Dismissed initially by some as a mere cynical attempt to cash in on the success of The Walking Dead, AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead has survived through two seasons and begun forging its own identity separate from the show that spawned it. Though not as much of a ratings juggernaut as the original, Fear more than held its own in 2016, finishing as the #12 show on TV in the 18-49 demographic according to Nielsen (via Zap2it).
What does the future hold for AMC’s second-most-popular show? With the third season set to begin this summer, the show’s long-term future is a little bit up in the air with news of a shake-up at the top; David Erickson by all accounts has done a fine job as showrunner for Fear the Walking Dead, and with success comes other opportunities.
Variety reports that Erickson will be leaving after the third season to develop other projects for AMC. Network exec Joel Stillerman had this to say about Erickson:
“We’re beyond grateful for Dave’s amazing work on the first three seasons of Fear the Walking Dead. With Dave as showrunner, the series fulfilled its creative promise to expand the Walking Dead universe in a way that was totally unique from the original series, and has gone on to become the number two drama series in ad-supported cable, behind only The Walking Dead. We are also incredibly excited that Dave has chosen to stay in the AMC family to pursue his next passion project. We look forward to many more successful collaborations.”
This is great news for Erickson professionally but may not be great news for the show he’s leaving behind. Under Erickson’s leadership, Fear the Walking Dead survived some awkward growing pains and won over a devoted following despite concerns that the show would never be anything but a pale imitation of The Walking Dead. After Season 3, someone else will have to pick up the baton and carry the show into the future.
Though changing showrunners can sometimes lead to disaster (just ask fans of Community), such shake-ups need not be the end of the world. Look no further than The Walking Dead itself for an example of a series that has swapped showrunners multiple times and managed to not only continue on but thrive; things seemed grim for TWD when original showrunner Frank Darabont was forced out after Season 1, but Robert Kirkman and later Scott Gimple were able to grow it into the biggest show on TV.
It remains to be seen what changes will be in store for Fear the Walking Dead after David Erickson leaves. Considering the show’s ratings and AMC’s overall track record of giving creative people a chance to be creative, the network should be able to find someone more-than-qualified to take his place and lead the other zombie series through many more seasons of family drama mixed with zombie mayhem. Maybe the new showrunner will even find a way to bring about that Walking Dead–Fear the Walking Dead crossover so many fans are longing for.