One minute, “Walking Dead” co-creator Frank Darabont was sitting on a panel for AMC’s unexpectedly successful television series at the San Diego Comic-Con; the next, he’s been canned. As perplexed as I was about the news, I had no idea that AMC’s decision to remove Darabont from his role as showrunner was part of a larger, allegedly sleazier network conspiracy—nor did I know that the decision would come back to bite AMC in the ass.
According to recent articles published by The Hollywood Reporter and Deadline, Frank Darabont has filed a lawsuit against AMC. According to the suit—which can be read here if you’re into that sort of thing—Darabont’s termination was the result of AMC’s unwillingness to cut him in on the show’s increased profits, as well as denying him the Executive Producer credit that was outlined in his original contract. Since TWD has become something of a basic cable phenomenon—16 million viewers tuned in for the premier of season four—it has consequently become a fatted cash cow. Who can blame Darabont for wanting a piece of that sweet action? Especially considering how he, you know, championed the show in the first place.
This isn’t the first time that television creators have clashed with their parent networks. Shows like “Home Improvement,” “The X-Files” and “Smallville” have had similar legal battles. Who would have thought that television networks were so concerned with making vulgar amounts of money while standing on the necks of their creative talent?
As much as I love TWD, all of his behind-the-scenes bickering makes me a teensy bit nervous. Glen Mazzara, who took over for Darabont, was also let go--apparently for clashing with Robert Kirkman. Burning through two showrunners over the course of four seasons does not bode well. If I have learned anything from watching Restaurant Wars on “Top Chef,” it’s this: when the back of the house isn’t getting along, the front of the house ends up taking the hit.