TELEVISION: The Secret Weapon Of ‘Fear the Walking Dead’

Last Night was the series premiere of Fear the Walking Dead, AMC’s spin-off of their shambling ratings monster, The Walking Dead. To call it a “spin-off” is a bit of a misnomer, however. There are no cast members from the original show starring in Fear the Walking Dead, nor are they likely to even appear on the show, considering it’s set in a different timeline and is all the way across the country in an apocalyptic age when air travel is a no-go.

Rather, the only thing The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead seem to share is a world. A world filled with zombies and a zombie-creating virus that all abide by the same rules. Zombies walk slow and you have to destroy their Fear-the-Walking-Dead-posterbrain to kill them. Humans turn from bites, but you can hack off limbs to prevent spreading of the virus. You turn post-mortem even if you die without being bit, etc. It’s a checklist of zombie universe rules that the two shows will cross-reference, yet in terms of actual plot and characters, the two will have little to do with one another.

Naturally, Fear the Walking Dead has attracted its fair share of critics even before its premiere. Many view it is a way to cash-in on the enormous success of AMC’s The Walking Dead without really adding all that much value. And really, it is kind of an obvious cash-in, a bit of a desperation play from a channel that has lost two of its era-defining shows in the form of Breaking Bad and Mad Men in the past two years alone. Meanwhile, The Walking Dead puts up huge ratings and has the potential to run for ten or twelve or twenty seasons if the audience stays, and now they’re hoping that Fear the Walking Dead can squeeze more milk out of that cow.
The other argument is story-based, that we’ve grown very attached to the current group of survivors we know from Rick to Daryl to Carol to Michonne and so on. Fear the Walking Dead has a tall order getting us to care about a whole new group, and that leads to the last major problem.

Zombie overload. Though Fear the Walking Dead is debuting with just six episodes in its opening season, it’s already signed up for a second one, which will expand to 15 episodes. With The Walking Dead around 16 episodes in its split-year seasons, that’s 31 weeks of the year where there will be an AMC zombie show on the air. For as much as fans may like The Walking Dead and zombie gore, that may be oversaturation.