BREAKING: AMC’s Walking Dead Writing Staff Axed, No Writing Staff for Season Two?

Deadline reports that Walking Dead showrunner Frank Darabont may have dismissed his entire season one writing staff. And it doesn't look like he's planning on hiring a new one.


According to the report, Darabont–who penned the first and strongest installment of the six-episode season–wants to forgo the traditional writing staff in favor of dolling out assignments to freelance writers. Based on the strong performance of the premiere and subsequent episodes, AMC has already ordered a 13 episode second season, which is likely to start next Halloween.

As the Deadline piece suggest, It's not unusual for a television series to see a status change between seasons, bringing in new writers or promoting from within. But it's pretty odd to drop the entire writing staff, especially at this stage. It's even weirder to move forward without a staff all together. For Hollywood, at least. It's my understanding, however, that a number of English programs operate with a similar freelance writing setup. On our own Talksplode podcast, Doctor Who and Robin Hood contributor Paul Cornell once explained that he never sat around a board room table with other writers to break a season or even individual episodes. Much of the work was and is coordinated remotely between writer and producer.

My take? While I've enjoyed much of the season, the real golden egg is that pilot. And as long as Darabont is still involved, we're in good shape. We've got our goose and he isn't going anywhere.

This one's early, so we'll keep you posted if we hear anything different. 

UPDATE: Deadline is now reporting that AMC has issued a statement saying "that there will be changes to the writing staff." Stay tuned.


  1. Its still kind of shitty to dump such a great team. Hope we see a lot more kirkman written episodes though.
  2. I’ve maintained from jump street that the writing has been uneven, at best. Glad to know that Frank is seeing things the same way in spite of the ratings success.

  3. Whoa. That’s uhm extreme?

  4. Sooo…while the first episode got great ratings, it was the fifth episode that got the best ratings (all the shows had good ratings) and now we’re going to through a great show into creative chaos for….what reason exactly?
    We FINALLY got a show based on a Comic Book (not graphic novels) done right and now we’re tossing everyine out? I’m worried now but will see what happens over the next few days/weeks

  5. Wow!  Good for Frank.  The man knows he is on a goldmine and refuses to let anything get in the way.

    the Tiki 

  6. @Wood – agreed.  The first episode was the best written.  Subsequent episodes have not lived up to this season premier. 

  7. I’ve heard of this kinda thing happening before. With a TV show, the showrunner and director are responsible for the flow and continuity of the episodes. I didn’t realize this series had a writing staff….that seems so sitcom-y.

    I’d bet they have the entire 2nd season mapped out fairly well and they’ll just bring people in as needed to help fill in dialogue and what not….or maybe Darabont and Kirman will just write it themselves.

    still kinda weird, but then again thats Hollywood.  

  8. I’m with Tiki. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was also done to cut costs a little.

  9. I thought I was the only one who has been fairly bored with the writing, especially considering it is an adaptation of an existing work, and so critically successful – you would suspect that it would be more dramatic and interesting.

    I loved the pilot, however I wished that there was… more…. to the show.

    Glad to see that they are making changes.

  10. I completely trust Darabont.

  11. Yeah Darabonts was really the diamond of the season so far, but Kirkmans was pretty balls out great too.

    Still I think it would be cool to give it over to some freelance writers, although it may mess with the narrative flow between episodes but it would also give writers a chance to tinker with more diverse storylines and charecerizations. Personally I would love to see people like Max Brooks, Joe Hill, and Cherie Preist  give a go at television writing.

  12. IMPO, the pilot was the weakest episode so far (went a bit too sentimental) and while I am a Darabont fan, having all episodes on freelance seems a bit foolish.  I dunno, but there is something to be said for a number of smart people all contributing to an overall arc as well as each individual episode.  Also, I do feel that a writers room of sorts tends to keep the voice of a show more consistent.  Perhaps its just me.  (But remember how bad every freelance simpson episode was…)

  13. Didn’t Kirkman write an episode? Oh God he fired Kirkman! RUN! 

    Like Paul said this is the game, with Darabondt sticking around I have no worries.  

  14. In Darabont I Trust.

  15. The format works well for a show people want to write for, and, although season one’s had some hiccups, I wouldn’t be surprised if Darabont was able to field a dozen freelance entries from solid names.

    Look at what Steven Moffat has achieved w/ Doctor Who, for example. He’s gotten Neil Gaiman and Richard Curtis!

    But, what the format really allows, for a showrunner who really wants to put an individual stamp or coherence to the stories, is for significant editing/oversight without question. 

    Again, the Doctor Who example – Russel T Davies clearly contributed major (and perhaps near-total) efforts to scripts that did not bear his name in the first 4 years of the rebooted Who. In some instances, if you’ve paid enough attention, you can spot the additions/improvements that the head writer brought as he edited (and in some cases significantly rewrote) the freelance submissions.

