Over the last couple of years, AMC has been a hot topic as a result of the network's well-publicized clashes with the showrunners of its signature series, including Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and The Walking Dead. The most recent incident to enrage television observers occurred late last month when Glen Mazzara departed from his position as showrunner on Walking Dead, with the network's statement declaring the split an amicable separation due to creative differences.
Mazzara's exit marks the second time in less than three seasons that the ratings blockbuster has lost a showrunner under murky circumstances, causing observers such as TV Rage's Adam J. Langton to wonder just what the heck is going on with AMC. Recently, The Hollywood Reporter had a chance to sit down with AMC Networks CEO Josh Sapan and ask him that question, albeit phrased differently.
In response to a direct question asking what happened with Mazzara and why AMC would release him in the midst of a record-breaking run that he was responsible for, Sapan towed the company line about how much they love Walking Dead and "admire and cherish the work of everybody involved" in the series. He reiterated, "In the case of Glen, we decided mutually to part ways."
Following Mazzara's dismissal, other prominent showrunners such as Kurt Sutter (Sons of Anarchy) and Shawn Ryan (The Shield) have criticized AMC and questioned why creative talent would want to work for a network with such a track record. Sapan found a way to dodge and deflect that topic as well. "We really do believe that people who make great TV shows have a rare capability, and we hold them in extraordinarily high regard," he insisted. "Certainly it would be preferable to have as much continuity as possible. We'll forge ahead and hope to make great shows and be the best place to work."
When asked again if those comments bothered him at all, Sapan remained in corporate cyborg mode. "We'll do the best we can to be an environment where the best creative people can flourish," said the executive. "We'll hopefully learn from everything we do."
AMC must have learned something from canceling crime drama The Killing last July, because a few months later the network changed its mind and resurrected the series for a third season. Why? "We loved the show and the characters," stated Sapan. "Creatively it was great, and we found a way to bring it back by making an arrangement with Fox [TV Studios] that made sense to us."
Sapan also joined the national dialogue about the portrayal of violence in the media that came in the wake of the elementary school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, last month. "It's heartbreaking for anybody, parent or not," he stressed. "I just don't know enough to know what the causes are and what might alter behavior in the future. I'm certainly reading about it like everyone else and trying to understand it better. If there's something that we can do that would be a legitimate contribution, we'd do it. "
For a little insight into his personal tastes, aside from his own shows, Sapan was asked what he watches on TV. "I like Homeland, Louie, Girls, Veep, The Newsroom and The Good Wife, which I watch with my wife," he explained. "I don't miss CBS Sunday Morning, 60 Minutes and Morning Joe, which are some of my favorite things, too. And then there are a few comedies that I have great affection for like Archer and Childrens Hospital, which are hysterical."