Turns Out, Some Idiots at AMC Fired Frank Darabont From the Walking Dead

And according to THR’s Kim Masters, in a long and very detailed article today, one of those idiots might very well be AMC head honcho Joel Stillerman.

As you probably already know by now, the zombie landscape got a rude awakening when they woke up one day last month to discover that Frank Darabont, showrunner/producer/writer/director on AMC’s hit zombie show “The Walking Dead” had left the show. This, only days after Darabont and the crew were at Comic Con in San Diego to hype the show’s upcoming second season. The truth was, we now learn, Darabont didn’t just decide to one day go home, he was fired. Turns out, AMC had been planning to fire Darabont all along, but didn’t want to ruin a perfectly good opportunity for Darabont to whip up the masses at Comic Con. Now that’s what I call a cold-blooded move.

Masters’ article goes into great length about the events surrounding Darabont’s firing, including the network’s headstrong decision to not give in even an inch to Darabont or the show despite “The Walking Dead’s” over-the-moon first season ratings, including its best-in-cable-history season finale numbers. (Stillerman is quoted as saying, “Ratings have no bearing on this conversation.” Really? In what TV universe, Mr. Stillerman?) Besides cutting the show’s second season budget from $3.4 million to $2.75 million an episode (not because they wanted to spend the money elsewhere, but because, well, they wanted to keep the extra money), AMC suits were passing out notes like shooting half of the episodes indoors, only having the zombies be heard and not seen, and other genius advice only guys in expensive suits in boardrooms could possibly come up with in order to save money, regardless of the storylines. So if, in Season 2 you happen to see lots of scenes taking place inside Hershel’s farm/stables/house/etc, with only the “sounds” of zombies around, you’ll know why.

All that headbutting eventually led to Stillerman and company firing Darabont, who at the time was editing an episode in Los Angeles when he received the news. Darabont, for his part, has yet to make any public statements about his departure. I expect Darabont to come out sooner or later, but perhaps he doesn’t want to hurt the show’s second season, given how much he’s already invested in it in terms of time, blood, sweat, and talent.

As for the cast, they were informed of Darabont’s firing during lunch, and according to Masters’ sources, the cast and crew have been “terrorized” by the network execs not to make any public statements regarding Darabont leaving the show. Which probably explains the big ol silence from the camp ever since Darabont was let go. I’ve always wondered how is it that no one in the cast has come out to mourn Darabont’s leaving. I guess now we know why.

Will the show be worse without Darabont? I don’t know. I guess we’ll find out when those Darabont-less episodes start airing (remember, Darabont was well into production on the second season when he was fired, so who knows how many episodes he’s already worked on, including scripts).

Meanwhile, I recommend reading Masters’ full article here. For those interested in how TV works, it’s an amazing read.

“The Walking Dead” Season 2 commences shambling October 16, 2011.