    The upsides – coherence, sustained voice…. The downside – accelerated burnout.

    I’d like to know more about other examples, but this seems to me to be a slightly more detached version of what AMC’s other shows already do – and the formula has worked fine so far (well, except maybe w/ Rubicon).

  16. Well, I know Mad Men has a writers’ room even if Weiner has a lot of control over the final scripts. There was a big controversy recently when Kater Gordon, his writing assistant and co-writer on an Emmy award winning episode, left the series amidst mysterious circumstances. But on the commentary tracks Weiner often points out jokes and subplots that were generated “by the room.” 

  17. I think Buffy was like that, too. A room that generated the overall plot lines and general goals, then the writers split off to write their own episodes, with Whedon approving final scripts.

    I wonder if this means anyone can submit spec scripts. That might be interesting.

  18. @flakbait  Right, that’s a traditional writers’ room. It worked like that on Lost and most of the sitcoms and dramas we see on television. The variable is the amount of editing the showrunner does to those scripts. Limited edits and tweaks or notes, or full-on Sorkination. Sorkination involves a lot of cocaine though. 

    There’s likely a short list for writers Darabont wants as “freelancers.” More like an invitation only thing. It’s not an open call for pitches. 

  19. OK, when we say “axed” do we mean fired? as in your contract is terminated clean your cubicle?

    Or “axed” as in, we had a contract with you, it expired, we’re not renewing and you were legally aware of this possibility all along.

    because that’s two totally different things.

  20. @JumpingJupiter  I’m speculating because I don’t know what went down but when the series was renewed for a second season, they were given a budget for the staff (which would include the writers) who have now been axed from the show.

  21. @JumpingJupiter  —its important to understand that there are very few “jobs” in movies and TV production…just “gigs”. Its a very mercenary like business and you’re always hustling for the next paying thing, so you move around a lot…especially when there are huge gaps in production like this. People come and go…thats just how it works. 

  22. Hmm, interesting development – hopefully it does not effect the current high quality of the show

  23. This could be a problem. How can you tell a narrative show with no group of writers working together to make it all flow naturally?

    I think you needed to change the writers a bit (keep Kirkman and also the guy who wrote for episode 5) and retool for next season. Cause the guys who wrote episodes 2 and 3 definitely kept the quality down for me. But to make it ALL freelance? That could make a huge difference in the long run.

  24. Darabont is credited for writing the best episode and the worst episode of the series. Considering that he also co-wrote and ep, it could be speculated that he had to step in early on and eased up after Kirkman’s script. I would also think that just because the whole team is “axed”, doesn’t mean any one of them couldn’t be asked back, freelance-style.

  25. There’s only one way to put down a fired writer. You gotta take out the brain!

  26. Frank Darabont may be going the BBC route. at the BBC show like doctor who (my favorite show other then the walking dead) have a show runner (which would be Darabont) and hired writers. that means more stores by Darabont & Robert Kirkman, their solo written episodes are the best of the season. the BBC does this all the time you just dont see it alot in American TV, and The Walking Dead almost feels like a BBC show, i mean shit the guys playing Rick and Morgan are both British. anyways what i’m saying this may not be a bad thing

  27. My guess is that the overall budget for season one was somewhat modest. They only ordered 6 episodes. And for the most part, hired lesser name actors. They obviously spent a little bit of coin on the great effects. But I really wouldn’t be surprised if for the most part, they went with cheap writers. Which would explain some of the clunkier dialogue in some of the eps.

    Here’s my theory. The show turned out to be a pretty dang huge hit for AMC. I’m guessing included in the 13 episode second season pick up is an increased budget for the show. They were just on the cover of Entertainment Weekly, afterall. So maybe Darabont and AMC went, “Hey, we got more money to spend on the show now. Why not get the writers we want, as opposed to sticking with what we had to use this year?”

    Even if that is the case. It is interesting to consider just how cohesive a serial the show can be without one writing team. I know a lot of shows have multiple writers who many of who work on their own. So it’s not some crazy thing. I think it all comes down to exactly how involved Darabont remains. Is he going to be hands on every step of the way with the writing, scripts, and plotting? Or is he just overseeing the overall machine? If he stays on the ground floor of the creative process, I don’t see any reason for worry. In fact, I see this as a good thing for the reasons I stated in my theory. I just hope that’s the case!

  28. Just have Kirkman write each and every episode… kirkman=Stud!!!

  29. OMG, don’t you understand, this is a Zombie show — they’re all coming back after “getting the axe”, and will be hungry!!  So hungry!!  Get out of the Board Room now, Frank!!  Run for it!!

