This article was intended to be posted right before the season 4 premiere of The Walking Dead, but I kept a strict "Nothing but Halloween" policy last month here. But in light of my Twitter feed and articles I've read in the past week or so, I think now is a perfect time for it.
For some reason, in some critic circles it seems to be the cool thing to hate on AMC's The Walking Dead. I've seen it referred to as "terrible" "horrible" "awful" "worst show on TV" and "never will be an ACTUALLY GOOD show". This really really bothers me. No matter how you shake it, The Walking Dead is no where near these desperate adjectives thrown at it from people on high horses. The Walking Dead has become an absolute juggernaut in popularity. This instantly will have those who fashion themselves a critic or who "watch only the best TV" going in with their fists up ready and looking to send it down with a knockout punch.
Is Walking Dead the best show on television currently? Personally, I don't think so. (And if you're wondering what my personal tastes would classify as better? Since Breaking Bad has ended, check out Justified). But to many people - IT IS. I'm a person who has watch and invested much time in television over the years and sought after the best of what's out there. Even I, admittedly have missed out on some big ones myself. Not even myself or some other critics have ever had the time to devote to EVERYTHING. So what's best to one person might not even be known to another. But The Walking Dead marks an important turning point in the evolution of television watching. Its the first show that has crossed over those still stuck on watching nothing but network TV and loving solved in an hour procedurals and multi-cam sitcoms that come with a spoon audiences. Critics and TV enthusiasts had been decrying for years for people to get on the cable and premium channel bandwagon and watch "better shows". Shows that look and feel like you're watching a movie every week. Shows for people who love TV.
Now, their secret is no longer a secret. Because EVERYBODY is watching it and they don't have to tell people what they're missing out on or guide them to it, they now have to hold the show to an ungodly high amount of expectation and tear it to shreds to prove "hey, there's better out there! Why aren't you watch X". The Walking Dead is a perfectly fine show. It's had its problems. One of the things I've respected most out of it in its short tenure is the fact that it has had problems and they have made a concentrated effort to address them. With eye-popping ratings like the show has received, it could be easy for them to just sit back and say "whatever, nit pickers, people don't care about that" or "ratings say people like what we're doing, so no need to fix what isn't broke". But, no, they have listened to the fanboy crying and critic smugness and done their best to "right the ship". And yet, these "too good for it" people are STILL crying.
Here's my advice...stop watching, go away...quit slamming it and focus on things you do like. I'm not a fan of something called "hate watching". Wallowing in negativity is such a weak, miserable thing to do. And I've come to find in these recent years, I really don't have time for it. As a critic, yes, I have to criticize and judge projects, but I'm doing my best these days to say my piece and move on. And when having to be negative, try to fall more into constructive criticism than just bashing. These people aren't actively trying to make terrible things. They're not out to get you. Recently I went on a little tirade about Halloween: Resurretion. But, I'll be the first to tell you that nobody went into that film actively trying to destroy the Halloween franchise.
For me, having The Walking Dead on television during the year is a dream and wish come true that I'm never going to go back on or diss on. When I was growing up as a young horror fan, the Zombie genre was INCREDIBLY limited. Especially for a kid growing up in the midwest. There was only a handful of zombie entertainment available to me. And I was always wanting more. Most of the video stores didn't even carry a lot of it. I'll recount for you the shortlist of what was available - (What was at the time) The Romero Trilogy (Night, Dawn & Day of the Dead), Carnival Of Souls, White Zombie, Fulci's Zombi, Return of the Living Dead 1 &2, Night of the Living Dead remake and Braindead (aka Dead Alive). Most of that list was a special order from Suncoast too, and not available for rental or in stores. Two of those wouldn't even be recognizable as zombie films to a lot of you. There's also a few more available back then but I hadn't heard of them at the time and didn't have cool internet lists or databases to have them referred to me. Also, these few titles spanned over 6 decades of horror. That's almost like a 1 film per decade ratio. When Return of the Living Dead 3 came out it was a huge deal for me. Holy crap a NEW zombie film. Maybe that's why I'm not as harsh on it.
I wished for more zombie movies. I dug them a lot. I clutched my few films and learned them and loved them. The Resident Evil games came out and satisfied my craving for zombies. It was as close as I would get. It seemed a rather dead genre for a long time. So going to video games seemed like a cool route. Romero had a fourth film he wanted to do, but it was really all talk and never going to happen. Resident Evil got a movie, but I hardly saw it as a real zombie movie, but more of a video game adaptation. Then, a miracle happened. 28 Days Later came out. The movie amazed the hell out of me. Sure, Boyle calls them "infected not zombies" but for all intents and purposes...those damn things are zombies. My proverbial roof had been blown off. Then not too long after Dawn Of The Dead (the remake) came out and solidified that zombies were back. We've been on a massive zombie wave coming at us for the better part of a decade and I'm not going to complain. Yes, there's a A LOT of subpar material out there. But are you watching all of it? No. There's good stuff and all kinds of stuff, from comedies (Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland, Fido, Cockneys Vs Zombies) to indie (The Battery) to exploitation (anything straight to video pretty much) even romantic comedy (Warm Bodies) and grand epic scale action (World War Z). Sure, we are flooded with them, but I am quite all right with that. My library to select from if I'm wanting a zombie movie is not only readily available, but its massive.
Love or hate the characters, the actors behind them are quite strong and perform the hell out of them. Many finger pointers don't like Rick and tend to hate on him a lot. Andrew Lincoln absolute commits and kills in this role, regardless. Plus, I haven't been harsh on him myself, because...shit, I've never been in a zombie apocalypse. I've watched fictionalized renditions of them, but never been a part of one (have you?). I equate his shortcomings and the like to learning experiences. Not everyone is perfect. I just feel the show has displayed to us that not even the designated "fearless" leader is flawless. He makes just as big of mistakes as others. We've watched his learning curve. The guy not only woke up from a coma in an abandoned hospital during a zombie apocalypse, but had to travel solo to find his family. Only to find that his wife was shacking up with his best friend and then pregnant with possibly the best friend's child. Come on, cut the guy some damn slack. Have you actually been through that? And I'm not talking "if i was in that situation, I would have", if you've not been through it...then you have really no idea. I understand how to write characters for shows and arcs and such, but knowing the actual experience and decisions...can't say i do.
So where does this all lead? Well, if my present day self got in a Tardis and traveled back to see myself in the early 90s and told him there would be not only a weekly zombie television show, but that it wouldn't hold back at all on the gore and that it would be insanely popular and you'd be able to discuss it with just about anyone...he'd have told you Smashing Pumpkins are awesome and let me show you this movie called Halloween. Haha, okay, but he'd tell you probably that you're full of crap and that'll never happen. But, look, here we are. And its happened bigger than anyone could have ever foreseen. We have so many damn versions of a zombie apocalypse and people seem to have no trouble getting them straight or sitting through them.
That's why I can't hate on The Walking Dead. That's why I'm up for giving it many chances. Sure, its not exactly following the "superior" comic to a T, but that's what I like about it. I'd rather be surprised wondering what will happen as opposed to knowing every event and just watching it play out to no shock or surprise. Seriously...being surprised is good people (I'm looking at you silly Iron Man 3 haters). But, comparing the show to the comic really isn't what this is about. I'm sure many, and I mean MOST of these super harsh "critical darlings" were in the same predicament I was when it came to their love of zombies. I just can't get on board or hate something JUST BECAUSE its become popular. If The Walking Dead was getting weak ratings and on the verge of cancellation every year, these same people would be angered at you for not watching and far less critical of the show's shortcomings. Me personally, I go into things nowadays looking to find something I like about it as opposed to wanting to be that guy who strives to be the person who dislikes or is above it first. It's not the best show on TV, but its certainly it an upper echelon of shows as far as production and storytelling that more and more critics and TV junkies WANT you to watch and want network TV to be more like. It's also a super fun show to discuss and talk about...and to boot, you can talk about it with just about anyone you want to.
So...there, I've said my piece. It's been on my mind. I'm looking forward to Sunday's episode as I'm sure many of you are. Since I said I go in looking to find things I like, I'll leave you with a picture of something I like from the show. Maggie, a character I didn't much care for in the comic, but have really enjoyed a lot on the show. Plus, she's kind of a looker. (and for the ladies, I'll leave a picture of Daryl cuz you all seem to think he's pretty)