July 28, 2011


Prior to the AMC presentation at the Television Critics Association Press Tour, Joel Stillerman – Senior Vice President of Original Programming, Production and Digital Content for the network – took some time to give some status updates and talk about some of the already established and much-talked about AMC series, including The Walking Dead, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, The Killing and the upcoming western drama Hell on Wheels. Here are the most interesting points:

  • Season 5 of Mad Men starts filming on August 8th, with show star Jon Hamm making his directorial debut.
  • Glenn Mazzara is indeed taking over as showrunner for Season 2 of The Walking Dead, now that Frank Darabont has departed the series.
  • AMC is still on track with filming for The Walking Dead, allowing them to make their already announced October 16th premiere for Season 2.
  • If they had known the strongly negative reaction the ending of The Killing was going to cause with fans, they would have handled the marketing of Season 1 differently.
  • Although AMC is pleased with the performance of the current season of Breaking Bad, there has been no Season 5 pick-up yet.

Hit the jump for a lot more:

jared-harris-mad-men-image-3In regard to the commitment for Seasons 5 and 6 of Mad Men, Stillerman said that the cast will be back in front of the camera on August 8th, and that actor Jon Hamm would be making his directorial debut for the season premiere. He also pointed out the increase in viewership for Breaking Bad and said what a great start they’re off to with Season 4, but that no decision had been made yet, as far as future seasons are concerned.

Of course, after the recent announcement that Frank Darabont has departed as showrunner of the critically acclaimed and fan favorite zombie series The Walking Dead, that also was addressed by Stillerman. While no real reason was given for what had transpired behind the scenes, there was confirmation that Glenn Mazzara, who was a writer on Season 1 and is now an executive producer and writer on Season 2, has been elevated to the role of showrunner. Along with that, comic book series creator Robert Kirkman will be continuing on in his role as full-time writer and executive producer, and executive producer Gale Anne Hurd, with also be continuing as executive producer, hopefully making things a seamless transition into the rest of Season 2 and allowing them to make their already announced October 16th premiere date.

During his announcement, Stillerman went on further to add, “I also want to take a second and say a very heartfelt thank you to executive producer Frank Darabont for the incredible contribution he’s made to The Walking Dead. He’s a visionary writer and director. He wrote a brilliant pilot. He directed a brilliant pilot. His fingerprints are all over the adaptation of Robert Kirkman’s brilliant source material to the television show that you see, and we’re grateful for his contribution.”

Here are some further responses, in regard to the controversial ending for Season 1 of The Killing and how they might have taken a different approach in managing the expectations of what was going to happen within the season, how close The Walking Dead will stick to the story in the comics from here on out, and the possibility of further seasons for Mad Men, Breaking Bad, The Killing and Hell on Wheels:

Question: Many people are up in arms because The Killing didn’t reveal the killer, while other people thought it was great and were very happy with the way the season ended. Why do you think that show was so polarizing?

the-killing-tv-show-image-06JOEL STILLERMAN: I think the major takeaway for us, after the finale of The Killing, starts with the headline (“Who Killed Rosie Larsen?”). For everybody who was frustrated, we hear you, and if we had to do anything differently, I think we would certainly have taken a different approach, with respect to managing the expectations of what was going to happen within that season. It was never intentionally meant to mislead anybody. There was never one meeting or email or conference call where we talked about it, in those terms. Our goal was to create a brilliant – if I can be so humble – piece of character-based storytelling that was mixed with a genre that we all love – the murder mystery – and try and do something a little different than has been done in that space before. We think we got there, but we definitely didn’t manage expectations the way that they should have been managed. I will also say Veena Sud has an incredible vision for that show. Her writers’ room for Season 2 opens next month, and we’re incredibly excited about what’s coming down the pike. You will find out who killed Rosie Larsen in Season 2, definitely.

walking-dead-season-2-image-01Why would Frank Darabont leave a show that was so successful? Was there some kind of conflict between him and management, or the rest of the team?

STILLERMAN: You know, I don’t have much to add to the circumstances of it. I really mean what I say, when I say Frank’s contribution to the series was invaluable and he is a brilliant writer/director. I will also say we have full confidence in the team moving forward. Glenn Mazzara is a terrific showrunner. He’s got a lot of great experience. He’s been an integral part of this show from Season 1, and certainly in Season 2. So, we’re excited to move on, but I don’t have a lot more to add on the circumstances of it.

Do you know anything about Frank’s plans from here?


Do you know how closely The Walking Dead is going to stick to the comic books going forward?

STILLERMAN: I think there’s going to be a lot you’ll recognize, if you’re a fan and follower of the book, but one of the things we set out to do, from day one, and one of the things that Robert Kirkman has been adamant about, is that we take some twists and turns. For those of you who were comparing and contrasting the books and the show, you’ll note that the fabulously talented John Bernthal, who plays Shane, is still alive. That was probably slightly unexpected, and we have some equally unexpected twists and turns coming up in Season 2, but there’s a lot of stuff you’ll recognize.

Breaking-Bad-imageExactly how many more seasons are you committed to with Mad Men, and where do you see things going with Breaking Bad? Is it inconceivable that The Killing could possibly see a third season? And, what are the chances of Hell on Wheels getting a second season?

STILLERMAN: Well, with Mad Men, we’ve committed to two more seasons right now, and that’s incredibly exciting for us. With Breaking Bad, we just launched two weeks ago to a 20% increase in demo delivery. We’re off to a great start, but there’s no decision yet. We’re only two episodes in. With The Killing, as an ongoing character drama, we can see where we would spin out more stories around the investigation of crimes. We don’t really talk about ratings metrics, but we have significantly high hopes for Hell on Wheels because of the incredible synergy between the western genre and our channel. We’re feeling confident that it’s going to start strong.