By Ryan Broderick
If you're a TV producer who thinks you're sitting on the next new great TV drama you should be scared. You should be terrified. And, incidentally, so should an average TV viewer that stumbles across AMC's new "The Walking Dead."
And there seems like there were more than a few people that tuned in to see AMC's newest post-apocalyptic zombie drama – the 90 minute premiere took in 5.3 million people according to Nielson. The premiere's success has put a bullet in the brains of anyone who thought an ultra-gorey zombie drama wouldn't work on TV.
Of course, it won't work, and it wouldn't have worked in any other hands. Frank Darabont, director of "The Shawshank Redemption," "The Green Mile" and "The Mist," developed the show. Which explains the well-executed and even keeled way the series' first episode opened up.
"The Walking Dead" is adapted from a Robert Kirkman comic book series that follows a group of survivors led by police officer Rick Grimes. And while it's easy to gloss over the characters in your average end-of-the-world-running-from-zombies story, what makes AMC's "The Walking Dead" so great is that from the very beginning the spotlight is on human emotion and human relationships.
It's a small southern town drama, except there are zombies. There's a love triangle, a grieving widower and endless shots of long Georgia roads. It's everything you'd expect from the characters involved, except now you get to see how they'd react to the end of the world. That's probably what's so interesting about a good zombie film, taking people you see and know and seeing what happens when they're completely against all odds.
In a perfect world "The Walking Dead" would be this huge symbol for a movement towards character-based programming on television. Networks like CBS, ABC, NBC and FOX (FOX has scripted television still right?) would stop making glorified car commercials and write something with actual people in it. "The Walking Dead" would inspire viewers to demand more from their TVs. "Two And A Half Men" would be pulled from the airwaves with a violent fury.
Of course, if "The Walking Dead" inspires anything it'll be more brain dead knock-offs. AMC has proved though, with similarly massive hits like "Mad Men" and "Breaking Bad," that audiences are looking for more out of their TV dramas.
If "The Walking Dead's" first season goes on to become a success it'll be because it's a story with some brains – pun intended.