Walking Dead Resurrects Midweek Sci-fi

TV2 is fusing sitcoms with sci-fi tonight at 9.30 when it belatedly launches the zombie sensation, The Walking Dead, on the back of its two-hour comedy block.

The six episodes are airing on the eve of the show’s second season being rolled out worldwide.

But the network says it’s too soon to say if these 13 episodes will air here around the same time.

The US cable channel, AMC, which commissioned Mad Men, will debut season two on October 16 and the premiere will screen in 120 other countries the same week on the Fox International Channels pay-TV circuit.

The same strategy was adopted last year, when the first season became an instant Hallowe’en hit.

Why TV2 didn’t put The Walking Dead to air soon after is puzzling given its Stateside hype was typical of the buzzkrieg that fuels BitTorrent downloads.

Just as surprising is the channel’s launching of it after four back-to-back sitcoms – and on a night where other sci-fi shows, from FlashForward to V, have tanked.

It’s a strange scheduling strategy given networks like to brand their nights with compatible programmes – and the flow from newcomer Happy Endings to ex-Teacher Andrew Lincoln dodging zombies in post-apocalypse Atlanta seems, to cite another sitcom, less than perfect.

The same can’t be said of its critical reception in the US: “packs a raw, emotional punch while delivering the creepy and queasy thrills all genre fans truly crave” (TV Guide);  “although we’ve seen no shortage of zombies and post-apocalyptic stories, producer-writer-director Frank Darabont has deftly tackled the seemingly perilous task of adapting a comicbook about zombies into a viable episodic series” (Variety); “Darabont uses the TV-series format to break convention not only by defying the predictabilities of the horror genre (boo!) but also by infusing the recipe with more storytelling élan” (The Hollywood Reporter).

Closer to home, the NZ Herald’s dubbed it “braindead telly at its best“.

While the series was one of the most highly acclaimed of 2010, it only received three Emmy Awards nominations: for outstanding sound editing, special visual effects, and prosthetic make-up.

And although critics oozed superlatives, making US cable dramas work in this free-to-air market is a challenge: for every success (Sons of Anarchy, Nurse Jackie), there are far more casualties (Justified, Mad Men, Dexter) — hence The Walking Dead not exciting other Kiwi broadcasters.

So, the peculiar scheduling notwithstanding, the popularity of TV2’s mid-week comedy marathon at least will deliver The Walking Dead a lead-in that will ensure it’s anything but DOA.

And if the ratings do hold up, then it’s likely TV2 will screen season two sooner rather than later, to capitalise on the worldwide interest and the release of season one on DVD and Blu-ray.

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One Response to “Walking Dead Resurrects Midweek Sci-fi”

  1. The Walking Dead … good but hardly brilliant, everything in it has been done before (and done better), albeit on the big screen. Still, it’s Masterpiece Theatre compared to the crud that followed, Undercovers: dreck with zero redemption.

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