I like 1) gory zombie films 2) watching TV 3) cultural sensations that are not reality TV-, pop music-, or Palin-related. So the AMC television series “The Walking Dead” seemed like an easy call.
In the wake of all the hype, however, including a recent Entertainment Weekly cover that read “The Best New Show on TV,” I feel as if I should do my part to put the breaks on. Not only is “The Walking Dead” overrated, but it actually kind of sucks.
Basically, it’s an ensemble drama in the vein of “Lost” only with less interesting characters, less talented actors, and no mystery to drive the narrative. Based on a comic book series (sorry, “graphic novel” for those who can’t admit they read comic books), “The Walking Dead” proves that what works in two-dimensional ink and dialogue bubbles doesn’t translate so easily to actual emoting human beings.
“The Walking Dead” is basically every zombie movie cliché with zero innovation to fill the gaps. The characters are familiar tropes, from Andrew Lincoln’s “stoic, honorable Southern cop” to “abusive husband” to “hothead racist redneck” to “token black guy racist redneck doesn’t like.” The pages of the original comic book had more dimensions.
When the writers do make an attempt to develop character, it can be so stilted and awkward, you want to DVR forward. Two blonde sisters sit in a boat talking about their father taking them fishing, and when one of them gets zombie-bit later you’re cheering because you don’t have to listen to another maudlin conversation (ack, but the other sister lives…).
A series like this hinges on characters to drive the narrative since zombies can only do so much (perhaps this is why no one has ever attempted a televised zombie series?). Weirdly, this makes me miss a show like “The Wire” simply because there was hardly a character on that show that I didn’t love. Whenever it turned from one storyline to another, there was always a “No, don’t leave him–oh, wait I love them!” kinda moment. “The Walking Dead” is more, “I hope all these losers get eaten in the next scene.”
I, for one, am baffled by all the hype surrounding this nap-worthy show. As my friend Brian, who is an intense and bizarre (let’s face it, you can’t say someone’s “intense” about zombies without adding the word “bizarre”) zombie fan, said to me after the last episode. “I’ll watch it because I call myself a zombie fan, but wow does this show kind of suck.”
Still, I’m told by all of my comic-book-reading friends that the “graphic novels” are great. According to another zombie-loving friend of mine named Josh, things get “…absolutely f***ed up, like with a crazy dude taking over a city south of atlanta and all sorts of shit.”
(Interesting sociological side question: Why does Markley have so many friends who are intense and bizarre zombie fans?)
And hell, I guess if I’m around Brian next year I think our friendship inertia alone will probably lead us to watching more. You win again, zombies. You win again.