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Screaming for attention: 400 TV shows and counting



Late last year researches at FX Networks found that there were more than 400 scripted TV shows in 2015. Not 400 HOURS of scripted shows, but 400 DIFFERENT shows. Let that sink in for a minute. If there’s 400 scripted shows and each show has on average 10 episodes, some would have more and some less, that’s something like around 4,000 hours of NEW TV produced last year. To put that number in perspective, with that amount of content you could watch nothing but new TV shows 24 hours a day from December to mid-June.

Humans on AMC

Humans on AMC

And that’s not including news programs and game shows and variety shows and reality and TV movies either. That’s 4,000 hours of scripted dramas and comedies.

Part of why there’s so much “stuff” out there is that every channel wants to have a hit series that draws in viewers, which might turn a channel very few are watching, and therefor getting less ad dollars, into something many are watching and talking about and getting lots of ad dollars. Case in point AMC. A decade ago AMC aired classic movies, hence the name; American Movie Classics. Then in 2007 they launched Mad Men to great acclaim and have since launched other popular series like Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead. Before, AMC was a channel that hardly anyone watched. Now, AMC is one of the most watched spots on TV and one that now makes a lot of money.

And with viewers “cutting the cord” as it were online services are also trying to get in with scripted shows too. Netflix and Amazon have have been creating series specifically for their service for a few years now and now other platforms like Hulu and YouTube are getting in on the game too with content of their own.

Jessica Jones on Netflix

Jessica Jones on Netflix

I watch a lot of TV, probably too much. And even with my prodigious TV habit I couldn’t watch everything last year that I probably would have in years past. For example, the series Humans on AMC looked interesting enough but I had too many things to watch at that time and never got around to it. And with a show like Jessica Jones on Netflix I did watch the first episode but when it didn’t immediately connect with me I moved onto something else.

Now I’m not saying that I’ll won’t go back and try and watch Jessica Jones or Humans again this summer when there used to be fewer new things to on, but I can’t guarantee it since nowadays there are just as many new and interesting series premiering during the summer as there are in the fall/winter months.

New shows last summer like Halt and Catch Fire, True Detective and The Carmichael Show, all of which I enjoyed a great deal, took whatever time I would normally have to checkout things I’d missed during the fall and instead put the focus on them. In fact, the only show I did catchup on last summer was Fargo, and that was only because a friend highly recommended it.

Maron on IFC

Maron on IFC

Which makes me wonder, what am I all missing? Years ago I was only ever able to get into The Wire when I caught up with it after HBO aired the first few seasons before the start of the third. Up until then I’d watch a few episodes at the start of each new season and give up. It was only because I had the time to catch up on it that I was able to be sucked in by that wonderful show.

But the last few years that really hasn’t been happening for me. I tell myself that I need to watch the latest season of House of Cards or Justified or Maron and something else new will appear on my pop-culture radar and I find myself putting off things for one more season.

I suppose the solution to all this is to count my blessings, too much of a good thing is better than nothing, and wait for the day that the eventual collapse of all this good stuff which is inevitable. There’s no way that all the networks and cable channels and online services can be pouring BILLIONS into these new shows with all expected to make back any money.

Maybe what I need to do is to get a colossal DVR and record EVERYTHING I might be interested in when the day comes after the pop-culture collapse when the only thing on to watch are reruns of The Big Bang Theory and episodes of Redneck/Swamp-Truckers/Fishermen/Miners/Pawn on The Discovery Channel.







Fear the Walking Dead numbers game



The series The Walking Dead is one of the most popular shows on TV with up to 17 million people watching each episode. Over the last five seasons we’ve learned a lot about what happened after the zombies came to dominate the planet but not much of what lead to their takeover.

fear_the_walking_dead_ver3We do know that at some point between the time character Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) was shot and wounded on a seemingly normal day and awoke a few weeks/months later in an abandoned hospital is when society fell apart and the ghouls with a taste for people took over. And other than a few flashbacks in other episodes that’s it.

Now the new The Walking Dead spin-of series Fear the Walking Dead is set to go back and tell this missing history of how the zombies ate their way to world domination from the very first bite.

Which got me thinking; if what happened in The Walking Dead happened in real life how would it go down?

First, let’s assume that at some point at the same time all over the planet the virus in The Walking Dead that turns anyone who’s died for any reason into flesh eating zombies strikes. And from that point on anyone who dies will reanimate and come looking for lunch. Which would be bad news for us since 56 million people die each year which means at a minimum there’s be 56 million zombies on the planet!

Well, actually no.

