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“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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The Walking Dead, saison 1
We’ve opened Pandora’s box…

The Walking Dead season finale contained one of the most violent scenes I’ve witnessed in a film of any kind and it didn’t involve zombies at all. A ruthless gang of survivors had the protagonists of the series dead to rights. And then the heroes turned the tables, eliciting vile payback. Rick bit open the throat of his captor and then guts the heathen who was about to rape his son. More death. Like that.

The previous week’s episode featured the entirely unexpected murder of a young girl, who’d lost her mind and killed her sister trying to prove that her subsequent “turning” would be evidence that the undead were, what, normal? These episodes were brutal, nihilistic and, basically amazing.

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The living people have become the walking dead themselves. They move forward killing everything in their paths, like zombies. The flicker of hope for humanity grows ever more dim. It’s barely there.

During a commercial break (yes, I watched the network broadcast) was a preview of a sequel to The Purge, a film about legalized crime including (and especially) murder. I didn’t see the original movie but enough people did to warrant a sequel.

Then came a Hyundai spot where you can build your own zombie killing car. Benign in terms of mayhem the spot is meant to be funny. I suppose…

My, oh my. So many visions of the Apocalypse! We Are What We Are is the title of a film about modern day cannibals, itself a remake of a Spanish film about people eaters.

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Read it with the lights on…

I’ve been a horror fan since I can remember. The first real book I ever read for “fun” was Salem’s Lot. As a boy I thrilled at Hammer’s vision of the undead. Christopher Lee’s Dracula and his gory sexy brides formed my world view –or at least provided lurid escape from the sketchy real world: my parent’s divorce, step-father’s suicide, gang-bangers on every corner, teachers that didn’t give a shit, friends who had it worse than me and acted accordingly.

By comparison, fictional evil was somehow… attractive.

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Lee’s Dracula and friend. What’s not to like?

For me, hanging out with miscreants on the street corner was far more threatening. Pretending not to be scared in real life was a lot harder than bearing monsters in books and on screen. Enduring evermore-gruesome fictions was (and is) a way for a young man to demonstrate courage. It’s a theory.

And now you feel it don’t you? The mainstream embraces horror like never before, as I did as a teenager and still do. In films, books, comics, games, television, music and even commercials. Always profitable but formerly seedy, the horror genre has risen from the grave!

You have become like me, God have mercy on your souls.


Adelle and one of her many Grammy awards…


“I ate my Grammy!”

Last night was a big night for television and social media alike. Not only was it was the 54th annual Grammy awards but The Walking Dead reanimated for the second part of its second season. Both events garnered beaucoup viewers of the most desirable demographics, which meant a ton of buzz on Twitter and Facebook.

I had a ball participating with the Grammy telecast, syncing my jibes with friends and followers. And judging from my Twitter feed you did, too. In a very real way, being able to play along with the telecast made watching it infinitely more fun. Not so long ago, the Grammys would have come and gone without me. Unless I knew ahead of time that one of my favorite artists was performing I just didn’t give a damn. Knowing I could play Mystery Science Theater to the show’s foibles and fantastica made it must-see and must-comment TV. That troubled music icon, Whitney Houston died the day before only added to the juice. We needed to see what they, the music industry, would do. Her passing, plus the return of singer-songwriter Adelle after a lengthy hiatus, made the Grammys a perfect storm for fans and voyeurs alike.


Mystery Science Theater 3000, ahead of its time.

The Walking Dead even has a show dedicated to such fans called The Talking Dead, where fans discuss what just transpired interacting with each other and the show’s host and his guests. On AMC’s website one can view extended clips of next week’s episode as well as view countless insider peaks at the making of it. We become involved with the show in ways unimaginable to previous generations.

Like the Superbowl a couple weeks ago, event TV is flourishing not fading in the new world of social networks. Shows like American Idol, The Academy Awards and other televised contests only benefit from fan involvement. Experts and pundits call this engagement. And indeed it does seem a better verb than watching. To use another popular word, the “experience” is vastly improved. (In fact, this year’s Superbowl and Grammys had the most viewers of all time.)

Marketers wisely play along, knowing that their commercials will become part of the “conversation” as well. The savviest of the bunch provide social components, offering content that not only synchs with the telecast but stimulates viewers into behaving as well. Honda’s much-hyped parody of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off contained numerous hidden references to the movie, urging fans to re-examine the spot to try and find them. This cross-examination undoubtedly led to millions more views on the Internet, not to mention publicity in magazines, newspapers, radio and TV shows.


Deja-vous. Ferris has been here before.

For networks and producers social media has the desired effect of drawing people to the actual telecast, as opposed to watching it later via DVR. There’s little joy in Tweeting to the encore presentation of The Walking Dead or any other show, no matter how popular. This makes appointment television relevant. Again. It also provides advertisers incentive to create better work so that, it too, can be part of the conversation. Undoubtedly, this will lead to more creativity in advertising. Good news to all of us who make ads for a living.

Update: More living/dead proof from Adage


Watch me you prick!

I was in the middle of a lively conversation about cable television when I realized the content being discussed were things I hadn’t consumed before; in this case the shows Big Love and Breaking Bad.

Like a lot of people in my business, I have a superb awareness of popular culture. I know these shows are good, probably very good, but I have never seen a single episode of either one of them. In that moment, I felt…what’s the word I’m looking for? Bad. Yes, bad. Here were smart people talking about good shows and I hadn’t any actual perspective to add to the conversation.

Despite my ignorance, I do not regret my answer. “Sorry,” I said. “I just can’t make the commitment.” It’s not that I don’t make myriad commitments to popular culture –perish the thought! But as good as those shows surely are I just don’t have the bandwidth or inclination to get involved with them.

Other conspicuous examples of good and/or popular TV shows I’ve avoided are The Sopranos, The Wire, The Shield, The Colbert Report and Conan. There are numerous others. What’s interesting here (to me anyway) is that I’m pretty sure I would enjoy all of them. Maybe even a lot. This paradox (right word?) also holds true for books, movies and websites. That means no Harry Potter anything, books or films. In addition, I am not a gamer. The only angry birds I know are the pigeons outside my window.

This is different than avoiding crap like The Bachelor, The Apprentice and reality TV in general. Those I can proudly deny ever consuming at all. And you shouldn’t either! FYI, I’ve never seen a full episode of Oprah but that’s a whole nutha subject.

I know I could get boxed sets of any and all these good shows and dive into them one long weekend. But I won’t because of the commitments I already do make. For example, it should come as no surprise I am a devoted fan of The Walking Dead and True Blood. I also catch up on the Simpson’s via Fox’s website. I consume LOTS of horror films late at night when no one is looking. Oddly, within the genre I avoid almost all slasher films, including every Saw film ever made and anything starring Chuckie or Freddy. That stuff just doesn’t work for me. Besides there are still too many zombie apocalypse films out there, my drug of choice.

I know this post has no real point but I’m curious: What content do you avoid even though you know it’s terrific?


Mr. Popularity!

AdAge, Entertainment Weekly and countless other pubs are running stories on how surprised everyone is about the success of TV show, The Walking Dead. Even the reporters who wrote the stories are amazed.

Really? Hell, I saw this hit shambling up Broadway in spring, when it was first reported in production. With Frank Darabont (Shawshank Redemption) and AMC (Mad Men) behind it, how could The Walking Dead miss?

The surprised ones keep pointing to the show’s characters and their struggle to survive as the reason for TWD’s success. They want to make it clear it’s not the bloody disgusting zombies, God forbid, that are pulling viewers in. Stop it! Of course you need to care about the characters. Otherwise you wouldn’t be frightened by the thought of said characters getting eaten and, better yet, turning into bloody disgusting ghouls themselves.

Don’t kid yourselves. It’s not only the ‘living’ that are interesting. They’re just food. It’s the dead. Put zombies on Gilligan’s Island and it’s gonna fucking work.

Why the insecurity around horror’s popularity? The mainstream treats it like pornography, denying its presence during the day yet wallowing in it at night.

Horror rules. Look at the success of True Blood, already in its 4th season. Granted, the show has a sexy cast and vampires have always been a dark turn-on. But still, compared to sissy shit like Twilight, True Blood has some serious bight. If it didn’t deliver the gore I wouldn’t watch. Lots of people wouldn’t.

Forget bloodsuckers, anyway. Zombies are the new vampires. What took them so long to get on TV? If we had to endure another clique of brooding poseurs pining over unrequited love I’d impale a wooden stake in my heart.

There is ample precedent for TWD’s success everywhere in popular culture. Before he directed SlumDog Millionaire, Danny Boyle helmed 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later. His hyper zombies killed at the box office. And deservedly so. Fact is ever since George Romero created the genre with his nightmare inducing Night of the Living Dead, the undead have been the gruesome princes of filmdom, helping to make horror the most consistently profitable genre in Hollywood. As for books, Oprah Winfrey chose Cormac McCarthy’s dystopian novel, The Road to be on her book club! (Okay, so the antagonists were cannibals not zombies. But it was Oprah Goddamn Winfrey!)

And yet we’re still surprised? Come on, people look alive. The Dead walk!

Thread for fans of The Walking Dead: Roamers and Lurkers

Site that broke news (for me) on The Walking Dead:28 Days Later Analysis