The smash hit AMC original series The Walking Dead is perhaps one of the most widely viewed shows of all time, with its only direct competition in terms of mainstream appeal coming from the like-minded genre-fiction showcase Game of Thrones on HBO. Following the much anticipated season 7 premiere, the zombie action-drama has continued to draw a crowd and its highest ratings yet - despite the fact that some representatives of the PTC found the levels of violence depicted too gruesome.
Speaking to the longevity of the much beloved basic cable program, AMC president Josh Sapan has already gone on record as stating that he sees the franchise continuing for "many more years" - a sentiment reflected by the ongoing spin-off series Fear the Walking Dead in addition to a season 8 order for The Walking Dead prior to its season 7 premiere. However, it would appear that not everyone with a passing association to the zombie genre is pleased with the show's continuing success.
According to IndieWire, the unofficial godfather of the zombie genre George Romero - of Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead fame - doesn't feel as though the kinds of sociopolitical messages embedded in his original films would be welcome in a blockbuster franchise like The Walking Dead. In fact, Romero doesn't even think you could make a movie like Night of the Living Dead in today's filmmaking industry, stating:
"I don’t think you could make Night of the Living Dead now. You certainly can’t pitch it. It has to be under the wire. In a certain sense, Night of the Living Dead was under the wire. I thought Dawn of the Dead was a pie in the face to consumers, but people say there’s this underlying message of anti-consumerism in it. I think it’s way upfront. The only way you could make a film like this is to hide the message — unless it’s a message that is currently acceptable. You cannot pitch an idea the way I did. It would not get financed."
Case in point, it's been seven years since Romero's last zombie feature, Survival of the Dead in 2009, and big budget movies like World War Z and the hit TV drama The Walking Dead are largely to blame. Explaining his financial woes, Romero commented:
"Now, because of World War Z and The Walking Dead, I can’t pitch a modest little zombie film, which is meant to be sociopolitical. I used to be able to pitch them on the basis of the zombie action, and I could hide the message inside that. Now, you can’t. The moment you mention the word 'zombie,' it’s got to be, 'Hey, Brad Pitt paid $400 million to do that.'"
Fans of Romero's original zombie universe will likely nod their heads in agreement with Romero's general sentiment, though the mainstream TV watching public otherwise enamored with The Walking Dead might take umbrage with the aging director's dismissal of what is a wildly popular entertainment program. Either way, zombie genre fans of all stripes can look forward to the 4k restoration of Night of the Living Dead due to premiere later this weekend at the Museum of Modern Art.
The Walking Dead continues next Sunday with ‘The Cell’ @9pm on AMC.