Leftridge: TV Time: Because One Walking Dead Just Wasn’t Enough

Fear The Walking Dead - Fear The Walking Dead _ Season 1, Key Art - Photo Credit: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC

What do you do when you have the most popular show on television but the demand is greater than your feasible output?

Well, if you’re AMC, you spin off your enormously successful zombie show into another zombie show set at a slightly earlier time period and in a totally different part of the country.

Problem. Solved.

Fear the Walking Dead premieres Sunday, and I’m not gonna lie: I’m pretty excited. See, I really like the parent show—as do millions and millions of others—and another avenue to quench my unwholesome bloodlust is quite welcome.

But I’ll admit, I have some reservations. How often are cheap cash-grabs any good? I mean, we all loved the popular British soap opera Hollyoaks, but did anyone really care for Hollyoaks Later? (I don’t know, actually. Maybe?) But AMC has a precedent for this kind of thing—a recent one, even.

Just this past February, I wrote about Better Call Saul, a spinoff of one of television’s greatest ever dramas, Breaking Bad. I was excited for Saul, but I also knew that the perils involved in revisiting such a heralded institution run deep. Turns out, these concerns were mostly unfounded; the show was pretty great. It wasn’t Breaking Bad, sure, but it was never supposed to be. It lived on its own as an enjoyable, ambitious piece of television, borrowing only the barest of its father’s atmosphere and ambiance to nudge it from the nest. And Fear the Walking Dead can do that, too.

Walkers - The Walking Dead _ Season 5. Gallery - Photo Credit: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC

Set in pre-outbreak Los Angeles (or, you know, beginning-of-the-outbreak Los Angeles), FTWD chronicles the lives of a high-school English teacher, his guidance counselor fiancé, and the guidance counselor fiancé’s two grown-ish children as the whole mess begins. I know that the son is a junkie and there are some zombies involved. Beyond that, I’ve intentionally kept myself a bit in the dark because why do we have to ruin everything for ourselves nowadays?

If you’re a fan of the franchise—and I suppose that’s technically what it is now—seeing the collapse of civilization from the beginning is a whole new experience. When The Walking Dead began, primary protagonist Rick “I’m the Sheriff” Grimes was waking up in a hospital after the decayed and putrefying shit had already hit the fan. (Well, pretty much. I think he was actually in a shootout with a suspect at the very beginning, right? But he was in a coma within minutes.) By going this route, the story really missed out on the foreboding sense of impending doom that most certainly would have pervaded society as a whole. Instead of watching the disaster unfold like a discount Gap sweater, we were plopped right down into Desolation Central.

fearthewalkingdeadBy starting at the beginning, we get to know the characters first, and see how they react, after. As panic and confusion spread, we’ll see people we got to know on normal, rational terms devoured by insane, brain-eating monsters. This makes things more personal, maybe. If there’s one thing the original sometimes fails at, it is making us care for the characters. Removed from the humanizing “constraints” that accompany typical character development, we’re often left with little besides being annoyed by Coral, disgusted by Andrea, fatigued by Rick. Sometimes—and I KNOW I’m not alone here—we even actively root for their death(s).

An emotional investment in the pre-pandemic people may curb this disillusionment and restore some semblance of humanity to what can often be an inhumane display of rampant brutality. Or, you know, it’ll just make it weirder to watch them get eaten.

Regardless of what kind of emotions FTWD might elicit from viewers, I’m willing to bet it’s going to popular. In the end, isn’t it all just about watching people like just like us slaughter hordes of undead brain-munchers? I think there will probably be plenty of that, too.

Fear the Walking Dead premieres Sunday on AMC at 8PM CT.

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22 Responses to Leftridge: TV Time: Because One Walking Dead Just Wasn’t Enough

  1. Michon says:

    You’re making fun of Andrew Lincoln’s pronounication, right?

    • Brandon Leftridge says:

      Well, not if you’re the real Michonne I’m not. But yes, he says “CORAL” instead of Carl. For the most part, I think he does a really great southern accent considering where he’s from.

      • Michon says:

        Obviously I’m not if I can’t even spell my name right.

      • the dude says:

        And I call bullcrap. I think more limey actors think they can overcook a southern accent need to be called out on it. They sure do let American actors know it when we screw up their horrible limey accents.

        • Michon says:

          And what is with all the Brits and Aussies anyway?? Do they work cheaper? Judging from last night’s performances, they’re certainly not better. Yes, more of them are in this spin-off.

  2. rkcal says:

    If I want to see normal and rational terms devoured by insane, brain-eating monsters, I’ll just watch a Donald Trump rally.

  3. If a portion of this show features zombies getting whacked out down in the LA hood, then it will have me at hello. All the original series ever offers is zombies getting their asses kicked by rednecks out in the woods. It’s become a bit boring. And I’m pretty sure that Rick never told Coral that Nacho Cheese joke on the show. Rick ain’t bright enough to come up with such a line.

  4. Rick says:

    Initial critique of the premier episode: boring bordering on awful.

    • Brandon Leftridge says:

      I’ve heard mixed things, including many that echo your critique.

      • Jim a.k.a. BWH says:

        I’m trying to give it a chance because I’m a WD junkie. But, the acting was just awful in the pilot. That needs to get better REAL soon or they are in trouble. I think part of the problem for fans of the series is that everything is too “normal” right now.

        • Brandon Leftridge says:

          Yeah, and I’ve heard that more than once, too– not the part about the acting, but fans saying they’ll give it more than one episode. I think a lot of people weren’t exactly blown away by the pilot of the regular Walking Dead, either.

          • Rick says:

            That pilot was way better (if I do say so myself ). This may be one of those instances where they try to capitalize on the success of a series and it just doesn’t work.

        • Carol says:

          Not normal in my world, Jim! And, no, that’s not the problem. The problem is it was a crappy show.

  5. CFPCowboy says:

    Why come up with a new idea? AMC and HBO have ruled the roost with programming, but the end is near. Madmen, and Breaking Bad are gone to be replayed 100 times. That leaves AMC with Hell on Wheels, the Dead, and Better call Saul. I won’t be calling. HBO is set to lose Game of Thrones next year, and the rest sre also rans. Cinamax is going to lose Strike Back and the rest are also rans. Where is the new blood? Since I am not a fan of theWalking Dead, Fear of the Walking Dead, or Smell of the Walking Dead, I am still looking for new blood. Ever since Stalone did Rocky 100, the only place to find new writing talent has been AMC and HBO, and now they’ve fired what they have. AMC had an interesting project in White City, but opted to repeat the Dead and Just Call Saul. I may hhave to go back to the networks.

    • Brandon Leftridge says:

      FX still has The Americans and Fargo, both of which are pretty terrific. Not sure what you’ll find on the networks, though. You know, unless you’re into CSI: Bangor.

  6. Orphan of the Road says:

    Forty-minutes of rather uninspiring events followed by 190-seconds of WTF zombie action.

    Now watching zombie skull bashing can be an entertaining time, I want to see how society tries to rebuild following an apocalypse. After all an individual death is a tragic scene. Mass casualties are merely statistics.

    What I want is Alas, Babylon. Kids, ask yer grandpa about that book.

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