Too many times I have missed out on good television simply because the series already had one or two seasons behind it by the time I started watching. It always seems like more work than fun to catch up to the current season and understand who is who, what is happening to who and what might happen to who.
Once upon a time, AMC used to stand for American Movie Classics. Nowadays it is home for good television like “Mad Men” and one of the best shows you might not be watching, “The Walking Dead.”
If you aren’t watching “The Walking Dead” because you don’t like horror, gore, or zombies you’re not watching it for the wrong reasons. Inspired by a comic book series of the same name, the television show follows Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), a small town sheriff’s deputy who wakes from a coma to discover a zombie outbreak has changed everything. Rick searches for his wife and son when he encounters a rough group of survivors who eventually reunite him with his family. The complexity of family politics and the struggle to survive make “The Walking Dead” drama-filled television.
Other stories focus on zombies as a significant element of the plot, but “The Walking Dead” has an altered approach that uses the zombie apocalypse as a setting for the survivor drama that occurs. In a typical episode you see nothing more than zombies wandering through an open field or their corpses littering the ground. Instead, the zombies are mostly unseen and used to imply that nothing, nowhere and no one is safe through tension-filled moments that make you want to cover your eyes and peeking through your fingers. In the few moments when “The Walking Dead” isn’t being dramatic, it is an action packed fight for survival: weapons out of reach, vulnerable moments of complacency, survivors engulfed in a battle against a ‘herd.’
What I don’t like about “The Walking Dead” is when it tries to out-gore itself or utilize a new special effects technique simply for the sake of using it and overlooks that what really works about the series is the drama and its characters. It becomes just ‘another zombie apocalypse’ when an episode results in a really high body count unless the bodies being counted are those of the survivors.
Although the seasons are short (only 27 episodes during its three-season run so far) “The Walking Dead” maximizes each episode and always leaves viewers with a cliffhanger to carry them in to the next episode.
Some characters will live. Many will die. All are trying to survive.
The Verdict: Don’t let the title fool you. This isn’t just a zombie-tale. This is television with more substance than just gore and horror. “The Walking Dead” is a character driven drama that will leave you in disbelief after each episode and a strong desire to turn on the lights before you enter a room.
Airs: Sunday, 9 p.m. (ET)
Starring: Andrew Lincoln, Laurie Holden, Norman Reedus, David Morrissey