It may be difficult to remember at this point, but there was a time when AMC’s The Walking Dead was a really good show—specifically during the majority of its first season. It wasn’t surprisingly good, it wasn’t better than it had any right to be, it was just legitimately good. It was also, apparently, extremely expensive and difficult to make in that first season, which led to a split between AMC and original showrunner Frank Darabont. The network fired Darabont ahead of The Walking Dead’s second season, and then he sued AMC for allegedly forcing him off of the show and for refusing to pay him what he thought was his share of the show’s profits (with the profits growing and growing as the show became a massive hit that was also sometimes stupid and bad).
One of the core issues of the case was that The Walking Dead was AMC’s first wholly owned original series, as it both produced and distributed the show, and while this is kind of an Industry Insider thing, the results of this suit could’ve had all sorts of huge implications for how profit sharing works in this world where it’s increasingly common for networks/streaming platforms both produce and distribute their own content. But what does that mean? Well, we’ve got good news: It doesn’t matter. As is often the case with Hollywood lawsuits that could’ve had huge implications if they had gone to court (like the Conjuring lawsuit that hinged on whether or not ghosts are real), this one has been settled—which means, unfortunately, we’re not going to find out how this would’ve impacted profit sharing, which means, unfortunately, we’re not going to have to read up on vertical integration in show business. We may be smiling, but trust us, we’re disappointed.
Anyway, The Hollywood Reporter says that AMC and Darabont have agreed to a settlement that involves Darabont and his representatives at CAA getting nearly $200 million in exchange for calling off the suit and giving up “most of their rights” to anything related to The Walking Dead. That means… basically nothing for those of us who are not Frank Darabont or employees of CAA, but there has always been something grimly fascinating about the lawsuit given Darabont’s insistence that everyone who worked on the show other than him was either lazy or incompetent, as displayed in a series of “fuck you” emails that Darabont sent to people during his time on The Walking Dead—which backs up any justifications AMC might’ve had for firing him. Then again, the show was really good in season one when Darabont was there, so maybe he was right that nobody was pulling their weight like he was?
On top of all of this we have the fact that AMC original attorney on this was a man named Marc Kasowitz, who (before being fired) complained about Darabont’s expletive-filled emails despite the fact that he famously sent some expletive-filled emails of his own on behalf of his only other client, a terrible politician/terrible real estate mogul/terrible human being who will go unnamed here. This has all been a wild journey, and now it has come to an end… except Darabont still has ongoing lawsuits with some other Walking Dead folks, like creator Robert Kirkman, and that won’t be going to trial until later this year (unless it also gets settles). So, much like The Walking Dead, Darabont’s lawsuits will just keep shambling on.