AMC have officially renewed their zombie drama The Walking Dead for a fourth season, but showrunner Glen Mazzara won't be involved. It seems creative differences are to blame, as AMC apparently have opposing ideas about where the show needs to go.
AMC have released a statement saying that "... both parties acknowledge that there is a difference of opinion about where the show should go moving forward, and conclude that it is best to part ways. This decision is amicable and Glen [Mazzara] will remain on for post-production on season 3B as showrunner and executive producer."
Mazzara himself has said his "... time as showrunner on The Walking Dead has been an amazing experience, but after I finish season three, it’s time to move on. I have told the stories I wanted to tell and connected with our fans on a level that I never imagined. It doesn't get much better than that. Thank you to everyone who has been a part of this journey."
The comic-book's creator and executive producer Robert Kirkman said he's "... in full support of both AMC and Glen Mazzara in the decision they have come to and believe the parties came to this decision in the best interest of the future of the show. I thank Glen for his hard work and appreciate his many contributions to The Walking Dead and look forward to working with him as we complete post production on season three. I am also excited to begin work on another spectacular season of this show that I know means so much to so many people. This show has always been the result of a wide range of extremely talented men and women working tirelessly to produce their best work collectively. I believe the future is bright for The Walking Dead. Thank you to the fans for your continued support."
So what exactly is going on here? This isn't the first time this has happened with AMC and The Walking Dead. The original showrunner Frank Darabont was also ousted from his position halfway through season (albeit on far less amicable terms), and that appears to have stemmed from a disagreement over the budget. AMC (who own The Walking Dead outright, unlike their Mad Men and Breaking Bad) wanted to cut the show's budget considerably during season 2, and Darabont was vehemently opposed to that.
Of course, season 3 appears to be more expensive than ever, so I'm not sure what sacking Darabont really achieved for AMC in financial terms. What's clear is that Mazzara has presided over a far more enjoyable and faster-paced version of the drama, so it seems crazy to let him go. The show is breaking all kinds of ratings records (amassing ratings that would please a mainstream network), and they're still not happy? Maybe they're still unable to make money from the show, and season 4 will definitely see them tightening purse strings? It's also been rumoured AMC want longer seasons to recoup costs (this year has already been extended to 16 hours from 13 last season), so maybe Mazzara put his foot down about the impracticalities of that?
We'll perhaps learn more in the future, although the situation with Darabont remains annoyingly vague over a year since he was also shown the door, so perhaps not. I just hope they get a decent showrunner to take over, and whatever changes AMC want don't infuriate viewers too much.