It was the first zombie series to reach our screens, it had the biggest world premiere of any series and now it's the goriest horror on TV.The Walking Dead
premiered on TopTV's Fox FX two episodes ago and it's a scorcher of blood, guts, dead meat (mostly human!) and rotting stuff you don't want to think about. If you thought Dexter
and True Blood
are horrors, trust me when I tell you, they're nothing
The series premiered with a child-turned-zombie getting shot in the head at close range, then a horse got attacked by a frenzy of adult zombies who ripped him open and ate his insides in explicit view and most recently, the heros of the story axed a zombie until he had no zombie flesh left.
They chopped him up, axed his bodyparts to a pulp and then took his blood, hands, feet and intestines and wore
them as clothing. As a camouflage to protect themselves from the zombies, who know and trust each other's rank stench.
In many ways the series is similar stylistically to films by Quentin Tarantino's protégé Eli Roth (eg. Hostel) where the violence is so extreme and the horror so pornographic you end up laughing because it all becomes absurd - yet not
The premiere episode scored record ratings for AMC, the US pay-TV network who make it. At first there were speculations that it had to do with the huge buzz surrounding before the premiere but the second episode hooked viewers too and scored another ratings high.
People genuinely like it and want more,
which indicates a strong trend that's on the increase.
The same thing has happened with Dexter and True Blood: both shows have been renewed season after season while the more PC shows such as FlashForward
, The Gates
and the new Knight Rider
and Melrose Place
weren't able to keep viewers and got axed as quickly as a zombie feeds.
What does it mean? Why would these shows be so much more popular? My best guess is that it's because they're so anti-establishment. They don't
make safe choices, they're in-your-face all
of the time so there's no boredom factor and they give a sense that they're more honest and direct than a show that's sugar-coated.
They're also all on pay-TV channels - both in the US and in South Africa - so they're about personal choice and the independence to watch whatever you want to, without someone else prescribing for you.
Interestingly, they exist with another increasing trend, which is the return of the half-hour comedy/sitcom. The popularity of Two and a Half Men
and now Modern Family
contrasts so strongly with horror porn, yet they have similar factors: they're dramatically escapist and the emotions one feels in them both are extreme.
The Walking Dead is so gory, bloody and gutsy, it immediately got renewed for a 13-episode second season after Episode 2.
It airs on Fox FX on Tuesdays at 21h20.