This post is in response to my friend Brian’s blog entry on the new tv series Walking Dead. For best results, read Brian’s post first and then return for my two cents worth…
Brian, I’m with you 100% on this.
It’s a show with great potential, but getting off to a slow start. I think they are struggling between remaining true to the graphic novels (did you read/enjoy them?) and producing a television show. They have a fine line to walk or risk losing the built-in fan base. There is a very simple solution though — make it a show about the world of Walking Dead, but not about the already existing characters within the universe.
In a world where the dead walk the earth, there are a MILLION stories to tell. Why restrict yourself to the two dozen or so characters already established in the comic? Sure, have the original characters pass through story arcs to bait fans of the comic into talking about who that character is to the new fans of the tv series (especially around ratings time), but I think the show would be more successful if it paid homage to the source material but explored new areas that are better suited to film.
I keep hoping it becomes the Twilight Zone of zombies series. Give me new characters and new stories every week. Or make it the Incredible Hulk (Bill Bixby version) or Kung-Fu (David Carradine) where a lone hero (or band of characters) travels through a new town on their way to a series-based destination, helping people along the way. There are so many avenues to explore, but only if they get beyond their belief this series will succeed through fans of the comic books alone. The comic fans are a good starting point, but this series will stand on its own if they find passionate new fans of the series.
Regarding the concept of a land where zombies have never before existed. Again, I’m with you — a place where a zombie movie never existed? Hard to swallow. One of the things I loved about the original Lost Boys movie was the fact the comic book geek Frog Brothers became a modern version of Van Helsing. Applying the principles of vampire hunting through knowledge gained via comics. I’d love to see a Walking dead character emerge as the Van Helsing of zombie killing that isn’t some doctor from the Center of Disease Control or a military scientist, but simply a horror movie fan-boy who desperately tries to apply the movie rules to their nightmarish situation. NOW the writers can break the rules of a world where zombies have been in books and movies, but never been a real life threat. Does a bite truly infect and mutate the victim into a zombie right away, or does it simply transfer the virus and they don’t transform into a zombie until they actually die a “normal” death?
A great theme to explore might be different classes of zombies. The hottest topic among zombies fans is slow-moving zombies vs. fast-moving zombies. Perhaps the slow-moving dead are those who have been dead longer than X amount of time. Perhaps they are people who have actually died, period; and the speedy zombies are living humans who’ve been infected by the virus but have not died. SO many places to take this…
AMC originally only ordered six episodes of Walking Dead. Hard to poke at the producer’s strategy of going after the low-hanging fruit of existing graphic novel fans to gain some immediate buzz about the show. They needed a quick win, and I think they did the right thing — as evidenced by AMC’s renewing it for a full second season.
The fact the entire writing team of Walking Dead has been given the boot is both encouraging and depressing. It’s not that I didn’t like what they were doing, I just think they needed to work more action and energy into the story they were crafting. I liked their work a LOT. While new writers bring new potential, they also bring the worry of completely screwing up the great work already done by the original team. Word is that the producers plan to use freelancers to write seaosn two. That makes it pretty exciting for a wannabe like me — I might have to dust-off the old scriptwriting lessons and submit a spec script for their review.
Finally, I don’t mind the fact the writers don’t use the term “zombie.” In George A. Romero’s original film that began all this interest (watch it here for free), he never used the term either.
I kind of like that.