Alycia Debnam Carey as Alicia, Frank Dillane as Nick, Kim Dickens as Madison, Cliff Curtis as Travis, Elizabeth Rodriguez as Liza, Lorenzo James Henrie as Chris, Ruben Blades as Daniel Salazar, Patricia Reyes Spíndola as Griselda Salazar and Mercedes Mason as Ofelia - Fear The Walking Dead _ Season 1, Gallery - Photo Credit: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC

Alycia Debnam Carey as Alicia, Frank Dillane as Nick, Kim Dickens as Madison, Cliff Curtis as Travis, Elizabeth Rodriguez as Liza, Lorenzo James Henrie as Chris, Ruben Blades as Daniel Salazar, Patricia Reyes Spíndola as Griselda Salazar and Mercedes Mason as Ofelia – Fear The Walking Dead _ Season 1, Gallery – Photo Credit: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC

It’s true that on average something like 56 million people die every year but that’s over the course of an entire year. In a month about 4.6 million people die, in a day around 153,000. Which again is a lot, until you look at the population as a whole.

Currently, there are more than 7 billion people on the planet. And that’s 7,000,000,000 people who’d be against 153,000 some zombies the first day. While the zombies might have surprise on their hands since I’m assuming that in the universe of The Walking Dead there’s no movies like Night of the Living Dead to prepare the populous on how to fight and destroy the beasts (“If you have a gun, shoot ’em in the head. That’s a sure way to kill ’em. If you don’t, get yourself a club or a torch. Beat ’em or burn ’em. They go up pretty easy.”), my guess is that 7 billion vs. 153 thousand would be able to take care of the zombie plague relatively quickly.

Especially since zombies aren’t smart or cunning. Once a zombie is created it doesn’t go around looking for other zombies to start building an army in secret, it goes out looking for regular people to bite. Regular people who probably don’t want to be bitten. Regular people who’d fight back.

fear_the_walking_dead_ver2_xlgAnd again, 153,000 might sound like a big number but that would be the total amount of zombies created world-wide on the first day + any people unlucky enough to be offed by them. To put that number into perspective, there are about 8.4 million people living in New York City where we’d see about 150 zombies created on the first day. Again, 8.4 million vs 150 is no match.

Looking at the numbers I just can’t see how the zombies took over in The Walking Dead? Maybe it was some crazed politician who outlawed killing zombies because he or she was afraid of losing votes? Or maybe people tried to ignore their dead friend’s pasty completion and penchant for cannibalism too long before the zombies started taking over?

I just don’t get it.

Realistically, I could only see something like in The Walking Dead happening if something else happened along side it. Like say a something like World War 2 where tens of thousands of people were dying every day in certain places where the population was already displaced and dislocated and not able to effectively fight the zombies. Or if something like the 1918 flu pandemic happened again that was bad enough that 25% of the population became sick, and in a zombie apocalypse wouldn’t be able to fight back, and tens of millions of extra people died as well.

Then we might be in trouble.

Otherwise, as long as we had enough heavy sticks to club the zombies with in the first weeks of an outbreak I think we’d be okay. Fear the Walking Dead is set to answer these questions on AMC Sunday, August 23.




Day of the Dead, the most important horror movie of the last 30 years?



Day of the Dead turns 30 next year and while I think the movie casts a wide shadow in regards to how influential it is I doubt many other than fans of the horror genera have seen it. It’s the final film of George Romero’s zombie trilogy after Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead and serves as an appropriate ending to his brutal series.

When I think of Day of the Dead I think of three things; first it’s a great movie. Second it scared me so much that after the first time I saw it that I literally slept on the floor of my parent’s room for a month. And finally I think that Day of the Dead might just be the most important movie in the last 30 years for horror fans.

Why is it that important? Because even with Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead you don’t get the TV series The Walking Dead that’s one of the most successful series of the last decade without Day of the Dead.

In Day of the Dead, years have past since the zombies of Night of the Living Dead have emerged and then in Dawn of the Dead started taking control of the world one bite at a time. Now the zombies rule the planet and the last vestiges of humanity, if not the last vestige, are holed up in an underground complex trying to study the zombie and figure out how to win a war against them that at this point is all but over. Underground the scientists find some progress when they’re able to turn a zombie they’ve named “Bub” (Sherman Howard) to something more docile but when the soldiers find out what’s really been going on in the lab that’s more Dr. Frankenstein than what they’ve lead to believe, it turns out being trapped inside with each other might be more dangerous than being trapped outside with the walking dead.

The Walking Dead Season 3 PosterAnd that’s why that when The Walking Dead series creator Robert Kirkman has said in the past that his series takes place in the universe of Night of the Living Dead it’s really taking place in the universe of Day of the Dead.

