'The Walking Dead' is loved for both its strengths and its flaws

In response to Phenomenal ‘Walking Dead: Season 5’ Trailer:

That is a pretty sensational trailer – more alluring than half the big-budget movie trailers I’ve seen this year.  It always seemed odd that the Biggest Show On Television would suffer from such obvious budget restraints, keeping the action stuck in certain locations much longer than it should have been, but judging from these clips, that’s no longer an issue.

It looks as though a certain terrible event from much further along in the comics will be flash-forwarded and carried out at the Terminus compound.  If that’s the case, part of this season is going to be very hard to watch.

“The Walking Dead” is a bona fide phenomenon, the next step after “TV show with great ratings.”  It’s been a while since anything on TV got its hooks so firmly into the broad pop-culture audience, and it’s all the more amazing because it’s such a grisly program.  The Zombie Moment was surfed with a remarkable combination of lucky timing and skill by the cast and crew.

I think the weaknesses and cliches of a phenomenon contribute to its popularity, in addition to its strengths.  Not only do you pick up the “hate-watchers” who seem to watch the show entirely so they can go into online forums and rant about how much it stinks – their eyeballs count for ratings too! – but the imperfections of a flawed gem make it endearing and approachable to its genuine fans.  All these decades later, jokes about “red shirts” and other tropes from “Star Trek” are part of the pop-culture language.  It’s comparably easy to wail “WHERE’S CARL?!?” and watch everyone in earshot grin.  I wonder if part of what makes people love a show like “Walking Dead” is because its flaws inspire their imaginations and make them think about how they’d tell the story differently… an impulse that has kept classic stories alive across history.

And really, nothing silly about this show – primarily the outbreaks of lunkheaded behavior among the survivors, and the rather low-grade menace the slow-moving and easily killed zombies seem to pose – dilutes what it does well.  The survival-horror setting is haunting, the drama caused by people forced to make impossible decisions is intense, and the characters are generally well-drawn and well-acted enough to make you genuinely care about what happens to them.  If one of those scenes glimpsed briefly in the trailer means what I think it means, that sense of audience connection to the characters is going to get a hell of a workout this fall.


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