I love zombies. I realize I’m not alone in this assertion. Zombies have enjoyed a nice vogue period for a few years now and while my own contrarian nature should have me bristling against the most popular zombie media, my reaction to AMC’s The Walking Dead is a little more complex. I’m going to watch the second season and I’m going to write about each episode on this blog every week, just as I did with Breaking Bad. But I bring kind of a lot of baggage with me to these viewings. I can boil this baggage down to three things:
Baggage Alpha: I wrote a The Walking Dead spec script
Over the Summer, I wrote a spec script for The Walking Dead and submitted it to NBC’s Writers on the Verge program. I didn’t get into the program, but I believe my teleplay holds together really well as both an example of what I can do and an example of what I would like to see on The Walking Dead. I pick up right where the first season ends, with our characters trying to escape from Atlanta on the heels of the CDC explosion.
In my story, the characters discover a group of survivors who have built their routine around the nightly radio broadcast of a solo cellist playing a piece about the end of the world. Naturally, there is conflict about what to do with this information, as a functional broadcast location implies so many more useful assets, but those that built a life around this cello piece are not going to let it go lightly.
I’ve been living with this story for probably four months now, and in my mind it is canon. But Sunday night will inevitably roll around and wipe these events clean from my mental record and replace them with something else entirely. It’s weird cognitive space to occupy. My teleplay still has value in that it is demonstrative of my skills, but there will be something profoundly less real about it come Sunday, October 16th at 9:00pm.
I’m including my script here and encourage anyone with the time and interest to read it. I can always use feedback, so I invite any comments or criticisms you may have as well. Also, it might be nice to not be alone in experiencing a little personal retconning.
Baggage Beta: No, I haven’t read any of the original comics
And I’ve sort of become a comic book kind of guy in the last year or so. What gives?
First, it’s my understanding that the series is deviating wildly from the source material. As the connection between what’s on the screen and what’s on the page becomes ever thinner, it makes less sense to pursue one because I enjoy the other.
Second, I’m not totally sold on the television series. I think it shows a lot of promise, and that pilot episode was a really incredible and visceral piece of storytelling. In the episodes that followed, I kept waiting for the show to either become a) the post-apocalyptic epic I’ve been waiting for or b) a character study about what desperate people will do in order to survive. I don’t believe that episodes 2-6 delivered strongly on either of those fronts.
Third and probably hardest to understand, I’m trying to take in as much TV as possible. This is the exact same thing I’m going through with Game of Thrones – I may want more material like this, but I want it as told by a television show. Shows develop their own shorthand, their own rhythm, their own feel, no matter how faithful they may be to the source material. In both the cases of The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones, it is the TV show specifically that I want to immerse myself in and learn all about.
Baggage Gamma: Years ago, I conceived of a zombie television show of my own
In the Spring of 2007 and heavily influenced by the first three seasons of LOST, two of my close friends and I hypothesized a weekly television drama with zombies. Through the course of the next several months, we pitched out a complicated mythology and ten well-defined characters. The hook of the show was going to be that there were four episodes throughout the season that told one story about our group of survivors and each of the other ten would focus exclusively on the characters individually getting to the same place. They’d be flashbacks, but not framed by forward-moving story (like LOST did). The character’s individual journeys intersected in interesting and shocking ways and there were often emotional hooks that carried over from one character’s story to the next. The goal was to create something that was as satisfying to watch serially as it was to tune in for an individual episode.
Obviously, there was a lot of fantasy here in just imagining a world where we could do a 14-episode first season (who does that?) or that we could plan the entirety of the first season before writing/casting/filming/etc. the pilot. But this exercise is what got me interested in television writing in the first place.
When I found out about The Walking Dead, I felt like we had been scooped. When I watch the show now, I always (without fail) compare it to the zombie show in my head.
Okay, baggage unloaded.
On the topic of zombies, I see this trailer a lot:
And it really bothers me that after the music cuts out, it doesn’t come back in in time. It’s like it’s out for just over a half a measure. Conduct along with it, it’ll make your furious.