    Then again, Frank probably knows quite well how to keep them down (axe, sure…axe to the head), so he should be safe after all.

    (I get this way sometimes when I’ve finish watching The Colbert Report.)

  30. Okay, a bit more seriously this time…

    You probably want to be careful with this information. The article starts out with “I hear…“, which sets off some of my rumor mill flags.

    The entire article might very well be true, but you just want to keep from jumping to too many conclusions.

  31. The only people I can see this affecting are the writers who have alledgedly lost their jobs.

    As said above, in the UK very few, if any, shows have a writers room; and as you all know, British tv is far superior to American!

    I really can’t see it being a big deal in terms of the direction, or quality of the series.

  32. I’d be fine with Darabont running it like Moffat does Doctor Who, but I’m skeptical until I see who he finds to write. I wasn’t too happy with the people on board for season 1, so maybe season 2 will have great writers. Don’t worry. classic Star Trek worked this way.

  33. Sucks to be those writers, but I don’t see this as a necessarily bad thing for the show.

  34. If this improves the quality of the dialogue, I’m all for it.  There are at least a few times every episode where I literally cringe because of cheeseball dialogue.

  35. They will be giving not only walk-on roles as zombies, but also writer roles:)

  36. I thought the Kirkman episode was really strong.  The pilot was good, but it didn’t feel like anything new — it was an adaptation of the comic as it started.  They’ve already moved on to new/different storylines, and those seem to be the strongest to me.

  37. The pilot was completely different in tone.

    It was more moody, quiet, creepier and easily the most nuanced piece in the show so far.

    Whatever gets me more of that and less silly twists for the sake of twisting will work for me.

  38. Hopefully this doesn’t hurt the quality of the show, which I think has been stellar so far. I got a little lump in my throat when I first saw the headline on the front page, thinking Darabont had been let go, but if he’s still there, then things are in good hands.

    Plus, and I’m not sure how this works, but there is a writers’ union, correct? And if writers are on staff, they probably have to do so much work a season, true? Not saying this is the case here, but if you end up with someone who has one great idea but peters out after that, then you could be stuck having to produce mediocre scripts. Again, I don’t know shit about how Hollywood unions work, but it seems to me that in addition to cutting costs, this could be a way to bring in different ideas, especially if they are going to deviate from the source material (a la the one character who should be dead making it out of the season, as both Darabont and Kirkman have said he/she will) (can we at least spoil the first year of the comic yet. Jeesum Christmas already!!)

    And really, if you think about it, Kirkman and Co. have already “broken” the story with 70-some odd issues of the comic. Not really any need to do that on a larger scale, I guess.

  39. Far be it from me to second guess any of the talents involved here. I think what feels weird about this is that Walking Dead the comic has been the creation of the same two people with the same vision for essentially its entire run, and now Walking Dead the show is like jury duty or a volleyball game. At the same time, given some of the sniping I’ve seen about the writing of the last few episodes, a little turnover can hardly be called a heartbreaker.

  40. Well, I loved 1 and 4 a lot. If I get more of that, then great.
    Just make sure to pickaxe their heads when they get fired.

  41. I actually liked Kirkman’s episode the best, but I think they’ve all been very good.

  42. LMAO , you all crack me up, yes this is a big moment , but i love how everyone is now like yeah the dialog is all clunky at points, and yeah i thought the writing was weak , your all nuts. this is one of the best written shows on Tv and It is probally in the top 5 tv series in the past 5 years as well. Am I concerned that they tossed the whole staff , no not really, the story has been plotted, so now they just need to add their inturpetationof the material and take into account what Darabont wanted to add to the show himself, would I love to see a show with both Darabont and Kirkman writing every episode , hell yeah , but that wont happen, but i cant wait to see who does come out and write for them. Im sure their are plenty of big name writers that would love a shot at an episode, like Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright

  43. i’m interested to see how the writers guild reacts to this

  44. it’s all about saving money on the show’s overall budget.

    british tv does it, and now we’ll start seeing it done more on US TV. The writer’s guild may protest, but I don’t think they can stop it from happening.

  45. @LocoLobo73  – Uh, yeah, not so much dude. The writing is FAR from some of the best on television. You remember Rick’s great line about “light & dark meat”? Uh, yeah.

  46. They should just have Darabont and Kirkman write the whole season 2. They are the best people to be writing it anyway.

  47. I really just can’t picture Frank Darabont barging in after a 48-hour coke binge looking like Roy Schneider from “All That Jazz” and firing everybody because they’ve been clawing at the inside of his skull too hard.  “Just when you thought you won!”

    Well, clearly I can.  Anyway, we’ll just have to see how it plays out. 

  48. They don’t need a writers just follow the comic do and do.