While everybody’s busy throwing stones at Walking Dead, I’m going to stand aside and let the backlash play itself out. For all of its faults (which is something I could use as a preface in every single review I write) the series is actually rather successful, if perhaps intermittently, at creating drama and tension and, contrary to what some might say, an interesting subtext.*
I’m pleased, then, that the series will be coming back next year for a 13-episode run, and hopeful that it will build on what has so far been achieved. Watching the series progress, and the reports of its record-breaking viewing figures have been heartening. The latest news, however, I’m feeling rather more ambivalent about.
According to Deadline, Frank Darabont has fired all of the staff writers attached to season one and is looking to press ahead with season two without any. This doesn’t mean he’ll be writing every script himself – though, given the time to do so properly, I’m sure he’d do a wonderful job. Instead, he seems interested in getting scripts the way that, for example, Doctor Who does.
This entails hiring a series of freelancers and tasking them with the writing of their own episode, in isolation, away from any writer’s room. It’s how we do it in Blighty, for the most part.
I can see how a comedy would benefit in particular from the writer’s room approach, and I also appreciate how Walking Dead‘s stories will need less “breaking” than something not at all adapted from a source. All the same, there’s some issues with not having any interplay or formal discussion between the writers of separate episodes in what should be a rather coherent series.
There’s a possibility that staff writers from last time will be re-employed as freelancers next time round, though I can see why many might refuse. Rich tells me that Robert Kirkman will be writing a second series episode. Though he found this out at Comic-Con before there even was, officially, going to be a second series, and definitely before Darabont made like The Postman with a knapsack full of pink slips. Walking Dead without Kirkman seems like a bad idea, however, at least in PR terms. So, with Frank writing an episode or three, Robert writing at least one, maybe we’re looking at nine episodes in search of an author.
If Doctor Who can turn out 13 episodes a year from a pool of freelancers, I’ve no idea why The Walking Dead couldn’t do so too. Maybe the WGA will be able to tell me why the idea is such a bad one.
*I’ll do a full-season review soon and attack this argument more fully then.