Following almost as much life-or-death drama behind the scenes as in the zombie-haunted woods of Georgia, The Walking Dead has named a new show runner, Scott Gimple, who takes over with season four from Glen Mazzara, who departed under strained circumstances at the end of last month. Gimple served as Mazarra’s #2 guy for most of the last season, so he’s already been in the mix.
It’s only the latest chapter in showrunning drama for the AMC smash hit which has had record ratings, and sold thousands of comics and graphic novels—not to mention 8.5 million game episodes. Despite the success, no one seems to be able to stay at the helm. Original series producer Frank Darabont left under strained circumstances, reportedly over penny pinching by AMC, which has a strong rep for messing with other successful showrunners on Madmen and Breaking Bad. Mazzara took over after Darabont, and the reasons for his ouster are pieced together in the Hollywood Reporter.
“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,” AMC said in a statement early Friday announcing the show’s fourth-season renewal. “This decision is amicable, and Glen will remain on for postproduction on season 3B as showrunner and executive producer.”
Sources told THR that Mazzara’s shortcomings in running the series became “abundantly clear … especially for the second half of the season,” with production shut down several times because of a lack of material.
However, some felt that WALKING DEAD creator Robert Kirkman, who is an executive producer for the show and its public face, had something to do with it. Other producers sniped with Kirkman on Twitter, and he’s been tagged as “proprietary.”
Several insiders confirm that Kirkman, whose detailed graphic novels form the basis of the series, is “very proprietary,” as one puts it. One adds, “I believe Robert wants to maintain a certain amount of his control, and AMC needs Robert for the fan base.” But despite the vitriol, some sources involved with Walking Dead say Kirkman was one of several producers on the show who had issues with Mazzara and his vision.
Anyway hither comes Gimple who previously worked on Chase and Fillmore!. He also wrote GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE, but we can say with some authority that this should not be held against him.
Gimple actually has a strong comics background, with a bunch of Simpsons comics to his credit.
Disclosure: In his very early career, Gimple wrote a bunch of Pepper Ann comics for me at Disney, and he was one of my most favoritest writers, always funny and dead-on with tone. I’m not a bit surprised to see the success he’s gone on to have. Showrunning The Walking Dead sounds like a bit of a challenge, but I’m rooting for Gimple to survive the showrunner apocalypse.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.