I did a lot of yelling about The Walking Dead leading up to its premier. It was an occasion to celebrate, wasn’t it? AMC didn’t skimp on the hype reels and we got to see a lot of what was to come on the adaptation of Robert Kirkman’s comic. As much as it pains me to say this, because I’m so sick and tired of motherfucking zombies, zombies are still a hot commodity. Everyone got wise to the nerdy wit of Shaun of the Dead and suddenly everybody you’ve ever known is a frothy-mouthed zombie fan buying up and reading/watching anything having to do with walking cannibal corpses. It was only a matter of time before zombies hit television. There have been pilots produced with the monster involved but nothing had hit the airwaves until this and with all those juicy screenshots, teasers and behind the scenes clips hitting the web, showing us stuff intended for prime-time cable that had only ever appeared in nasty unrated horror movies on the high shelves of any given video store, could you blame the horror community for finally feeling as though we’re being taken seriously? The uniformity of our optimism was delicious! A gory adaptation of a fan-favorite comic that promised to embrace and elaborate on our precious source material brought everyone together in a way that horror fans weren’t really used to and we all got together on our various social networks, holding hands and singing campfire songs while in anticipation of this show’s release. Honestly, not even the troglodyte comic nerd mafia were pissing and moaning about the various public facts about the show.
And then the show premiered.
The Walking Dead garnered massive viewership numbers. Bigger than anything before it. This was remarkable in ways few people even thought about. Seriously. Horror doesn’t typically draw a crowd like sitcoms and scripted dramas tend to do. People yap endlessly about the sophistication of The Wire and Mad Men but not even the network-mate Mad Men ever drew a crowd like The Walking Dead did. Bloody and morbid, The Walking Dead defied expectations of modest viewership and instead turned into a ratings monster that astonished TV analysts upon premier and then kept them guessing when it maintained it’s staggering numbers. It was deserving of its status, too, in spite of a few naysayers who criticized the writing and characters, second-guessing their characteristically horror movie tendencies to put themselves in harm’s way again and again. Unfortunately, in this writer’s opinion, it didn’t maintain the solid start and the cracks began to show after only a couple of episodes.
I was willing to forgive new directions in the scripting department because I often felt that Kirkman whiffed on many opportunities to explore and expand in those early issues of the comic as he struggled to find out where he would take the characters. The first couple of episodes did this admirably and then when the show was picked up for a season, a very short one, it’s as though the writing staff scrambled to figure out what they, themselves, were going to do with it, leaving out vestigial characters who go nowhere in the run of the comic, fundamentally altering others and then telegraphing their red-shirt zombie food characters as though we’ve never seen any given Star Trek away team before. Interesting developments surfaced with the addition of Norman Reedus, playing the meth-toothed hillbilly, Daryl. Unfortunately, in the end, I just couldn’t abide and even though I steadfastly defended the show in the face of haters, I just couldn’t do it anymore when suddenly the survivors veer way off course and find their way to a suicidal CDC epidemiologist. The Walking Dead has not lost me but the final destination of our mercifully short season one left me wondering how Darabont and company were going to salvage the ship and reel me back in to shore. Think hard, Frank. Consider your options carefully.
A lot of people missed out, though. AMC spared no opportunity to run all episodes back to back and there’s still a huge number of people that never got to see it in spite of their interest. Even though I was let down in the end and am still wishy washy about the product, you can now catch up and own it all for yourself in the release of season 1, which hits shelves on DVD and Blu-ray today. It’s a solid high-def presentation that compiles all six episodes and all publicity in one place, in one neat package, while you rev your engine waiting for season 2. I had my problems with the show but this package intended for home video is something I’m hard-pressed to find fault with. I would have loved an episode commentary or two and given the enthusiastic marketing behind the network run, I’m surprised they hadn’t done that already, but it’s a hearty package of goodies for fans of the show for a great price, TV on DVD .
I have a hard time recommending the purchase of TV shows on DVD coming from a place where my own bias and busy schedule makes it hard for me to find time to re-watch TV show boxed sets. There’s so much out there, already and Netflix and the internet make so much that I’d miss in the past available all at once. The only show I’ve ever run through a second time was Battlestar but I tend to stand alone on this front and many people, it would seem, own at least two seasons of any given TV show on DVD. Let it be known that if this is your pattern of action and you have the desire, The Walking Dead Season 1 is a motherfucking bargain and packs a ton of value into the purchase. Arguing the merits and flaws of the audio and video presentation is a moot point since the disc was manufactured based on standard DVD/Blu-ray practices and was produced with modern technology. Yeah. It looks great.