There were a lot of stories, some maybe true, some maybe not, that Frank Darabont was having trouble adjusting to the job of running The Walking Dead, even though the first season was very short. Now he has stepped down from the showrunner job, sparing himself the need to turn out a whole 13 episode season.
The theory in the linked post and others is that Darabont is a writer-director, not really a showrunner. He wrote and directed the pilot, generally considered the best part of the series. (AMC has now done two straight shows, The Walking Dead and The Killing, where the series didn’t really live up to the pilot, but in fairness, not living up to the pilot is a long-standing tradition of U.S. television drama.) Pilots are well-suited to the skill set of a feature writer-director: he writes the script and shoots it, just with less money and in a more compressed amount of time than a feature. Running the subsequent series, at least in the U.S., is obviously different.
Even a very hands-on showrunner has to do a lot of delegating. Someone else had to write at least the first drafts of the script most weeks. Someone else almost always has to direct. So the showrunner’s job is to oversee the cranking-out of all these episodes while putting his or her personal stamp – or at least a consistent style – on all of them. Darabont isn’t the first movie person to be less than fully right for that job. One random example, film and TV director Don Siegel took a job as producer on the series “The Legend of Jesse James,” and told Peter Bogdanovich that he regretted it: “I directed the pilot and became the series producer, a job that I’m not equipped to do – an enormous amount of detail. There’s no time to direct if you’re going to be a producer.”
I don’t know that Darabont’s self-demotion (he’s not leaving completely, just not running it) will change the show much, for good or bad, since he has a second-in-command who can slide into the job for now. And of course the demands of the original comic-book source, along with the ratings success of the first season, mean that certain things will be similar no matter who’s running it.