Ach! Zombies!


AMC’s massive publicity campaign for The Walking Dead paid off for the premiere, with 5.3 million viewers and a Coveted Demographic rating that surpasses quite a few major network shows. Of course it will drop in future episodes, but it’s dropping from a number that was inconceivable for this network even a year ago — 5.3 million is more than Community has gotten for all but one episode this season (the Zombie episode, of course). As Jeremy Mongeau said on Twitter, it seems to be AMC’s True Blood, a monster show adapted from a pre-existing property, offering a perfect combination of low and high.

The low: extreme violence that even a modern-day broadcast network could not get away with. (The instantly-famous “it’s okay because it’s a zombie” shooting scene would still probably not be allowed on a broadcast show, zombie or no zombie.) The high: A dose of social commentary and emphasis on moral issues — are the humans the real monsters? — that makes it okay to enjoy the violence and soapy elements. Some commentators are annoyed by True Blood‘s pretensions, but they’re a necessary part of what makes the show so popular. The sense that True Blood is a high-class show, and not just an Aaron Spelling thing with more fangs and more breasts, means that it can be enjoyed by people who would not normally tune in for a pure escapist romp. Walking Dead is more serious and downbeat than True Blood, based on a property that is more serious in tone than the Sookie books. But it has the crossover appeal of a lot of good “serious” comics — which, as the Scott Pilgrim movie proved, doesn’t extend to comic adaptations that don’t take themselves seriously at all. They work for people who like broad, extreme comic book action and those who want something that isn’t so comic book-ish.

I have no idea what other networks are going to do for their inevitable monster shows (update: as a commenter correctly noted, I forgot to mention that the CW has already done this with The Vampire Diaries), though you can certainly see why NBC wants to remake The Munsters. It does seem like adaptations of pre-existing properties are really good bets for this kind of show. Maybe special effects are finally cheap enough that a network will try bringing back this guy on a TV budget.


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Ach! Zombies!

  1. I think people err when they say Walking Dead is a serious comic – and JW isn't the first one. I only read teh first book, but the social issues seemed a poor unexplored afterthought, and he couldn't even pull off a well-worn "rugged individualism asserts itself as society collapses" adequately. Obviously the author wants it to be a "where is my next can of soup coming frm" type deal but then throws the bigger social issues clumsily over top. The pacing is bad even for the constraints of a comic. It's not even a kid's comic – it's just a poorly done comic.

    Not to say the TV show necessarily repeats these mistakes.

    • Well, without judging the comics (I haven't read enough of them to judge) something can be "serious" without being worthy of taken seriously. I do think, from what I've seen of them, that it's fair to say that TWD is trying to be serious, especially when compared to something like the Sookie Stackhouse books that aren't taking themselves that seriously.

      • I was thinking "serious" as in worthy of attention on its merits. I mean Scott Pilgrim deals with young people in a halff-antasy setting, yet it is so clever hilarious and even poignant that it can't be ignored.

        The mistake in meaning is mine – I can see now you meant as describing tone.

    • Maybe you should keep reading TWD before judging its level of social commentary. The early issues focused primarily on the individual pysholocigal effects of surviving the Zompocolyspe but later books offered serious commentary on crime, justice, and communities.

      I don't even know what complaint you could have about the pacing? Is it to fast, rushing over the 'social commentary' or to slow and spending too much time on individual psycology?

      TWD is a serious comic book but more importantly it is a seriously good read. In fact of all the books I have shared with my friends, TWD and Y: The Last Man are the tops of their lists of best reads. Though for commentary on politics and society my fave is Ex Machina.

      • If that was a focused look at psychological effects, my comments stand. I readily understand that's what the book was trying, but a junior high reader could see it was hackneyed tripe.

      • I like Y but not enough to pay $ for it so I haven't read all of it. I think the Sandman is brilliant and Runaways (also by Vaughn, in places) was very well done. Everything else currently out I've read hasn't been anything to shout about (and please no "you need to read X, X, and X". Seriously, I probably don't).

  2. I'm rather upset that The Walking Dead is not available on Canadian iTunes. Here's hoping they fix that, soon.

  3. I have no idea what other networks are going to do for their inevitable monster shows

    Um, WB's Vampire Diaries? Pretty much a direct response to the Twilight/True Blood fad; also licensed property.

    To summarize the others:
    NBC – Dig a long dead property out of the vault, completely screw the execution through executive interference
    Fox – Hire Joss Wheedon/Bryan Fuller to produce an original idea, schedule it Fridays, run no ads.
    ABC – Find a marginally memorable 90's teen show actor to star, hand production off to Bad Robot
    CBS – Monsters? Who over 40 cares about monsters?

  4. Mike T, if that is really what you thought of The Walking Dead comics, then there's just nothing to say to you. I'm just delighted that Frank Darabont felt so very differently when he picked up the books in his comic shop. Sorry, but I'm with him on this one.

    • As you will, of course. I mean, a lot of people liked the Twilight books, which I loathed. (Strangely, the only part I thought was clever – shiny vampires – was hated by a lot of genre afficianados).

      And it could still make a decent TV show – just please have somebody else write it!

  5. I wish you guys would talk more about Cinema, or anything, and less about s&&&tty TV.
    ( I have the Internet – hint hint)

    Hey, I thought you were members of the elite?

    I dont have cable – I liove cartoons, but come on – if I read one more dissection of a garbage TV show by you guys, I will claim a honary degree in communications.

    Maybe they pay Macleans for this garbage.

    • So, your problem is that Jaime's talking about T.V. too much in the T.V. column???

      For me, when I want to read less discussion of television, I tend to avoid reading columns called "TV Guidance". Maybe that's just me.

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