AMC Renews The Walking Dead for Season 4... Without Showrunner Glen Mazzara

By Jen Trolio

Dec 21, 2012

What would you like to hear first, the obvious news or the surprising news? Let's start with the obvious news: AMC has renewed The Walking Dead for Season 4.

This was a given, thanks to the show's record-breaking ratings. October's Season 3 premiere drew more than 10.9 million viewers in its first airing, and earlier this month, the mid-season finale drew 10.5 million viewers in its first airing and another 5 million in its encore; those numbers are HUGE for a cable series, and probably the only thing that could've stopped AMC from renewing the zombie drama would be the world actually ending today, as those pesky Mayans predicted it would.

So let's move on to the surprising news, which possibly explains why it took so long for the network to announce the renewal in the first place: Showrunner and executive producer Glen Mazzara is leaving the series.

Here's the official statement from the network:

Today, AMC announces the Season 4 pick-up of The Walking Dead.

AMC also jointly announces with Glen Mazzara today that for future seasons, the two parties have mutually decided to part ways. Glen guided the series creatively for Seasons 2 and 3. AMC is grateful for his hard work. We are both proud of our shared success.

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. This decision is amicable and Glen will remain on for post-production on Season 3B as showrunner and executive producer.

I have to admit that when I first heard this news, I was bummed; Mazzara is directly responsible for The Walking Dead's unbelievable improvement between Seasons 2 and 3. But then the deja vu kicked in, because this isn't the first time the show has lost its 'runner. As you may recall, Frank Darabont—the man responsible for bringing Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead comic series to television—departed after Season 1. At the time, Tim predicted the show would be fine, and now that we're halfway through Season 3, I think a lot of us would agree that it not only survived, it got way better.

What I'm more concerned about is the apparent "difference in opinion" between AMC and Mazzara over where the show should go. I've never read the Walking Dead comics, so I have no idea if the source material is at play here, but one of the reasons AMC is so successful right now is that when it started doing original programming, it gave its show creators an astonishing amount of freedom. But now it feels like the network is making a habit out of doing battle with the minds behind its biggest shows—specifically Matthew Weiner of Mad Men and Vince Gilligan of Breaking Bad—and while a lot of its past disagreements have been money- and contract-related, it's not like money and contracts don't affect the creative paths a show can take. Television is a business, and the issue of art versus profit will never die. But it worries me to know that AMC might be getting a bit more aggressive with its "network notes." And unlike Mad Men and Breaking Bad, AMC owns The Walking Dead outright. Maybe I'm just reading into it too much, but I'd love to hear your own thoughts in the comments.

A replacement for Mazzara has not yet been named.

The Walking Dead returns for the second half of Season 3 on Sunday, February 10.

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  • Orfyreus Jan 14, 2013

    I completely disagree. The show follows some very specific mythological motifs. I don't think there was an improvement between season 2 and season 3. In fact, I think the show was at its best season 1 to mid-season 2. My hope is that the next showrunner will encourage further character-relationship development along with surprising Zombiatic material much like the first half of season 3. This has to stay critically acclaimed, but with a somewhat limited audience. As soon as it starts to leach into popular culture, THAT'S when the quality will really start to deteriorate. Anyone remember Robocop?

  • Nene33 Dec 31, 2012

    Please stay true to the story, please stay true to the story, please stay true to the story.

  • DangDongDang Dec 31, 2012

    No idea what goes on behind the scenes but the material in the comic that is used in season 3 is far better than everything that went before it. Which could be the reason for the improvement in the third season. Unfortunately the quality drops off rapidly after that :(

  • shelbykitchin Dec 31, 2012

    how would u get on the walking dead. how do u get an audition.

  • tvfreakazoid Dec 30, 2012

    i wonder if glen and kirkman weren't getting along.
    I'm curious though amc has been "letting go" their show runners pretty consistently. So far it's been working out but who knows how long.
    I didn't read the comics of the walking dead but i hope things work out cause I really enjoy watching this show.

  • eaudra1 Dec 28, 2012

    Somehow I think it's a little bit premature to say that quality is going to drop when Glen leaving the show. I'd say, let's wait and see - what if those fears will not come true. The show is great - it has zombies! - and change might just be for the good. Compare s1, s2 and s3, they are all different, with different pacing, focus on different points of suvirval, etc., but they all are still great.

  • curry20060 Dec 28, 2012

    Looks like quality will be dropping again after an excellent half season 2 and season three. Crossing fingers that it will not ...

  • SuleimanMusta Dec 27, 2012

    I must admit that although I liked season 3, the way TWD is written now that Darabont has left could mean trouble at some point in the future: S3 so far reminded me of many other shows in the way that it became a little more predictable and that much more happened during most episodes than in S2. The (a little) slower pace of S2 made a lot of sense to me because of the slow build-up of tension during a season and the final "big bang" (see the 'zombies in the barn', the Sophia arc or the final of S2). As it is going now, the "extremism" which is what I like so much about TWD could become boring much quicker.

    So AMC apparently "won" their argument against Mazzara. This could then mean another or the old way of writing. Anyway, I'm curious about what comes next.

  • MightyMad Dec 27, 2012

    You lose one show-runner on a great series - no big deal, as long as you have a plan for said series.

    You lose two show-runners on a great series that is barely three years old.... uh oh.

    Not saying yet it is the beginning of the end, but we all know shows that went downhill after changes made backstage, and most of those changes weren't as major as show-runners coming and going every season.

    Just doesn't look too good for the future of "TWD", that's all I'm saying...

  • LeahLefler Dec 27, 2012

    I love Glen Mazzara! He's such a cool guy as seen on Talking Dead. Walking Dead is fantastic and since MM and BB will be gone soon what kind of leverage did they have?? He's always had great things to say about the episodes and where he wanted the show to go, so I'm a bit worried.
    Well, as long as Greg Nicotero stays on I can avoid that nervous breakdown I'm saving for the series finale.

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