The Walking Dead Premiere – A Show that Rules or Has Fortunate Timing?

by on November 2, 2010

in Entertainment

The Walking Dead, a Review, Retrospect & Some Questions

The Walking Dead on AMC

The Walking Dead premiered on AMC on Sunday night, October 31st, 2010.  It’s the perfect night and perfect timing to premiere a TV series based on a popular comic book where a man wakes up from a coma to find himself in a world infected by zombies.

In airing the premiere when it did, AMC netted 5.3 million viewers, 3.6M of them were adults in the 18-49 age-range category.  (That’s the shopping demographic everyone loves.)  These numbers set a record for the highest rated cable original series premiere for 2010.  That equates to a 3.7HH rating. (That’s an estimated 3.7% of all household TVs.)   When they added the encore transmissions, the total number of viewers jumped to 8.1 million total viewers.  That’s awesome.

In a sense it was the perfect ending to the very popular Halloween horror-thon that AMC calls AMC Fearfest.  In their fearfest, AMC aired over 300 hours of content which included 60 movies, that started on October 18th this year.  The ended it perfectly!

The Walking Dead (TWD) was written for TV by Academy Award-nominee Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, The Mist, Collateral).  Darbont also directed and produced TWD.

My initial questions about the show were:

  1. Did the serious amount of heavy viral marketing help the show be the success it was?  Media outlets were pummeled with all kinds of goodies and gadgets, who in turn regurgitated the news.  (That’s not a bad thing… I’m just saying, as a point.)
  2. Was premiering on Halloween night an awesome tactical maneuver that netted the comic book adaptation series one of the best moves ever?
  3. Is the fan base for the comic franchise really that huge?
  4. Or was the show that good?

In a word, let me quote myself from a later point in this article:  “The Walking Dead plot is a superbly balanced flow of slow energetic anxiety.”

My Retrospect/Review of AMC’s The Walking Dead

I’ve never read the comic book of the same title that’s been out since 2003 and knew very little about the franchise until I started hearing about it when back in January of 2010 I wrote about AMC having greenlit the development of the series based on The Walking Dead comic by Image Comics. [AMC Green Lights Walking Dead]  After the development stage, which I presume went well, in March AMC ordered 6 episodes. [AMC Orders The Walking Dead Episodes]

For the blood-flying opposed viewer, there is a bit of blood in the series.  I myself expected zombies to not have blood in their system, but when our heroes pop a zombie in the head, the blood splatter is unmistakable.  It’s not in bucket-loads, but it is there and demonstrated.  If you can get past that, then you’re good to go.

The Walking Dead Recap:

The Walking Dead Days Gone By

As the episode opens you find yourself being pulled along by the story of Deputy Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln [Teachers, Strike Back; Movie: Heartbreaker]), who after being shot and falling into a coma, wakes up in a hospital whose staff are missing, halls are strewn with trash and as he staggers about the building, discovers some horrors, like when did hospitals start storing dead bodies in parking lots?

They didn’t Rick!

We follow Rick through his trek of self-discovery as the horror of what has happened very slowly starts to make itself evident.  He doesn’t exactly embrace the premise of what he’s seeing but very slowly through the ninety minute premiere, begins to embrace the situation.

Along his way he meets the tormented Morgan, played by Lennie James (Jericho, The Prisoner, Hung) and his son Duane.  Morgan brings Rick up to speed on a few details about this infestation, or zombie apocalypse.  In return, Rick shows them that the police station still has hot water and lots of guns!

Rick learns that humanity made a drive for Atlanta, and presumes that since evidence points to his wife having fled the house, that it is Atlanta that he sets out for.  Yet once he gets there, he finds himself in a bit of a pickle as he is forced to hold up in an abandoned tank while being attacked by a horde of zombies.

Barely having escaped his own fate, the radio in the tank crackles to one of the most blunt, humorous closing lines to a television episode I think I’ve ever heard or remember hearing:

Hey you… dumb ass?  You in the tank?  Cozy in there?

