AMC's gift to "Walking Dead" writers for great ratings: You're fired.

by Paul William Tenny

AMC's The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead has been very good for AMC this year. The comic-turned-TV series opened big for a cable network, pulling in over five million viewers for its series premier. Those are the best numbers AMC has ever seen for an original series, according to Popcrunch, and the best performing new cable series this year.

And what a pitiful year it has been, where practically every new series on television seems to have crashed and burned with only one or two exceptions.

So popular has Walking Dead been that it was a no-brainer for AMC to order a second season set to air sometime next year. Unfortunately for Walking Dead's writing staff, the "no-brainer" crack is more of a literal description of the show's creator and the network execs. Word leaked tonight that the entire writing staff has been fired just a few weeks before Christmas, and will be replaced by a mashup of the show's over confident creator and a random selection of cheap freelance writers.

I think AMC is in for a rude awakening if they are truly experimenting with the UK-style of TV writing. Torchwood has struggled mightly using this traditionally chaotic and incoherent British model that produces shows with low ratings compared to American series that don't export well to other countries.

The Writers Guild isn't going to sit quietly while talented writers are discarded like used index cards, either. Although I'm not sure they'll have to do much. You don't replace your entire roster just after winning the World Series and then expect to more success to follow, but that's literally what AMC and Darabondt just did.

Speaking of Darabondt, I wonder if he has any idea what he's in for. There are only a handful of people in the entire world that can write a TV series almost entirely alone, and rewriting scripts from your own staff that "gets" your show already and are on the inside sharing and contributing to the overall vision is not anything close to the task of rewriting freelance scripts. It's just not, and not because I say so, but because I've never heard of a show runner that didn't loathe freelance scripts like the plague.

AMC will save a little money not having to pay a writing staff a salary, but they may eat that and a whole lot more in the form of production delays and a decline in ratings as a direct result of lower quality stories.

It's almost as mystifying as the Spiderman franchise being rebooted -- the star actor and director essentially fired -- while the films were still bringing in hundreds of millions at the box office.

What is AMC thinking?

Update: Josh Dickey sent me this tweet. Sorry I didn't get it here earlier:

DHD story totally overblown. 2 writers may lose their jobs -- if that. Staff topped out at 5, including Darabont.

I'll take him at his word.  Still, dumping 40% of your writing staff after getting great ratings (elimiating the excuse of cost savings) and getting a pickup just doesn't seem right. People should be rewarded for success, not discarded. As many people have pointed out, what's left of the comic the show is based on will be used up soon, and the show has already drifted away from the comic anyway. This show needs its writers heading into that more than ever.

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