and Shiban along the way.
AMC has brought in John Wirth ('The Cape,' 'Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles') to fill the spot that Shiban left behind. However, with the Gaytons departing, 'Hell on Wheels' is losing all of its previous creative direction at once.
Nevertheless, AMC is moving forward with production on the ten episodes of the third season.
WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS:
The third season of 'Hell on Wheels' is slated to debut in the third quarter of 2013. What will the show be like? It shouldn't be too difficult for new producers and showrunner to ape the appearance of the prior seasons, but what of the tone and the direction of the series? Given that 'Hell on Wheels' has developed a slow, methodical pace to its storytelling, this alteration could severely impact the product and alienate the small contingent of loyal viewers 'Wheels' has amassed.
It seems like AMC is playing with fire.
And finally, 'THE KILLING'
April 2011 gave us the premiere of 'The Killing,' a crime drama mystery television series based on the hit Danish series 'Forbrydelsen.' In the vein of a classic series like 'Twin Peaks,' 'The Killing' followed the investigation and fallout of the murder of a young girl named Rosie and the impact such a tragedy can have on a community.
The series was met with universal acclaim; critics adored it and fans went wild for it. Admittedly, the ratings were not a smash, but those who did tune in swiftly became fiercely loyal, keeping viewership steady across each episode.
The show garnered a second season and saw ratings hold consistently... but then back in July of 2012, AMC announced the cancellation of 'The Killing' after two seasons.
Cast contracts were allowed to lapse, producers and showrunners moved on to other things... and then AMC changed their minds.
Surprise, surprise, the success of the series on DVD and BluRay convinced AMC executives to bring 'The Killing' back. ...or did it?
WHERE WE ARE:
In November it was announced to great fanfare that AMC was set to resurrect 'The Killing' for a third season.
Veena Sud, the Exec Producer of 'The Killing,' had been shopping the third season to networks complete with a brand new pitch, not unlike a pilot for a new series. After negotiating with several networks, the proposed deal with Netflix brought AMC back to the table. Reportedly, AMC will air each new episode first, with the series being added to the Netflix cache shortly there after.
It would seem that it is time for 'Killing' fans to rejoice! Dawn Prestwich and Nicole Yorkin, who served as co-executive producers in the first and second season, are now expected to return as executive producers. Reportedly, Prestwich and Yorkin have already been working on the plot of season three, along with Sud.
The cast has been brought back, the showrunner is back, the writing team is back, everyone is all set and very excited to begin production on a third season!
...and yet... AMC hasn't ordered any episodes.
As of this writing, 'The Killing' has yet to be officially greenlit for a third season. AMC announced the deal with Netflix. AMC announced their intentions to resurrect the series. Yet AMC hasn't ordered said resurrection into production.
WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS:
Is it possible that AMC is going to pull the plug on 'The Killing' all over again?
After reviving the series, drumming up media interest and positive publicity, the network has made no move on production for a season that was initially slated to debut early 2013. The brakes have been applied, all movement has ceased.
If this is the case, not only is it an unfair tease to fans of the series, but the move is a pretty large middle-finger to the cast and creators of 'The Killing' themselves. These people are professionals who are trying to navigate their careers in a desperately cutthroat business and AMC is seemingly content to keep them on the hook without actually offering them any paying work.
So I ask again: what is going on at AMC??