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Writer putsch on 'The Walking Dead:' What the..!?

One of the zombies from AMC's "The Walking

One of the zombies from AMC's "The Walking Dead." Credit: AMC

Well, well, wellll...what the hell is going on with "The Walking Dead."

As you may have read or heard, the show - under the direction of showrunner Frank Darabont - has canned the entire writing staff, which means the zombies will definitely have no lines next season. The show's excellent first season finale lands this weekend and click here for my review.


But here's the question: Why? The show is hot, easily the biggest hit in AMC history, and Darabont is certainly a savvy guy - and very experienced writer himself, needless to say ("The Green Mile;" "The Shawshank Redemption," etc. Why fire the writers? Darabont will rely on freelancers next year - an old form of TV, actually, that predates the "writers' room" that was birthed in the '80s. He'll hire guys that'll produce a script - a total of 13 eps next season - and then he'll polish. One of the outgoing writers is reportedly Chic Eglee, one of the most respected TV scribes in Hollywood ...

So: what the hell is going on?

First, my own speculation: Cost. This is an AMC show - Valhalla, Circle of Confusion and Darkwoods Productions - are the three production company involved - and I think it's a fair assumption that there's a cost containment issue going on here. Those walkers are expensive too ...

Second, I'm told Darabont wanted "flexibility," per a source. He's used freelances on the show before so this isn't a radical move, and by going freelance, he's able to reach out to writers he's worked with before. The way it works usually in TV: Writers are tied exclusively to a production over a seven or eight month period, but freelances - and Hollywood is full of excellent writers who aren't tied exclusively to a show - can bounce around to different productions or develop their own stuff. Darabont presumably knows a lot of people in the motion picture world, and as this source told me, the freelance model "gets him access to people who wouldn't otherwise be available."

Third, there's a ton of source material already - the show's built on the long-running comic book series, after all. If he hews to that, why not get a freelance to turn around a script that Darabont himself can then polish? Apparently, that's what he's going to do.

OK, I say all this because I'm sure fans are alarmed, and I'm not entirely convinced they
should be alarmed - just yet anyway. 

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