AMC is making good on its threat, I mean promise, to create a half-hour discussion show to follow episodes of “The Walking Dead.” Now, while my inclination is to mock this idea (“The Mocking Dead?”), I can see the point of it. Networks need cheap programming, as I said, and this is a type of cheap programming that is a little different from the regular reality show, and ties in with the more prestigious world of scripted TV. In an era when online discussion has made us want to talk about shows in depth, this is a way for a network to get in on that: instead of going online to find out what happened and why, we can stick around and find out from insiders. And because there’s a feeling that we’re all going to be moving from DVDs to streaming (Netflix sure wants us to) the “making-of” extra will no longer be as valuable as it was during the TV on DVD boom; maybe it makes more sense to actually program these segments and sell commercial time on them.
Now, the mockable stuff – well, you probably noticed most of that. There’s the name, “The Talking Dead.” Most of all, there’s the lack of likelihood that this kind of thing can really be a venue for serious discussion. With a show as flawed as The Walking Dead, there are lots of things that can be brought up, but even if the show takes some cutting questions from fans, there won’t be much they can say. This is why most DVD “making-of” extras aren’t very enlightening: everyone somehow manages to tell us that everything was great, everyone did a great job, they got exactly the cast they wanted, and so on. If “The Talking Dead” turns out to be something more hard-hitting or in-depth, that would be interesting – but if you were a network executive, would you let insiders say stuff that might negatively affect the success of the show? More than that, if you were an insider, would you want to say stuff like that? I just don’t see how, whether Walking Dead‘s second season is good or bad, the discussion show could be more than a glorified DVD extra every week. Maybe it’ll prove me wrong and re-invent the whole genre of self-produced criticism; but the odds are against it.
It also brings to mind one of Monty Python’s suggested endings for an episode (at about 1:30 in this clip) – if you don’t have an ending, get two big match experts to sit down in the studio and say what they thought about what we’ve just seen. “What about summing up from the panel? That’s cheap.” Yes, it is.