That’s it.  We don’t know who that was yet, but that’s the draw of The Walking Dead as the scene pans away from the tank, the camera pulling up into the air as we look down on the swarm of zombies that for lack of a better term, look like ants scurrying all over a sugar hill.  It was an incredible display of just how hopeless this situation can be if one is not careful enough.  (That and I was bummed that the poor horse who had it pretty good in the pasture, is brought to the city to become a zombie buffet.  I’m a bleeding heart & I hate when innocent animals become victims.)

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The Walking Dead Retrospect & Opinion:

The series is a slow moving plot, but instead of that being a notch against it like other sci fi shows we won’t mention here, the slow moving plot is intentional and makes The Walking Dead a superbly balanced flow of slow energetic anxiety.

It’s a trek of discovery for Grimes and the viewer as we’re not thrown too many things too fast to digest. A rare treat in and of itself in this day and age where too many television premieres give us character history or plot in less than 10 minutes.  AMC’s The Walking Dead pulls you along in a slow-frantic panic as your concern for Grimes grows with each breath-taking scene.

We experience a few other details to boot:

The Walking Dead Days Gone By - Andrew Lincoln and Jon Bernthal

His old police partner, Shane Walsh (Jon Bernthal), from the living days is alive and with Rick’s wife.  But it definitely looks like he’s “with” Rick’s wife.  That won’t be good when they finally meet up.

The Walking Dead Days Gone By - Sarah Wayne Callies

Rick’s wife, Lori, is played by Sarah Wayne Callies who was last seen by this editorial writer starring alongside Wentworth Miller in Prison Break!  Now she’s in a zombie break show!  It’s good to see her again.

The story is not just about a person or two.  There are living people about, they just have to find each other.  From what I understand, the zombies are of a few different varieties and if the writing bases their zombies on the original comic, we’ll have that aspect to explore or wait to develop.

Obviously the people and characters, who have already been proven to be rich with detail in this series, have a lot of background to explore with each other and that is where I’m betting this show will shine.  It has already stood out against a plethora of other television shows with the character details and I am really looking forward to seeing where the series takes me.

I already associate with Grimes.  He plans ahead as best he can while still having a deep-rooted code of conduct and empathy.  In one scene, he returns to the location of where he encountered his first zombie and puts her out of her misery.  I get it… and I’m now connected with our main character.  (In other words, I’m hooked dammit.)

It’s been said that those who are familiar with the comic franchise know what’s coming.  For those who aren’t, I’d suggest NOT looking it up.  If they are following the comic to some degree, then the publication is a walking spoiler…  ambling around waiting to bust out one spoiler after another.

Questions About The Walking Dead:

My questions are now fewer after seeing the premier than they were before it aired.

I was wondering how they would make a show about zombies something that would stick in the minds of viewers and making them want to come back.  The Walking Dead appears to be richly character driven and if they continue this kind of story telling, the show will last for quite some time to come.

I was also wondering if the huge ratings were from fortuitous timing with when the premiere was aired?  I’d like to say, “See above statement,” but then again when shows like Jericho and Journeyman can’t hack it, I’ve learned to be cautiously optimistic.

But I am also optimistic that the AMC demographic is more loyal than the broadcast demographic, so I’m sitting at three-quarters optimism!

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This is a season preview of The Walking Dead:

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AMC Press Release:

New York, NY – November 1, 2010 – Last night’s premiere of AMC’s original series, “The Walking Dead” resulted in a 3.7 HH rating netting over 5.3 total million viewers making it the largest audience for any original series on the network.  The Adults 18-49 demo garnered 3.6 million viewers making it the highest delivery for any cable series premiere for 2010.

Key Ratings Highlights for The Walking Dead:

10pm airing – 3.7 HH rating with 5.3 million total viewers;
10 pm, 11:30 pm and 1am airings – Cumed to a 6.0 HH rating with 8.1 million viewers;
Adults 25-54 – 3.1 million viewers;
Adults 18-49 – 3.6 million viewers;
Adults 18-34 – 2.1 million viewers.

“It’s a good day to be dead. We are so proud of this series, its depth of storytelling and the remarkable talent attached,” said Charlie Collier, AMC’s president. “As the network dedicated to bringing viewers the best stories on television, we are so pleased to have the opportunity with ‘The Walking Dead’ to raise the bar within this popular genre and continue our commitment to being the home of premium television on basic cable.”

