'The Walking Dead' Renewed for Fifth Season, Gimple Staying Put as Showrunner

Walking Dead Scott M. Gimple - H 2013

Walking Dead Scott M. Gimple - H 2013

In some of the least surprising renewal news imaginable, AMC has renewed The Walking Dead. TV's top scripted performer will return in 2014 for a fifth season.

In making the early renewal, AMC noted that newly installed showrunner Scott M. Gimple will return in the same capacity next season. Gimple, who has been with the zombie drama based on Robert Kirkman's long-running comics since season one, ranks as the show's third showrunner, following Frank Darabont and Glen Mazzara

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"We are very happy to make what has to be one of the most anti-climactic renewal announcements ever: The Walking Dead is renewed for a fifth season," AMC president Charlie Collier said Tuesday. "This is a show that has erased traditional distinctions between cable and broadcast. Its expanding base of passionate fans has grown every season, most recently -- and most notably -- with the season-four premiere earlier this month, which broke viewership records for the series and became the biggest nonsports telecast in cable history. On behalf of the incredible team on both sides of the camera, thank you to the fans and here's to more Dead."

An exact episode count for season five has yet to be announced -- this season again consists of 16 total hours split in runs of eight -- and a renewal for Chris Hardwick-hosted companion Talking Dead has also not yet been announced. But the talk show, which was expanded to an hour and runs immediately after the zombie drama, also returned to season highs this year and will likely return for another run.

TV's top performer in the adults 18-49 demographic for more than a year now, The Walking Dead continues to break its own ratings records. The recent season-four premiere drew 16.1 million viewers and a 8.3 rating among adults 18-49 in Live+Same Day viewing alone. Within three days of DVR use, the episode became the biggest nonsports broadcast in cable history, with 20.2 million viewers. In the demo, it surpassed even Sunday Night Football to be the top-rated program of the week across the board. Its third airing of the season bested Fox's coverage of the World Series in the demo.

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In addition to being TV's top scripted series in the advertiser-coveted adults 18-49 demographic, The Walking Dead is a major asset to AMC. After bidding critical darling Breaking Bad farewell, the cable network will also do the same with Mad Men in 2015, with the hopes that a Walking Dead companion series Kirkman has in the works will join the roster that same year.

Aside from its planned Walking Dead companion series, AMC is also developing a Breaking Bad spinoff, Better Call Saul, and drama pilot Line of Sight, starring Walking Dead's David Morrissey. The network has yet to make a decision on the future of Saturday drama Hell on Wheels and freshman Low Winter Sun is not expected to return following a less-than-stellar run after Breaking Bad. Rookie dramas Halt & Catch Fire and Turn will debut in 2014 and the network recently canceled The Killing for a second time. 

In addition to Kirkman and Gimple, executive producers Gale Anne Hurd, Dave Alpert, Greg Nicotero and Tom Luse will also return in season five.

E-mail: Lesley.Goldberg@THR.com
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