When you think of The Walking Dead, what immediately comes to mind is probably zombies. Yet at its core, AMC’s hit horror drama is more about the constant struggle for survival we all face in our daily lives – just cranked up a few hundred notches. We watch how each characters reacts to the world around them, and to each other, while of course also wondering who will live and who will die.
So, NBC might not have been too far off base when they originally suggested to creator Frank Darabont that maybe the zombie drama should instead focus on some of those more basic ideas. Before the show was ever picked up by AMC, Darabont first presented the script to NBC, the network with whom he already had an overall deal. And according to executive producer Gale Anne Hurd, their response was, “Do there have to be zombies [in it]?”
Speaking at the Edinburgh International TV Festival (via Variety), Hurd also revealed that NBC then backtracked a bit and asked Darabont if the show could be a procedural in which the two main protagonists would “solve a zombie crime of the week.” To many this idea might be blasphemous to the original spirit of the comic, but Hurd was also quick to point out that the show is “not about the zombies, it’s about the humans.” Hurd reminded the audience that the focus of any serialized drama should be on the evolution of the characters:
“What attracted me to [Robert Kirkman’s] comic-book series is that it is a story about characters on a journey into this new world, and constantly trying to figure out not only how to survive but what’s important to them, and some characters give up, some characters commit suicide, and they are constantly evolving, they are constantly meeting new characters; they have to determine friend or foe, and very quickly we realize that it is not the zombies you have to be afraid of, it’s the other humans.”
NBC is known for its love of procedurals like the Law & Order and Chicago franchises, so it makes sense that the network would try to fit any new shows to fit this mold. It’s also apparent that serialized shows ordinarily don’t do as well as procedurals, where viewers don’t have to follow an ongoing story and can come in at any time and know what a typical episode will look like any given week.
It’s actually a testament to AMC that the cable network not only managed to make The Walking Dead a big hit, but also keep the source material pretty much intact. Networks will always want to take new shows and mold them to their brand because they believe in going with what already works will make money. It’s a ‘if it isn’t broken don’t fix it’ mentality. Yet a lot of times it’s only in trying new things that we can find the next big hit, even if the following TV season we’ll see a bunch of clones of that same idea trying to cash in on all the hype.
The Walking Dead season seven premieres on AMC on October 23rd.