“’The Walking Dead’ is that rare piece of programming that works on so many levels. It is legitimately great storytelling that is not only highly entertaining, but incredibly thought provoking as well. People who are familiar with the comic books know what’s coming, but suffice it to say, this is only the beginning of a long, intense, and powerful ride. Long live ‘The Walking Dead’,” said Joel Stillerman, AMC’s SVP of original programming, production and digital content.

AMC’s first wholly-owned original production, “The Walking Dead” premiered globally on October 31 through an unprecedented partnership with AMC and Fox International Channels. Similar to a theatrical film release, all Fox International Channels are launching the premiere episode this week, resulting in the series’ debuting in 120 countries and in 33 languages.

The Walking Dead premiered as part of AMC FEARFEST, the most highly anticipated horror movie marathon of the Halloween season. The network’s two-week marathon featured nearly 300 hours of horror-themed programming, including more than 60 films. The marathon aired October 18 through October 31, culminating with the 90-minute world premiere of “The Walking Dead.”

“The Walking Dead” is based on the comic book series written by Robert Kirkman and published by Image Comics.  Kirkman serves as an executive producer on the project and three-time Academy Award-nominee Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile) serves as writer, director and executive producer. Gale Anne Hurd (The Terminator, Aliens, Armageddon, The Incredible Hulk), chairman of Valhalla Motion Pictures, serves as Executive Producer. David Alpert from Circle of Confusion serves as Executive Producer. Today’s announcement also includes the addition of Charles “Chic” Eglee (Dexter, The Shield, Dark Angel) as Executive Producer.

“The Walking Dead” tells the story of the months and years that follow after a zombie apocalypse. It follows a group of survivors, led by police officer Rick Grimes, who travel in search of a safe and secure home.  The comic goes on to explore the challenges of life in a world overrun by zombies who take a toll on the survivors, and sometimes the interpersonal conflicts present a greater danger to their continuing survival than the zombies that roam the country.  Over time, the characters are changed by the constant exposure to death and some grow willing to do anything to survive.

“The Walking Dead” received rave reviews from countless critics, who heralded the series as “visually stunning…and daring in its artful use of silence” (TV Guide), “…breathtaking in its small moments, in which the pain and glory of being human are conveyed with only the flick of a filmmaking wrist.” (Wall Street Journal), “…evocative, suspenseful” (Boston Globe) “…surprisingly scary and remarkably good” (The New York Times) “…a triumph of tone and mood” (Contra Costa Times) and “a real achievement for a horror show on a basic-cable network” (Rolling Stone). In addition, “The Walking Dead” received “4 Stars” from People and “3 Stars” from the New York Daily News and New York Post, among other outlets.

About AMC

AMC reigns as the only network to ever win the Golden Globe® Award for Best Television Series – Drama three years in a row and the only basic cable network to win back-to-back Primetime Emmy® Awards for Outstanding Drama Series.  Whether commemorating favorite films from every genre and decade from the most comprehensive library or creating acclaimed original productions, the AMC experience is an uncompromising celebration of great stories.  AMC’s original stories include the Emmy® Award-winning dramas Mad Men and Breaking Bad, and insightful non-scripted programming such as AMC News.  AMC further demonstrates its commitment to the art of storytelling with curated movie franchises like AMC Hollywood Icon and AMC Complete Collection.  Available in more than 95 million homes (Source: Nielsen Media Research), AMC is a subsidiary of Rainbow Media Holdings LLC, which includes sister networks IFC, Sundance Channel, WE tv and Wedding Central.  AMC is available across all platforms, including on-air, online, on demand and mobile.  AMC: Story Matters HereSM.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Bruce Simmons November 2, 2010 at 3:52 pm

That’s awesome Paul… that
A: You liked it,
B: You tried it… kudos for giving something a chance!

Paul Forcey November 2, 2010 at 1:11 pm

I don’t like horror films, I don’t like zombie films..

I really liked this!

Maybe that is a good sign, maybe this will allow them to bring in watchers from beyond the normal group that would watch zombie movies.

Now I need to see if I can get the comic..

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