Greg Nicotero is an unrivaled genius when it comes to creating zombies, but this is not a show about zombies, but rather, it is a show about about survival, the monsters that desperation conjures, and Rick Grimes, Daryl, Michonne, Glenn, Maggie, Carl, and the others. The characters are what keeps us coming back, but AMC seems to think that they can take this concept and recreate it with new characters and other stories about survival, even though last season’s Woodbury heavy episodes lacked the punch of the ones featuring the main cast.
Despite that, you can see how this would be appealing to Walking Dead concept creator, Robert Kirkman. Chained to a blueprint created by his hand, there are always complaints when Walking Dead the TV series diverges from the comic book – something it has to do, and something it does often. For Kirkman, the Walking Dead spin-off is a chance to explore the world that he created without as many pre-established boundaries, but can both shows be serviced equally, or could AMC’s most important show suffer?
There’s also the question of timing: The Walking Dead “companion series” wouldn’t air until 2015, right around when The Walking Dead will enter its sixth season.
Typically, a TV show will get more expensive as it ages. An actor’s status can be elevated by these shows and they can get more opportunities elsewhere, thus granting them leverage in salary negotiations or an excuse to leave. Writers leave too; they start their own shows or simply move on to other projects – and all of a sudden, a show starts to feel very different, ratings start to fall, and critics start to chip away at these once beloved titans. Look at ER, The West Wing, Dexter or True Blood for examples of what that looks like.
Maybe we don’t need to worry about AMC and Robert Kirkman robbing Peter to pay Paul. Maybe the Walking Dead spin-off is actually the main series’ much cheaper eventual successor. That’s not to say that The Walking Dead is fated to die in 2015 so that this show might live, but it doesn’t seem like AMC likes expensive things, and at that point, The Walking Dead will likely be a more expensive thing.
Whether AMC is simply cheap, or sadly limited is a matter of perspective, but reputations matter, and AMC’s is decidedly mixed as the money issue has always hovered around the numerous controversies that have popped up between the network and the vaunted triumvirate of Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and The Walking Dead.
These controversies – which involve budget cuts, creator exits, and slashed episode orders – are as much a part of AMC’s history as their successes have been (thanks to the frequency with which these fights have spilled out into the public square) but could they also damage the network as it moves forward?
“With FX, Showtime, HBO, Starz, Cinemax, A&E, TNT and others to sell to, it’s a real question now why good show runners should sell to AMC?”
With AMC’s decision to siphon off of both Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead with spin-offs, the frustrating postponement of the Mad Men conclusion across two half seasons, and the network’s recent development losing streak, one has to wonder if we are seeing other showrunners ask themselves that question.
Breaking Bad‘s series finale airs Sunday September 29th and The Walking Dead returns to AMC on Sunday October 13th.