Typing Faster

August 12, 2009

I Want To Eat Your Brains: Zombies On Television

Filed under: Craft, Marketing, Movies, Stuff I Like, the biz — petertypingfaster @ 3:04 pm

I love Zombies.

Doesn’t matter if it’s Romero, 28 Days or Shaun of the Dead, I’ve yet to meet a zombie story that I didn’t like.

I’ve always wanted to develop a zombie TV series, but never have, mostly because I was never convinced it could actually work.

Zombie stories make great movies, but the very things that make them excellent fodder for feature films make them, at least in my opinion, poorly suited for television series.

The main problem is that zombie stories are, by their very nature, event stories. A cataclysm breaks out, in this case the zombie plague, and everyone scrambles around trying to survive the immediate aftermath, and if it’s a traditional zombie story they fail in the end. In other words these stories have a very distinct beginning (cataclysm), middle (survival), and end (death).

They’re finite in nature, with no obvious franchise or episodic structure to them. In other words, poorly suited for adaptation into a television series.

Not that there haven’t been a few noble attempts.

Dead Set was a brilliant British mini-series where the only survivors of the zombie apocalypse were the contestants trapped in the UK Big Brother House. It was hilarious and awesome, but it wasn’t an ongoing series, but a six hour movie.

Babylon Fields was a CBS pilot back in the 2007, but wasn’t picked up. It took a more humorous approach to zombies, where people came back to life, but rather than trying to eat our brains, they just tried to pick up their lives where they left off.

You can find the pilot script in the script library.

Kevin Williamson wrote an unproduced zombie project for Fox a couple years back as well. This was a very traditional zombie story, covering the initial outbreak (caused by strange pollen released after an earthquake in LA), and then moving onto the experiences of a small group of survivors. A pilot was never shot.

You can find this pilot script in the script library as well.

There have also been a couple of independent attempts at getting a zombie series off the ground, most notable being Alive. Rather than shoot a pilot, the producers of Alive decided to spend their money on a series of websites, and several viral video clips, in an attempt to build an audience for the show without having to sink in the costs of a full pilot. Wired wrote up a piece about them here. Of course it didn’t actually work out, but it was a good try.

No, as much as I love zombies, and no matter how much I’d love to put them into my favorite medium of television, I figured it just wouldn’t work out. If I wanted my fix of brains I’d have to stick to movies, or to great books like World War Z (which will be making its way to multiplexes in 2010), or the excellent The Walking Dead graphic novels (which are truly awesome).

And then I read this piece in Variety.

AMC and Frank Darabont might be teaming up to produce a television version of The Walking Dead.

*Geek Swoon*

That’d be awesome. I have complete faith in whatever AMC decides to do, and I think they could come up with a pretty wicked series out of this. The network suits seem to be on the write page as well, saying:

This is not about zombies popping out of closets,” Stillerman said. “This is a story about survival, and the dynamics of what happens when a group is forced to survive under these circumstances. The world (in ‘Walking Dead’) is portrayed in a smart, sophisticated way.

Indeed it is, sir. Indeed it is.

Here’s hoping that everything comes together on this deal and we get a great zombie television series out of it.

At least then I’ll feel free to go and develop my series too.


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