In praise of The Walking Dead

Back in about 1981 I went round to my neighbour’s house to watch a video. We didn’t have a video player at ours – just the standard four push-button TV, and yes, that means the four channels – and watching a video felt somewhat exotic. So, around I go. Excitedly, my next-door neighbour slots a video into the player and we settle back to watch Dawn of the Dead.

Now, being 9-10 years old and unused to watching anything scarier than Scooby-Doo the film imprinted a marked impression on me. One that remained every night for about 4 weeks, truth be told. The one scene that I can never shake from my memory is when the pilot is trapped in the lift and a zombie takes a chunk out of his neck as if biting into a large over-ripened apple. The whole film scared the hell out of me but I watched it through. I really thought zombies were real for the next month or so.

So, fast-forward 30 years and I’m back watching zombies for grown-ups. There are backstories to the characters. There’s a Lost like strangeness with characters dreaming the future (admittedly I only watched three episodes of Lost before I gave up). There are characters with flaws; characters with a backbone so rigid you could strap any number of poles to it and sail it down a river; rednecks spoiling for a fight; distant philosophical types who perch on caravans staring into the sky, or perhaps looking for zombies; and, of course, characters who get chunks bitten out of their necks, and arms, and legs. