March 27, 2017
“I have a gun in my hand but all I really want to do is talk.”
Sometime during this season (7) of AMC’s hit series, The Walking Dead the show toppled over its own hubris and died. “Jumped the Shark” as it’s often called in popular culture. Though leaping over an apex predator would be more exciting than the demise of this once wonderful show.
Before getting into it, allow me to qualify. I loved The Walking Dead before it even came out. Devouring the source material comics and any and all related content. Without sounding like a preening fan boy, I was a zombie freak before the genre became a genre. The nihilism and terror of reanimated corpses feasting on a terrified and dwindling population spoke to me like no other type of story could, ever since I saw George Romero’s iconic Night of the Living Dead at a drive in movie theater(!) I was gutted. Something about people “turning” into their own worst enemy resonated, igniting my deepest fears: “They are us.” More than just ghoulish, the undead delivered the perfect allegory for our overpopulated, corrupt and polluted world.
Now zombies, like vampires before them, have become a tired trope, instead of rampaging into our nightmares they are lumbering on pub crawls and into low budget, straight-to-video oblivion. The “Dawn” has become a great yawn.
But because of its superior characters and production, The Walking Dead had largely avoided that fate. Until now.
The show has become a sequence of two-shots and medium close-ups comprising lesser characters talking endlessly to other lesser characters. In other words a soap opera. Might as well be called, “The Talking Head.” No doubt the producers feel that people are what drive the show, not zombies, that it is the living who are the real enemy -an understandable evolution but one that has, this season, gone too far. Look, we all know that in the last (or second-to-last) episode there will be a big battle with evil Negan and his Saviors. But must every episode prior be so damn talky? When I find myself trolling the Internet during the show, I know the magic is gone. Sadly, I went from riveted to mostly bored.
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Recently I wrote about “choice overload” and its impact on modern society. I was inspired by Barry Schwartz’ book, The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less. Like the author, I wondered if we had too many choices for our own good. Do they jade us? Do they make us restless, irritable and discontent? On a lighter note I ended the piece with a selection of popular choices I had not made in the 21st Century. Two of them were watching shows, 24 and Lost.
That’s right; I have never seen one single minute of either series, let alone an entire episode. I’m not exactly sure why that is, given I’m essentially the target. I’m certainly not going to criticize either show (well, maybe a little), given they were both critically acclaimed monster hits that ran for years.
I was going to watch them. I’d read about them. Knew the actors. Saw the previews. But in the end, I just didn’t.
And now it is the end. Both shows are winding up their runs with big final episodes, which, of course, I won’t be watching.
Lost in particular seemed like something I would be interested in, with its existential tone, and vague supernatural bent. But every time I saw an ad for the show I balked. I kept asking myself odd, arguably silly questions that preempted me from tuning in. Like how come the characters always looked so lithe and sexy? How did that one guy always maintain a perfect five o’clock shadow? Don’t you need an electric razor for that? Don’t you need electricity? Or the babe. She seemed more suited for the pages of Sports Illustrated than a struggle for survival.
Conversely, what about the fat one? How come he never lost weight on Lost? One would think a diet of fresh fruit and fish would trim anyone down in fairly short order. Not this guy. He remained obese throughout the series. I kept thinking about him as an actor in Hollywood, hitting Fat burger, instead of fighting for scraps on an atoll.
I’m sure the show provided reasons for all that but I didn’t care. My belief had not been suspended. My curiosity remained slight. This did not stop me, however, from referencing the show constantly. When I pitched my first novel, The Last Generation to all the networks for a possible TV series, I used Lost as a comparison. My concept, a band of disparate characters figuring out life in a diminishing world, was Lost like in so many ways. Pointing that out to network execs seemed like a no-brainer. And it nearly worked. Touchstone TV bought into it. As did NBC. Alas, The Last Generation never made it to the screen.
As for 24, I missed the premiere and assumed a show that took place in real time required constant and vigilant viewing. By the time the DVD came out I wasn’t interested in making the investment. Watching Jack Bauer chasing the clock seemed so damn tiring.
Both these series were darlings of my peer group. I endured many conversations with colleagues about the latest episodes and later, which season was best. I listened, firmly believing a good ad man has to maintain a working knowledge of all popular culture. But I never watched.
And I never will.
Other hit TV series I’ve never seen: Heroes, Real Housewives, American Idol, Survivor & Conan.