With award-winning shows such as Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, Hell on Wheels, Mad Men and of course, The Walking Dead, AMC has established itself as a ratings powerhouse when it comes to producing a quality television series. The network looks to continue that trend with Fear the Walking Dead - the upcoming spin-off show based on Robert Kirkman's hit graphic novel series.
Executive Producer Gale Anne Hurd is quick to point out that Fear the Walking Dead isn't a spin-off, (as none of the characters from the original show will make an appearance), but rather, it's a companion series show set in the same universe as The Walking Dead but following a completely different set of characters and storylines - which still sounds an awful lot like a spin-off.
Even though The Walking Dead is one of the most watched shows on television, it's not without its flaws. As we pointed out previously, season 5 of The Walking Dead suffered early on from many problems, which were more or less corrected by season's end - read about them HERE. By taking a fresh approach on the subject, Fear the Walking Dead showrunners have a chance to avoid those mistakes before they ever happen.
Let's take a look at what we think Fear the Walking Dead needs to accomplish in order to provide viewers with a successful
spin-off companion series experience:
6 How It All Began - Patient Zero
After five seasons of The Walking Dead, the zombie outbreak "origin story" - how the world essentially ceased to exist as we know it - has only been addressed in a couple of episodes during season 1. During an interview in June, creator Robert Kirkman said that Fear the Walking Dead will pick up as the outbreak begins, but he currently has no intention of showing its point of origin. At this stage in the game, viewers want...NEED...to see exactly what happened that allowed the world to devolve to its current state. However, while the show will revolve around the events as they unfold during the crisis, we may not actually see how it all started from the very beginning - and that's a shame. Hopefully, fans of the franchise will at least gets glimpses and flashbacks via news articles or even concurrent webisodes as the fit hits the shan to help piece that part of the story together.
FX took a "Patient Zero" approach with their hit vampire show The Strain, and so far it's worked very well. There's no reason why AMC can't allow something similar to happen with Fear the Walking Dead. While a true zombie pandemic origin story wouldn't necessarily be as sexy as jumping right into people turning into flesh-eating hordes, it would be fundamental in allowing viewers to understand how all this horror came to be.
5 The Fall of Established Government - Societal Chaos
Fear the Walking Dead's main premise is to show how society drastically changed in just a few short weeks, filling in the missing time while Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) was in a coma. In The Walking Dead, we get to see how people from different walks of life come together during the most unthinkable of circumstances in order to survive in a post-apocalyptic society. What we have yet to see, though, is exactly how it all went so bad, so fast. During interviews, those involved with the show have hinted that viewers will get to watch the fall of civilized government as it happens, but exactly how long that process will take has yet to be determined. The footage of police in riot gear, hospitals in chaos and first responders losing their lives shown in the trailers remind us that society, much less government, truly isn't ready for an outbreak of this type or magnitude - this part of the story really needs to be explored in great detail.
Hopefully this will unfold over the course of the entire series and not be quickly swept under the rug after just two or three episodes. This way viewers can discuss (read: engage in online arguments) on what the local, state and federal government did wrong in their handling of this deadly outbreak.
4 Character Development - Don't Make it Too Slow
Fear the Walking Dead follows the lives of an "average American family" as they attempt to survive the chaos around them, while still trying to overcome the non-zombie obstacles and confusion in their lives. As they are the show's stars, we expect the hectic and raw relationship between divorcees Madison Clark (Kim Dickens) and Travis Manawa (Cliff Curtis), as well as their children, Nick (Frank Dillane), Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) and Chris (Lorenzo James Henrie), to be developed over the course of the entire show. But, there will be other characters who need to be established early, such as Chris’s mother Liza Ortiz (Elizabeth Rodriguez) and the Salazar family – Daniel (Rubén Blades), Griselda (Patricia Reyes Spíndola) and Ofelia (Mercedes Mason) - as few of them are likely to survive for a whole season. Read more about these characters - HERE.
One of the biggest complaints viewers of The Walking Dead have is how long the show took to develop a character, just to watch them be killed off - often in brutal ways - shortly thereafter (Noah didn't deserve to go out the way he did). Unfortunately, there's very little chance of the quick character kill offs ending anytime soon for either show, so we don't recommend getting attached to any of these new characters.
3 Intriguing Storylines - Expand the Dead Universe
As interesting as The Walking Dead has become, the scope of the show is very limited in terms of geography, as the characters were stuck in Atlanta and didn't hang their hats in Alexandria, VA until recently. By moving the story to Los Angeles, Fear the Walking Dead has the opportunity to greatly expand the scope of the Walking Dead Universe. Los Angeles is the second most populated city in the United States, home to almost four million people from all walks of life and has one of the busiest international airports in the world. This leaves lots of room for the story to grow beyond the its initial borders by introducing characters - important and non-essential - from various countries, which can lead to more info on how this outbreak began. The Walking Dead's geographical location was more or less handcuffed by the original comics, but Fear the Walking Dead isn't limited by such restrictions, as all the characters and story are being made just for this show.
During an interview at San Diego Comic Con in 2015, executive producer Gale Anne Hurd referred to the new cast as "characters without a road map" and that excites us as fans of the franchise tremendously. The biggest positive to take away from that statement? Canon purists won't be able to complain "that's not how it was done in the book".
2 Zombies! Zombies! Zombies! - Bring on the Zombies
Producers have said on more than one occasion that Fear the Walking Dead isn't about the zombies, but when half the title of the show relates to the wandering brain-eaters...we know that it's really about the zombies. While the showrunners would like us to believe it's the day-to-day exploration of characters relationships that drive the show, fans know it's really slow-moving, rotten corpses refusing to die that are are the undead lifeblood of the series - for this reason, we hope to see a lot of interesting new takes on the creatures. The best part of starting from near the beginning of the zombie outbreak, the undead haven't had time to rot and wither away. That means we could see interesting takes on the zombie genre such as, zombie chefs wandering restaurants, zombie football players attacking people at a game, zombie pregnant women attacking themselves *shudder*, and maybe even a zombie bus driver or lifeguard roaming about - the possibilities are endless.
In all seriousness, there's some great potential in Fear the Walking Dead to allow viewers to enjoy the sights of some rather unique zombies, that can never again be explored in The Walking Dead (when will we ever get another chance to see a zombie lifeguard). We need the visual effects personnel on the show to dig really deep into their creative, warped minds to give zombie fans something other than another random guy in a hoodie and jeans.
Some rather high expectations have been set for Fear the Walking Dead by both AMC and viewers alike and there's little doubt that show's debut on August 23rd will draw heavy ratings for the network. Unless the show is a complete misfire, it should continue to be a Sunday night favorite throughout its initial six-episode first season and well into its 15-episode second season.
Of course, time will tell if the storytelling being used in this companion series will strike a chord with Walking Dead fans or if it'll be left to rot in the sun. What things are you need to see from Fear the Walking Dead in order to enjoy the show? Amble down to the comments section and let us know.
Fear the Walking Dead debuts Sunday, August 23rd, 2015 on AMC.
The Walking Dead season 6 premieres Sunday, October 11, 2015 on AMC.