The Walking Dead series and why it works


Daytime television is ripe with soap operas that specialize in the development of interpersonal relationships. This is nothing more than the interaction of people and developing of stories that intersect and create drama through their manipulation and relationship with each other. The demographic that seems to watch these shows are mostly female, and as such they tend to be designed around this fact.

Prime time television is always trying to find the perfect recipe that will draw both genders into a single show. Trying to bring in a soap opera style relationship story into programming that captures both gender markets has proven to be challenging. Body of Proof, CSI and all of its incarnations, Grey’s Anatomy, as well as multiple others have dominated prime time slots, yet every one of them was generally aimed toward an average viewer market of women between 25 and 54.

There are some shows that target men, Last Man Standing is targeted toward men between 18 and 49, however it also tries to aim the show toward families, not only due to its time slot but also the fact that it is a family-based series. Then you have Spartacus, with its over-the-top action, blood and gratuitous nudity, which seems to drive the feminine population away.

The problem with interpersonal relationship series is that they tend to drive loads of men away. Men, for the most part, tend to gather around television series that include action, horror, or mystery. So it is no wonder most of the large networks have always been trying to find the correct mix that will draw men into watching their shows alongside wives and girlfriends.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer 1997-2003

Television networks have tried multiple times to marry the two populations into a single television series that will bring both audiences back week after week. This has been proven fruitful on many occasions. Recently The Cape attempted to, but failed in bringing a show to both of the markets. Its premise was solid however the execution of the action and the relationship stories seemed comical most of the time, which ended up making the entire series cheesy at its best. Lost succeeded and then faltered at the end, when they “lost” most of the audience in its twisting and spinning story plots that they either couldn’t understand or didn’t have fulfilling resolutions. The same can also be said for Heroes, which again had a great foundation, but later started to wave larger and more complex story lines into the mix, loosing much of its audience.

There have been a couple shows that, for better or worse, have succeeded. Buffy The Vampire Slayer (1997-2003) featured a high school cheerleader that hunted and killed demons. The main story, however, was the development of the characters within Buffy’s life and the action many times took second stage. The relationship between Sarah Michelle Gellar’s title character and the others, including Giles, Willow, Xander, Angel, Cordelia, Wesley and Spike, developed through its running time and entangled every character into their own soap opera stories. The correct mix of action, horror, drama, and love story was enough to keep many men returning. Buffy eventually spun off the series Angel (1999-2004), which carried the same mix of drama, action and character development.

The marriage of high drama and action more suited to males was brought to the highest point to date in 2010. AMC decided to give the go-ahead for six episodes of a new and challenging television series based on a popular comic book published by Image Comics from artists Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard.

The three main characters, Shane, Rick and Lori

With The Walking Dead, the main part of the story is surprisingly, and to some refreshingly, not the zombies. They are a portion of the surroundings, while the main story really focuses on the people in main character Rick Grimes’ group. The interaction between each of them, their individual problems and hostilities toward each other, is the driving force of the story. The African-American, the racist, the battered wife, the wife beater, the ex-boyfriend, the children, the unwitting leader and the older gentleman that they look to for guidance, these are the main players in the story. None of them are perfect, and they all have skeletons in their closets that slowly come to light.

The series is based on the comic series from Image Comics.

Have no fear; action, horror, blood and guts are also heavily represented in the story. But with it is a sense of dread that I have never felt from a television series before. The continual feeling that even though there seems to be no hope, there are still people out there fighting to find hope, never giving up, and fighting not only for their own survival, but the survival of their fellow man as well, is extremely compelling.

The Walking Dead is a series that should be watched; it is exactly what good television should be. It is the realization of 80 years of trials, errors and successful airing of original entertainment to the masses. It is, however, not for everyone. There is blood, horror and cursing in the show. But if I was standing within the characters’ shoes, I am quite certain the cursing would be turned up quite a few notches. It does not attempt to turn the series into a gore fest; rather, it uses horror and gore only for the purpose of the story and to help keep the viewer’s awareness that they are experiencing events that require a strong stomach and nerves of steel.

Somehow AMC has successfully found the absolute perfect mix of story development, character interaction and action/horror that will continually bring men and women back to the television sets every Sunday night. Men and women alike can finally, at the same time, sit down and together thoroughly enjoy a television series that was designed not around a single gender, but rather designed around a story with a solid foundation. The Walking Dead, in my opinion, is not only the best new show on television, it is by far one of the best television series ever created.

A "Walker" from the Premier Episode.

Now for a bit of trivia: In the entire first season of the Walking Dead, they never once refer to the living-dead as “zombies.” They refer to them rather as “walkers” or “geeks,” and when they are at the Center for Disease Control they are referred to as the “test subjects.”

As always I respect fellow Nerd opinions, and hope to hear from you. Let me know if there are other shows that you think are geared for a non-gender based market, and why.

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