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The Small Screen: Frank Darabont Quits As Showrunner On 'The Walking Dead'

by Oliver Lyttelton
July 27, 2011 2:59 AM
6 Comments
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Update: Deadline confirms Glen Mazzara will take over showrunning duties.

Frank Darabont has had a career full of ups and downs. Starting out as a screenwriter (including "The Blob" and "The Fly II"), his directorial debut "The Shawshank Redemption" came and went from theaters quickly, but soon became one of the most beloved films of the 1990s. It took him half-a-decade to follow it up, but it came with another Stephen King prison picture, "The Green Mile," both a critical and commercial hit, despite a three-hour-plus running time. But his next film, "The Majestic," was just the kind of folly we talked about last week, and, while horror dream project "The Mist" was strong, with one of the most gut-wrenching endings in recent history, it was let down by poor effects and a lack of support from its distributor.

And so, like more and more filmmakers, Darabont moved into television, spending years trying to get an adaptation of zombie comic "The Walking Dead" going. AMC finally stepped up last year, and it paid off in a big way: the show was critically acclaimed, and proved the biggest hit in the network's history. Only this weekend, Darabont was at Comic-Con, hyping the second season with a new trailer (which you can watch below). But behind the scenes, it seems that things were more troubled than previously suspected, as, in a shock announcement, Deadline have revealed that Darabont has quit as showrunner on the series.

Darabont had been a writer and executive producer on the series, as well as directing the pilot, but Deadline suggest that, contrary to what Darabont had told them last month, that "If I'd know how much fun [television] was, I'd have done it years ago," the less-than-prolific helmer never got in the groove with the demanding schedule of a TV series, which seems to have been the cause of his decision. It's unclear how clean the break is -- it's possible he may remain on the show in some capacity -- and also unclear whether it'll happen with immediate effect, as the show is in production on the second season, which is set to bow on AMC later in the year.

Either way, it's certainly a shame for fans of the show, but possibly good news for the rest of us, as it suggests Darabont may be keen to make a return to the big screen -- possibly even his long-gestating take on "Fahrenheit 451"? We're sure it'll become apparent in the near future. In the meantime, it's likely that Darabont's number two, "The Shield" veteran Glen Mazzara, will take over, and the show will return to screens on October 16th.

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6 Comments

  • Ray H | July 27, 2011 11:25 AMReply

    Interesting news. I felt Darabont's pilot was pretty strong, but the other five episodes were awful. The characters were all unmemorable stereotypes and cliches. I honestly can't remember anyone's name aside from the main character. I was hopeful after Darabont fired his entire writing staff. But I don't know where his decision to leave puts the show. It's certainly a promising series and I do hope it finds its footing and gets better.

    Meli and dan, even though JJ Abrams played the part of Lost's frontman the first season, he essentially left the series after the pilot. Lindelof ran the show alone from that point and brought Cuse onboard about a third of the way through the first season after he found the job too overwhelming.

  • dan | July 27, 2011 6:36 AMReply

    yeah-- but that's also why season 1 of lost was the best.... not a good sign.

  • brett | July 27, 2011 6:12 AMReply

    I hope he gets 451 going, I have been waiting for that film for YEARS

  • Alex | July 27, 2011 5:32 AMReply

    Maybe it might not be cringeworthy now?

  • gonad | July 27, 2011 4:46 AMReply

    Nice viewfinder.

  • Meli | July 27, 2011 4:20 AMReply

    This shouldn't be considered such a shocking thing: showrunners typically get a series launched then turn it over to others to handle. J.J. Abrams was the showrunner for the series 'Lost' and then left after the first season and turned it over to Damon Lindeloff and Carlton Cuse, who handled the show for the remaining 5 seasons. The transition was so seamless I'm not sure how many people realized until well into the series that Abrams was no longer there.

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