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TV developer sues network over profits, wrongful termination

A lawsuit has been filed against AMC network by Frank Darabont, a key player in the production of a popular television series, "The Walking Dead." Darabont is filing due to wrongful termination and failure to receive executive producer profits.

If you have seen it, you probably love it; if you haven't, you've heard its addicting. The developers are going head-to-head with the AMC network. They are alleging the network has engaged in self-dealing by low-balling licensing fees for the show and unacceptable accounting practices that have resulted in depriving profit participants of financial compensation.

Complaints include Darabont was wrongfully fired from the show and as a primary executive, should continue to receive credits, as well as proceeds from current spin-offs slated for future viewing. The executive producing credits would also emanate from the novel from which the series was based.

Mr. Darabont and his agency are seeking unspecified monetary damages.

A relaxation of television financial rules regarding syndication have caused many experts to believe this case, like others before it, will never make it to trial and be settled out of court. Precedence is observed in similar complaints of "self-dealing" in such shows as "Home Improvement" and the "X-Files."

Unique in this case is that Darabont was let go during season one, a move considered by many to be a sneaky effort to rebuff his efforts to resolve the issues. In spite of the show's huge popularity and ratings, Mr. Darabont has never received one penny in profits for developing the series and bringing an immense amount of profitability for the network

The suit contends that the AMC fired Darabont without cause prior to the second season, timed in order to avoid contractual obligations for the second season, as well as to avoid to paying profits normally vested at the end of the season two. The move also guaranteed the network would not have to hire him as showrunner for season three.

AMC would not comment on reasons for not providing explanation or warnings prior to Darabon's dismissal.

This case shows us that television shows are not much different that more mundane jobs that are called to task regarding wrongful termination. Salient reasons appear to revolve similarly around the almighty dollar and unwillingness to give credit where credit is due.

Source: wetpaint.com, "Frank Darabont, Former Walking Dead Showrunner Suing AMC Over Show’s Profits" Samantha Leffler, Dec. 17, 2013

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