Is 'Mad Men' Greed Killing 'Breaking Bad' and 'The Walking Dead'?
It's been a really, rough week for AMC. First The Hollywood Reporter released a pretty shocking article entitled 'The Walking Dead': What Really Happened to Fired Showrunner Frank Darabont,' which put a harsh light on the troubles the network is having juggling the rising costs of television's most critically successful and expensive lineup.
"The cast is 'scared,' the crew is crushed after Darabont is canned while working to fix an episode that a director turned in with unusable footage," starts the THR article, and really it's pretty much a searing indictment of AMC from that point forward.
As we reported in July, popular showrunner Frank Darabont was fired just days after promoting the series for AMC at ComicCon. And "Breaking Bad" series creator Vince Gilligan said season five is likely to be the last for the show, and that he may look for another network to run the final season.
Then last night, the always opinionated Kurt Sutter (showrunner and writer/creator for "Sons of Anarchy") let loose with a series of accusations at AMC (his award-winning show is on FX), basically blaming the network's problems on their willingness to slash the budgets of "Breaking Bad" and "The Walking Dead" in order to meet the increased demands of "Mad Men" and its show creator Matthew Weiner.
“why darabont got fired — weiner. he held AMC hostage, broke their bank, budgets were slashed, s— rolled down hill onto [Breaking Bad showrunner Vince] Gilligan and Frank," Tweeted Sutter. “no one else wants to f—ing say it, but the greed of Mad Men is killing the other two best shows on tv — breaking bad and walking dead.”
As we reported back in March, Matthew Weiner fought for and got a $30 million dollar deal to return to "Mad Men," making him one of the highest paid talents in television.
Then in late June, Jon Hamm closed an eight-figure deal with Lionsgate TV and AMC to come back to his pivotal role as everybody's favorite fraudulent alpha-male ad man for three more years. According to Variety, the new deal gives him up to $250,000 per episode during a 39 episode deal.
Sutter apparently believes the decision to move forward with the "Mad Men" deals meant certain peril for the other two shows, and particularly "Walking Dead" showrunner Frank Darabont.
The "Sons of Anarchy" creator continued his Tweet-rant (isn't there a better word for this sort of thing yet?), saying:
“Darabont reacted strongly to slashed budgets. he made mistakes, he was fired. no creative in town will trust AMC to back up their artists…i don’t know MW, got no beef with him. just hate that Darabont is being demonized. no one has the balls to tell the truth. MM gutted AMC.”
After clarifying his remarks this morning to say that he was pissed at AMC and not Weiner, Sutter took things a step further.
"Apparently speaking one's mind is outrageous, troublesome and self-indulgent. Man, this is a town full of silent, terrified d**ksuckers. Did I cross the line?"
So put THAT in your pipe and smoke it, AMC.
AMC's President Charlie Collier said in an interview with Deadline Hollywood that "the 'Mad Men' negotiation had nothing to do with our other programming. Going into 'Mad Men,' we knew that right behind it would be negotiations on 'Breaking Bad,' 'The Killing' and others. The negotiations for 'Mad Men' were factored into our plans. Some have reported that the 'Mad Men' deal has affected our assessment of other programming and nothing could be further from the truth.
To be frank, though, and to Sutter's point, you really do have to wonder what kind of serious mismanagement is afoot at AMC right now. The network was able to take a really pioneering concept and approach to adult serial drama and birth an entire new wave of truly quality cable programming that has been successfully copied by much bigger and much more well-funded cable networks.
To go from that strong leadership position to months of highly publicized failure in negotiations speaks to a leadership failure somewhere.
While production costs have certainly gone up, and talent demands are clearly rising, AMC execs should be quite easily able to leverage their considerable success in creating popular, critically acclaimed shows to make a healthy profit and still keep their talent happy. If the current AMC leadership can't, I'd bet good money that there's a whole host of proven, competent American entertainment executives who'd kill for the chance to do so.
In Fact Some of Those Executives May Wear Mouse Ears
Of course, there is one other very real possibility - that AMC leadership (and particularly its MBA-trained President Collier) are simply cleaning up the books and tightening up the financial ship to make themselves more attractive for a potential buyout.
Crain's New York recently reported that AMC may be potentially ripe for a buyout, and the business pub mentioned Disney or NewsCorp as potential bidder.
"AMC Networks Inc., the cable-television channel owner spun off last week from Cablevision Systems Corp., may lure buyers from News Corp. to Disney and Time Warner Inc., according to Gamco Investors Inc. If an acquisition fetches $42 a share as Collins Stewart estimates, AMC would be valued at 25 times this year's projected earnings, making it the most expensive U.S. media takeover greater than $500 million since 2006, according to data compiled by Bloomberg."
Don Draper owned by the Mouse Mafia? That's more frightening than a street full of zombies and a meth dealer with a box cutter combined.