I remember being surprised to learn that Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption) would be directing The Walking Dead. I was even more surprised to learn that he wouldn’t be directing its second season — AMC fired him:
Within a space of months, AMC has become embroiled in messy public fights with the creators of its top three shows — Mad Men, Breaking Bad and now Walking Dead. The battles have been about money, but in this case, at least, it was more of a slow burn than a sudden flare-up. Sources say last fall, even before the first episode of the show had aired, AMC let it be known that it would effectively slash the show’s second-season budget per episode by about $650,000, from $3.4 million to $2.75 million. AMC cut the budget and pocketed a tax credit previusly applied to the show. An AMC source says the size of the cut cited by sources is “grossly inflated” and that the second-season budget represents a more typical and sustainable number for a basic cable show.
At a glance, it would appear AMC is taking a big risk with its only huge commercial success. Mad Men and Breaking Bad are Emmy magnets that average 2.3 million and 4.3 million viewers, respectively. But Walking Dead, based on a series of graphic novels, attracted an astonishing 5.3 million viewers when it premiered on Halloween. The season finale in December drew more than 6 million viewers. In the 18-to-49 demo, it chalked up the biggest number ever for any drama on basic cable.