Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Hollywood Babble On & On #639: Walking Dead Writers Get Their Walking Papers

Welcome to the show folks...

Meanwhile another show isn't being exactly welcome to its writers. Frank Darabont, executive producer and showrunner of AMC's breakout zombie hit The Walking Dead has given the shows staff writers their walking papers. That's right, after the huge success of Season 1's six episodes, he's going into the 13 episode 2nd Season by himself, with planned contributions from the comic's creator Robert Kirkman, and some freelancers.


I can't say that I'm all that keen on this idea, now I could snark about it based on rumors that Mr. Darabont is hard to get along with, but I don't like to deal in rumors, because I'm not an insider with insider info, I'm as far out as you can get and still be on the same continent. So, in the interest of fairness, which I rarely practice, I will take a look at the Pros and Cons of the business/creative ramifications of this decision.


1. I'm assuming that this is somehow going to save the show some money, and the original writers might still be rehired under some convoluted Hollywood style accounting scheme.

2. Darabont's defenders state that the series is following a more British style model. The British model is that the series has a limited number of episodes, and a limited number of writers. Many British TV series are written by a single writer as one big sort of 'novel for television.' The closest a more mainstream American series came to the "one writer" plan was J. Michael Straczynski and his sci-fi series
Babylon 5, where he wrote entire seasons by himself for a total of 92 of the series 110 episodes.

3. Other defenders say that the series is pretty
much already written inside the pages of Robert Kirkman's ongoing and long running comic book series.

Now let's look at the...


1. The odds that the original staff writer are going
to be rehired as freelancers under some Hollywood accounting scheme are pretty slim. Resentment can come into Hollywood relationships, and other shows love to poach people with time on hits. Especially a come from nowhere, unexpected hit like Walking Dead.

2. While I do advocate the British model for certain types of TV series, and that some shows do better as a limited run miniseries than as an ongoing. These sorts of stories are small scale, and self-contained with an obvious beginning, middle, and end, and often years between each 'series.'

However, The Walking Dead, by the nature of its source material is a large, long, and ongoing sort of serial drama about survival in a world where civilization has ceased to exist.

Yes, Straczynski did it on Babylon 5, but it kind of showed. I was never a big fan of the show, mostly because of parts where plot-lines were stretched out when they should have been wrapped up quickly, and explanations denied when logic screamed for them because asking and answering questions didn't fit with the show's central plan. This could have been avoided if there was a bit more collaboration with fresh eyes and minds, instead of trying to go it pretty much alone.

3. Yes, the series is pretty much pre-written in comic book form. But that's not as easy a proposition as you think. Adapting a pre-existing work is a huge can of worms, requiring an understanding of the source story, the medium it was told in, and the best strategies for bringing the story, themes, and characters to the screen.

An ongoing story like The Walking Dead requires all these and probably then some, including a level of team work that might not be found with a bunch of insecure freelancers.

Now that I weighed the pros and cons I have to admit that I'm still a tad uneasy with this decision, and will have to wait and see how it's going to turn out.


  1. Lindazilla1/12/10 3:40 pm

    I'm amused (and bemused) by those that think the first episode was the best one. I thought it was very slow, and was frustrated with Rick being such a dumbass. (At least in the comic when he wakes up the first thing he does is look in the dresser in his room and GET DRESSED.)

    Although the show has strayed drastically from the source material, it's not unexpected and really was necessary. The first 12 issues (if I remember correctly) were all set at that camp. Can you imagine that for a TV show? Zzzzzzz.

    Rick did go into Atlanta on horseback, but he was saved by Glen and only Glen. No scavenger party, no tank, no Dodge Charger, no Merle, etc. So, we needed the extra characters to build relationships and drama and conflict, etc. If only they had made those extra characters (and the originals, for that matter) actually LIKABLE.

    The writing thusfar has been sloppy, IMO. Rick is lectured by Glen about how hard it is to get in and out of Atlanta to scavenge .. yet they slip in and out with hardly any trouble at all. The dialog is laughable at times and the characters are more like caricatures. Caricatures of stereotypes, for that matter.

    Still. We're talking zombies. Or "infected" (but that's a whole other debate). So, I'll watch. Once I saw how far the show had strayed from the comic, I told myself to forget the comics and just accept the TV show for what it was. I just haven't decided what that is, yet.

  2. When I first heard this announced, I thought it would be right up my alley. Having seen four episodes, my feelings are pretty mixed. I mean, Kirkman and Darabont! I like both of 'em! ...Don't I?

    I've never read 'The Walking Dead'. I have, however, read the first sixty or so issues of 'Invincible', Kirkman's other big comic. As interesting as some of the dynamics were, I gave up on it after the eighteenth time a previously-recurring villain got their intestines ripped out in a way that was apparently supposed to shock me. Sadly, I've begun to realize that, it's quite possible that Kirkman's just a one-trick pony, which is all the sadder when it's the same trick that every other Joe Blow in the comics industry has been using for the last ten years - Mindless Violence That Pretends To Have A Point (TM).

    Meanwhile, as much as I like Darabont's stuff (when people say something is 'schmultzy', that's actually a compliment in my eyes), I have never, despite multiple attempts, been able to make it through 'The Mist'. And it's not (exactly) for the reason you'd first expect. And this series seems to be going in the same general direction as that - to paraphrase one critic, a whole bunch of people stand around airing their personal issues to each other while a mindless horde claws at the door, but only gets through when it's dramatically appropriate.

    I'm sure the kind of people who like to call themselves sophisticated TV viewers because they watch shows about drug dealers and 50s ad execs and undertakers are in love with this stuff, and probably tell everyone 'oh, yes, I watch that Zombie Show, but it's not REEEALLY about the Zombies, it's about the Relationships!' ...Yeah. I'm gonna have to say, if the last two episodes manage to un-wow me as much as the others, count me the heck out.

  3. I thought B5 was a great SF show, it did have one of the best lines uttered by a female character.

    "Only one human captian ever survived an attack on a Minbari Fleet, he is behind me and you are in front of me, if you vaule your lives leave now."