Just What The Hell Is Going On At AMC?

Many people online over the past few weeks have been saying that AMC, the new kid on the block of original programming, has been experiencing “growing pains”. Ever since Mad Men, the network has ballooned and experienced mass critical acclaim and a multitude of success in terms of awards. However, in the opinion of this writer, it’s a case of a very stroppy child that doesn’t know how to deal with multiple programmes.

AMC is currently home to 3 of the best shows on TV: Mad Men, Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead. And over the past few months, they have managed to fall out with each show runner. Their methods of negotiation have clearly riled Matthew Weiner, Vince Gilligan and Frank Darabont, the latter even bowed out as the show runner on The Walking Dead. However, due to digging done by The Hollywood Reporter, it can be revealed that Darabont was fired by AMC executives, he didn’t drop out.

Many of the cast and crew are reportedly, and rightly, very upset by this. They couldn’t believe “the duplicity” of the network for using Darabont to promote his show at Comic-Con when the studio already planned to fire him. When Darabont was dismissed in July, AMC Vice President of Scripted Programming Ben Davis called the cast to a lunch meeting and told them that: “It simply wasn’t working.”

Last week, the President of AMC and the Head of Original Programming Charlie Collier and Joel Stillerman, were called to the set in Atlanta where the cast and crew were reportedly planning to walk out on the production before being talked down by their respective agencies. Although the nature of what Collier and Stillerman did while there is unknown, it is likely it could have been to calm a few tensions down and speak to the new show runner Glen Mazzara.

The cast is apparently being forced by AMC to not speak out about Darabont, although I highly doubt that when the second season comes around that everyone will keep their mouths shut.

Darabont’s firing apparently was a result of many things that left him unpopular with executives. They didn’t like his method of working. The director comes from feature films where things move a lot slower and he couldn’t keep up with the speed required for primetime television. Darabont did complain about the hours but all reports said he loved working the show and was very passionate about it. One insider said:

Frank fights for the show. He doesn’t just do what the network wants him to do.

There in could be the problem. I believe the major gripe to be with budget concerns. Darabont was not at all pleased with the cuts to the production costs on the second season and was public about it, which AMC wouldn’t have liked.

I’m with Darabont on this one though. Reducing the budget when the episode order goes up is insanely counter productive. Plus, they also have apparently taken away the tax breaks that the production gained from filming in Atlanta.

AMC were also making demands which Darabont refused to bow down to. They said that more should be filmed indoors and that the show should have the zombies be heard rather than seen. Darabont refused both of these suggestions, hence leading to AMC axing him. Clearly a stubborn man and rightfully so, but he didn’t agree with the studio, which is probably in the end, the thing that got him sacked.

All this really stems from the studio heads thinking that they’re responsible for the success of the shows, rather than the creators. One man said of Stillerman:

Joel thinks he is responsible for the success of shows on AMC, and not the creators.

Matthew Weiner will reportedly have nothing to do with Stillerman, he is another stubborn and highly controlling show runner but due to his experience in television he knows how to get a deal to work. Plus, Mad Men is something that gave AMC the pathos to be in with big hitters like HBO.

The creator of the crime biker series Sons of Anarchy, Kurt Sutter, took to Twitter to defend Darabont, who blamed the whole fiasco behind the firing on the show runners at AMC. This is from a credited insider who knows the business and is perhaps the most reliable source of all:

Darabont reacted strongly to slashed budgets. He made mistakes, he was fired. No creative in town will trust AMC to back up their artists.

He then went onto blame Mad Men and Matthew Weiner for the reasons behind the budget cutting on both Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead, a point to be conceded:

No one else wants to f–king say it, but the greed of Mad Men is killing the other two best shows on TV — Breaking Bad and Walking Dead… Why Darabont got fired – Weiner. He held AMC hostage, broke their bank, budgets were slashed, shit rolled down hill onto Gilligan and Frank… I don’t know MW (Matthew Weiner), got no beef with him. Just hate that Darabont is being demonized. No one has the balls to tell the truth. MM (Mad Men) gutted AMC…

But he then finally blames the studio for succumbing to such high payment so quickly:

This is not me vs. Matt. The issue is that AMC should not have compromised their other shows to appease his $$ demands. It was bad business.

It’s nice to see an insider really speaking his mind and offering his opinion. I think Weiner is incredibly cut throat and he is only in this to service his show. AMC should have bartered more but by all accounts Weiner is a very demanding man and wasn’t going to give up without a fight. But neither should AMC be turning there back on other shows which are just as important and in the case of The Walking Dead, rate much higher.

Mad Men is my favourite show currently on television and I think it sets a very high standard which other shows can only dream of aspiring too. Breaking Bad is one of the few shows to be on a par and at times best it, and The Walking Dead is a terrific thrill ride which is grounded by fantastic character development and heartfelt drama. What AMC needs to start doing is trusting its show runners to deliver the product that is keeping that network at the forefront of original programming.

If it continues to strain itself more by pissing off creators then it could lose shows to other networks, AMC only owns The Walking Dead outright. Lionsgate holds the property of Mad Men, Sony Television has Breaking Bad and Fox Television owns The Killing. Sony already shopped Breaking Bad to FX when talks for the show became nasty.

If AMC doesn’t pull themselves in they could lose even more creative people, and some prospective creators may not even want to set up shows with them. No doubt this controversy is stirring up a very interesting Emmy season. There will be some very fraught situations with creators and actors that night and I personally cannot wait to see it.

UPDATE: Kurt Sutter’s Twitter account has now been taken down or he has deactivated it. Either way his rampage about AMC hasn’t been taken kindly by many people. Take note this is what happens in Hollywood when creatives speak their mind. He released this via his website:

My exit from Twitter was quite simple and, c’mon, let’s face it, pretty fucking obvious — I’m a guy desperately in need of buffers.  I have big feelings, big reactions, big emotions. All the things that serve me as an artist, but challenge me as a socially-responsible human being. I’ve learned in most areas of my life, to bounce heated choices off other people… With Twitter, there was no buffer, just me, my big feelings and my big opinions. I don’t regret any tweet, nor do I apologize. Everything I said was done in the spirit of social conversation, free speech and was my opinion. Right or wrong, I said it, I own it.

Source: The Hollywood Reporter

About the author


Will Chadwick

Will has written for the site since October 2010, he currently studies English Literature and American Studies at the University of Birmingham in the UK. His favourite films include Goodfellas, The Shawshank Redemption and The Godfather and his favourite TV shows are Mad Men, Six Feet Under, The Simpsons and Breaking Bad.