Wow, Sunday night Television is getting packed. We have Football (usually the week’s marquee game), HBO’s Boardwalk Empire and now AMC joins the party with their amazing new dense series The Walking Dead. I’m not a fan of Zombies, always found them really boring, so it’s a good thing AMC’s new series is about how people live in a Zombie infested world and not just Zombie killing 101.
I’ll admit I’ve had the screener for the first two episodes for over a month now (thanks AMC!) but couldn’t discuss it due to the embargo rules. Since I had all that extra time, I decided to do something I rarely do with an adaption – read the source material. I’ve had the first couple of trades for about six months and never bothered to read them until now. After reading the first four issues, I don’t understand the series popularity. While I understand what writer/creator Robert Kirkman is trying to accomplish – focus on the characters and not necessarily “plot” or “action,” I found it to be really slow and tedious. I’m sure the series will pick up once the characters are all fleshed out.
As Kirkman says, the theme of the series is “In a world ruled by Zombies, we are finally forced to start living.” AMC’s new series follows the same formula the Comic Book takes. Focus on characters, not the Zombies.
The new six episode series from Producer Frank Darabont (The Green Mile, The Shawshank Redemption) is a dense slow burn like the comic book it’s based on. The difference here is, the compressed time frame, if I didn’t have 20 issues to read in one go, I would have dropped the book after a few months, but TV is a different story. In some respects this is the perfect material for television. It’s slow, deliberate pacing forces you to pay attention to the characters.
The story has been done a million times, most recently the Resident Evil series, 28 Days Later, where the hero of the piece, wakes up after a long coma to a completely changed world. So this material has be mined to death, but somehow it still works. I actually care about what happens to former Sheriff Rick Grimes’ (Andrew Lincoln) plight. Lincoln does a fantastic job of giving this hero an everyman quality. Darabont’s direction of the first episode shows a lot of patience and style. He gives this show an amazing big budget, major movie style look; the sweeping shots of long empty roads as Grimes walks and drives through gives a weight to the material. In most Zombie movies you see the end results as the hero starts their journey. Here it’s a wasteland.
The first two installments of the series is all about us learning what makes Grimes tick. As the series unfolds we’re introduced to the rest of the characters, a small band of survivors who are living just outside of Zombie Infested Atlanta. I don’t want to mention who these characters are in this review as it will spoil the surprise for folks who don’t know anything about this series. But this also presents a question and concern.
The Walking Dead is clearly for people who are aware of the comic book series, but the problem is, it’s critically acclaimed Indy comic, so is there a large enough audience? The other issue will be, while AMC is doing an excellent job of marketing this show, they need to avoid the trap of marketing this as strictly a Zombie show. It’s much more than that, and if people are tuning in thinking it’s all Zombie all the time, they will be sorely disappointed. While there is a good amount of gore for a 10 pm, Cable Show, it’s not a constant flow. As I said this series is about the characters and not the blood splatter.
I’m not sure how well this show will work once commercials are factored in and the weekly slog of it. It seems to me this will be the perfect show to fire up those DVRs for, it’s one that really sucks you in, but I’m guessing will be so much better watching as a whole. Kind of like the comics, the show will probably best be enjoyed in “trade” form. AMC, Darabont, Kirkman and all others should be proud of what they put together here; movie quality production on a TV Budget, with stellar writing. The Walking Dead will air Sundays at 10pm on AMC.
Final Grade A
EM Review by
Originally posted 10.31.2010