Thursday, August 18, 2011

Headshot! Darabont fired from ‘The Walking Dead’

Ok folks, its time for the Creepercast to weigh in on the latest ‘Walking Dead’ news. Quiet frankly the position here at the creepy writing staff is pretty clear and obvious. It begins with a profound exclamation of WTF! But, before I tirade it’s probably best to fill you in on the actual news, just in case, like me, you’ve been out of the loop for a few days. So here it is…

Prior to Comic Con San Diego, rumors abound declared Frank Darabont was stepping down from the show. He reportedly was at odds with AMC’s desire to cut the shows budget while still requesting 13 episodes for the second season. They even wanted them to be made for less money than the 6 of the first season. Darabont argued it was impossible to maintain the creativity and quality of the show if such cuts were implemented and that the show would suffer creatively. Anybody else thinking duh? After all, the greatest asset of the show is the fantastic cinematic scope Darabont has brought to the small screen. Lets also not forget that Darabont has been a hundred percent invested creatively from the writing (lest we forget he fired his original writing staff seemingly because he was doing all the writing himself anyway) to promotions. I don’t know how much he was getting paid to do his job but it didn’t seem to matter since apparently he lived and breathed ‘The Walking Dead.’

Fortunately for Comic Con these rumors seemed to have been laid to rest as Darabont and crew took the stage and promised more than a fantastic future season. I can almost hear the collective sighs in the calm before the storm. The storm being the news that just came out of the AMC camp a few days ago… ‘Show Runner Frank Darabont Fired from The Walking Dead.’

So lets consider this for a moment… prior to the overwhelming success of the show, who would have ever dreamed a cable TV series about zombies, based on a graphic novel series with a cult following, and in the midst of a decade long resurgence of zombies in film, ever had a chance? Who would dare to believe they could create a TV show that had action, comedy, drama, and zombies, balanced perfectly into 50 minute cinematic segments? Answer: Frank Darabont. And he delivered.

Now lets try this one… Who would dare to ask that such a show, after it broke all time cable premier AND finale records making it their greatest commercial success – perhaps even THE greatest commercial success in cable – to scale back on the cinematic, show less zombies, use inside locations over outside locations, shoot in less time (4 out of the 8 current days per episode), and create 13 episodes with half the budget of the first six? Answer: The wise folks at AMC.

That my friends is how we get to where we are today. You see Mr. Darabont refused to stifle the creativity in himself or the cast. He understands that a show of this magnitude, especially after the success of the first season, needs to be as good or better. He was a trouble maker that needed to be headshot, but did they also kill the show?

Lets see… just before the ax fell Darabont was said to be hard at work fixing the latest episode completed because it contained unusable footage. He did not direct that episode. That’s the kind of guy Darabont was too this show. Now his replacement joined the team near the end of the first season. In fact he penned episode five entitled ‘Wildfire.’ This is the episode where we learned all about the Wildfire project and that Jenner was a hopeless case ready to take the entire cast with him when the CDC blew up. Clearly not the best episode of the six but we did learn a lot about how the zombie virus worked and that Shane is a real bastard when it comes to Laurie. But lets look a little more at writer/producer/director Glen Mazzara’s resume…

‘Nash Bridges’ had a two year run, not bad but the show wasn’t much. Now ‘The Shield’ was a class A award winning show, I’ll give him that one, even though its ending was as satisfying as ‘The Soprano’s’ and ‘Criminal Minds’ is still kicking even without him although no where near as good without Mandy Patinkin. Maybe that’s a sign when you consider his last two projects. Ok, so I cant say much about ‘Hawthorne’ since I haven’t seen a single episode. I do know it stars Mrs. Will Smith and its another one of those medical procedural dramas, right? That’s why I haven’t seen it. It did survive two seasons though and I can only guess its because people still cant get enough of these shows. His latest and greatest failed despite having Dennis Hopper in the cast. ‘Crash’ spun off from the Academy film and barely lasted two seasons. I saw one episode but from what I hear it had great potential in season one that was wasted in season two. This does not bode well for ‘The Walking Dead.’

In the last few weeks AMC has proven themselves really bad decision makers. Some would say it’s a good idea ‘Breaking Bad’ is going to end before it gets bad, but I’m of the opinion that they may be throwing their engine out of the boat. That would leave ‘Mad Men’ and ‘The Walking Dead’ to get them through the coming rapids. The problem is they’ve now crippled ‘The Walking Dead’ and ‘Mad Men’ is another of those shows that may have run its course. So what’s next AMC? Back to reruns of classic movies?

Originally I had this conspiracy theory that involved Mazzara’s and AMC’s ties to New Mexico (‘Crash,’ ‘Breaking Bad’) and that this sabotage of ‘The Walking Dead’ was a way to save tons of money by combining resources. But with the recent news of ‘Breaking Bad’ and USA’s ‘In Plain Sight’ ending (also made in New Mexico) I’m not so sure. I have received insider information that implies that if ‘The Walking Dead’ survives the next season it will most likely move to New Mexico. But that’s not confirmed anywhere, even here. Here’s what I am sure of…

The first season of ‘The Walking Dead’ was brilliant! A TV show about zombies that looked and felt like mini-movies. Each episode was awesomely crafted with the perfect blend of action and drama enough to please any television fan. Under the expert direction of Greg Nicotero it has the best zombies ever seen on any screen. As any true fan would have to attest, there are only three good reasons why the show was so successful, and their names are Robert Kirkman (obviously), Frank Darabont (even IMDB lists him as the ‘creator’ of the show, and Greg Nicotero. The overwhelming success of the show has even gone so far as to cause horror master Stephen King and Joe Hill to want to pen an episode! But what usually happens when you remove possibly the most important force behind the shows existence? You get a very disillusioned crew that fails to give their best. You get far less than what you had before. You have a failure waiting to happen.

Ok, so truth be told, as a fan of the show I will of course be watching the new season and reporting on its inevitable demise. The Creepercast WILL still present the ‘The Walking Dead’ live fancast every Sunday night that it airs. After all, it is the only zombie show on TV and like we are going to miss it. But I sincerely hope AMC reconsiders their position before it really does Crash. Or maybe, by some miracle, the show might survive being castrated. I wouldn’t be against hoping for it to happen.

Farewell for now from the beasts and I,
til next we bleed…
Jeff (JP)