Walking Dead: The Brains Behind A Winning Zombie Show
By Chauncey Telese
Happy November, everyone! I hope you all had a spooky scary time during your Halloween weekend whether you were at a party, trick or treating, staying at home handing out candy, or smashing pumpkins. Regardless of what you were doing this weekend, two things were certain, you had a better time then Charlie Sheen, and there was no shortage in entertainment on Halloween weekend (“Saw VI” being the exception of course).
Jets fans were spooked by the performance of the “Sanchize,” Jon Hamm and Rihanna knocked it out of the park on “SNL,” Ranger fans were terrified by the pitching of Madison Baumgartner (that may be the least intimidating name for a pitcher right?), all of the fans that were in costume (the Saints fans setting a Guinness World Record by the way), but the best thing on TV this weekend was the debut of AMC’s “The Walking Dead.”
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This new series based on Robert Kirkman’s comic book series of the same name premiered to the highest number for a scripted cable series in 2010 (it beat the likes of “Dexter,” “Mad Men” and “True Blood” and even beat “Jersey Shore,” not exactly like beating the Cowboys) which would seem highly unlikely because how many zombie shows do you see everywhere? That’s right, none!
In the pilot episode written and directed by Frank Darabont (he directed “The Green Mile,” “The Mist” and one of the greatest movies of all time, “The Shawshank Redemption”) who is also a producer and showrunner, tells the story of Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) a Kentucky sheriff who wakes up from a coma following a shooting on the job. He wakes up what seems like months later in an empty hospital that looks like it was trashed by Charlie Sheen.
As he wanders looking for any sign of life, he sees a plethora of dead bodies scattered around and also sees some of those dead bodies moving. Rick manages to make it to his house and notices his wife and son are gone but he is convinced that they’re still alive (we find out later that he’s right, but there is a sad twist to it).
As he continues to travel, he is knocked out with a shovel by Duane and his father Morgan (Lennie James) because they think he is a walker. When Morgan is convinced that Rick is still alive, he tells him that the world was in a panic, that he lost his wife (Morgan still hasn’t been able to kill her because it’s still too tough for him) and also explains that the walkers are drawn by noise and to kill them they must be shot in the head.
The three of them hunker down in an abandoned house and Rick struggles the first night as he watches the walkers wander around the neighborhood. Morgan tells Rick that the CDC set up shop in Atlanta and if he wanted to find his wife, that’s where he should go. Rick takes Morgan and Duane to his sheriff station where they gather weapons and two walkie-talkies so they can communicate. Rick then heads to Atlanta where the bulk of the action scenes occur.
I can’t honestly say that I know the graphic novels well, but my friend Britney is a big fan of the series and she told me that the show this far follows the book. By the way, if you’re reading this, Britney (not bloody likely), I’m sorry if I completely botched the summary of the episode. Anyways, the pilot was fantastic, the zombies look incredible (look for it to win some technical Emmys), it is well-written, the cinematography is breathtaking at times and the lack of score definitely adds to the creepy tension. I love the acting in it and can’t wait to see what happens as we meet more of the survivors.
While the pilot may not explain much about what happened, it does pilots are supposed to do. It establishes the universe we are in and also shows the brutal psyches of the survivors and in Duane’s case, how much he has to step up even at the tender age of 14. We see Rick have to come to terms with killing the zombie versions of people he knows and just how lonely he really is. That is not to say it’s all quiet subtlety, the last 15 minutes are pretty brutal and the pilot is actually pretty graphic for basic cable.
There are only six episodes in this first season because AMC wasn’t sure how this show would play out because understandably there isn’t really a template for zombie shows. Judging by how well it did in its debut, I’m willing to bet that within the next week or so it will get a full 13-episode pick up and a second season, as well it should. How smart does AMC look? They have won three straight best drama Emmy awards, three best actor (drama) Emmy awards, and yet they have no money and rely on reruns of “A Few Good Men” to make ends meet. They are outdoing every major network but Fox because “Glee” is such a juggernaut (I realize “Modern Family” is one as well but that is all ABC has). If AMC was a sports team they would basically be the Tampa Bay Rays, no payroll but still manage to make it to the playoffs because they have smart people working for them.
I’m still not sure if “The Walking Dead” is the best new show of 2010 because “Boardwalk Empire” is phenomenal as well so it will come down to whose season ends better. One of my deepest regrets this year was missing this panel at ComicCon because I’ve been intrigued by this show for months now and am hell-bent on seeing the panel next year. As far as supernatural shows go, this is starting to look like it could overthrow “True Blood” as the best one on TV.
Thank you for reading and later this week I’ll be back with a double header of “Megamind” and “Due Date”. “The Walking Dead” airs Sundays at 10 p.m. PST on AMC.