In Night of the Living Dead the characters are in a world where zombies first appear. And while the zombies are dangerous and kill people, it’s not like the government has lost control of things. In the movie there are scenes of newscasters delivering stories about the undead and even a segment that takes place in a zombie-free Washington DC. And while the end of the movie spells doom for the entire living cast of Night of the Living Dead, it seems like things are mostly under control with posses of people gunning down the dead and restoring some sort of order.

And in Dawn of the Dead while things have gotten much worse, the police are still battling zombies on the streets of cities and anchors are still delivering the news.

And while all this might have happened in the backstory of The Walking Dead it certainly doesn’t happen on screen.

Instead, The Walking Dead jumps right to the same universe of Day of the Dead, where civilization has all but collapsed and the zombies have made venturing into cities extremely dangerous. And any remnant of whatever institutions used to exist be it the military or scientists don’t realize that their parts on the world stage are essentially over are incidental and if not completely gone.

Which to me sounds more like Day of the Dead than Night of the Living Dead.

I’m not saying that Kirkman lifted The Walking Dead from Day of the Dead, his story has gone in a totally different direction than Romeo’s did in Day of the Dead, just that when people name check Night of the Living Dead with The Walking Dead they should really mention Day of the Dead in that conversation too.




Why I stopped watching The Walking Dead



I’ve watched every season of the TV series The Walking Dead (TWD) since it premiered on AMC back in 2010. It was a series I couldn’t quite believe was being made because a) it was a horror series that was b) on a non-pay cable channel that was c) about zombies and d) quite gory as well plus e) was being headed by one of my favorite writer/directors Frank Darabont.

It’s almost as if TWD was made for me personally.

Sonequa Martin-Green and Chad L. Coleman

Sonequa Martin-Green and Chad L. Coleman

And it was exactly because all of this that I didn’t think TWD would last too long. I couldn’t imagine the general public latching onto a horror series that sometimes literally focused on blood’n’guts but I was totally wrong. Not only was the TWD good, it did VERY well in the ratings too.

The first signs of trouble for me with TWD came with the second season of the show. From the start Darabont had cast the show and set the look and direction of TWD but was unexpectedly fired from the series just after the start of production on the second season. Which was odd since why would such a key person like Darabont be let go at all?

Norman Reedus and Melissa McBride

Norman Reedus and Melissa McBride

Regardless, TWD only got bigger in its second season, gobbling up more viewers and more critical acclaim. Except that second season of the show wasn’t nearly as interesting as the first. At the time I stood by the show arguing that it would be a mistake for TWD to be all zombies and gore all the time. But looking back now I’d say that the second season of the show with the story taking place mostly on a farm was slow and at times boring.

Things improved a bit in the third season where the group found shelter in an abandoned prison. But after a while with the characters safe inside the fortified walls the story got a bit stale and a villain, the Governor, was introduced to shake things up a bit. What’s the Governor’s motivation for being so mean, for wanting to destroy the prison and obliterate the group?

Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes

Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes

Well, that’s never quite clear — but shut-up already the dude’s got a tank and an eye patch and a wall full of zombie heads in aquariums, motivation be damned!

Why have I given up on TWD now? Part of problem as I see is is that after four seasons the show hasn’t changed all that much. Sure, some old characters are gone and new ones are introduced but even then the new characters aren’t that much different than what’s come before. It also bugs me how the zombies of the show are used. When the story’s getting a little too slow, zombies appear. Sometimes the zombies are loud, sometimes they are quiet. Sometimes there are many, sometimes they are few. The terms of the story dictate how the zombies act and that’s been grating on me for some time now.

In the first season the zombies had some personality. They’d be found sitting on buses or sometimes used rocks to try and break into places almost like they still had some shadow memories of their past lives. They were characters with weird sorts of personalities. Now they’re merely plot devices to keep the story moving forward.

walking_dead_ver37_xlg

Why I finally gave up on TWD after last season was that I just couldn’t see how the show was going to change or evolve as the series went on. It seemed to me that each season of the show had the group finding a refuge only to discover that this refuge was really a dangerous mirage eventually forcing them out into the wilds of the zombieverse.

Andrew Lincoln and Norman Reedus

Andrew Lincoln and Norman Reedus

And honestly, I get the sense that this is how the show will play out season after season until it eventually ends. “We’re safe here! Oh wait, no we’re not! Oh no, we need to run away! John Smith and Joan Smith have been killed! RUN! What’s that over there? A safe haven? We’re safe here!” Repeat.

It doesn’t help matters that TWD comic creator and series executive-producer Robert Kirkman has said that he doesn’t see the series ending. Ever. So, in Kirkman’s TWD universe the zombies will never rot away and the characters there will never find safety and will always be on the run.

Which is interesting for a while, but after four seasons is too repetitive/boring for me. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted.