Entertainment brands are no longer being built lengthwise - they're being built widthwise. In a post-Avengers world, extending a franchise through sequels, prequels, interquels or other time-bending techniques isn't sufficient; audiences of today want unique worlds to fully immerse themselves in - the bigger, the better.
Marvel superheroes and their universe have given rise to expansion plans for the DC Superhero, Star Wars and Harry Potter universes - even television has been following the strategy, with AMC widening their Breaking Bad franchise into the Better Call Saul spinoff series; and now more world will be added to the network's flagship series, The Walking Dead.
AMC made the announcement that it will produce a Walking Dead companion series with a 2015 air date in mind; serving on the show as executive producers are Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman and show producers Glae Anne Hurd and David Alpert.
Kirkman had the following to say about the new show (of which details are scant at the moment):
"After 10 years of writing the comic book series and being so close to the debut of our fourth, and in my opinion, best season of the TV series, I couldn't be more thrilled about getting the chance to create a new corner of 'The Walking Dead' universe," said Kirkman. "The opportunity to make a show that isn't tethered by the events of the comic book, and is truly a blank page, has set my creativity racing."
Along with the rise of the "franchise universe" model has come the inevitable cynicism that "universe building" is actually just a euphemism for "cash-grabbing." In the case of a Breaking Bad spinoff it's easy to see why someone might feel sour about such a focused and self-contained character drama being transformed into a franchise universe; however, Walking Dead is a different creature, entirely.
The goal of Robert Kirkman was always to create a zombpocalypse saga that is long-lasting and widespread, so really the comic series (and subsequently the show) comes with inherent potential for a much larger universe to be explored. There are infinite number of characters, storylines and perspectives that could be configured into a marketable show; the caveat being that the showrunners will have to be able to find a distinctly new thematic and character drama hook, other than survivors trying to deal with the toll of survival on a zombified earth. We've seen that before. Judging from Kirkman's words, however, something new and fresh is indeed the intention.
Personally speaking, I was one of those viewers who was wholly engrossed when Lost ran its "Tailies" mini-arc in the second season. The switch in perspective and introduction of new characters - different and intriguing characters - set within a familiar world, was an overall fun experience. (In fact, I still consider it a misstep that the showrunners ultimately negated the entire "Tailies Saga" by systematically killing those characters off.)
That's all to say: There is plenty of potential for the zombpocalypse to offer us more compelling TV drama - at least in my opinion. Let us know what YOU think by voting in the poll below and/or dropping your ideas for a good companion show in the comments.
The Walking Dead season 4 premieres on October 13, 2013 @ 9/8c only on AMC. We'll keep you updated on the status of the yet-untitled companion show as it heads for its proposed 2015 premiere.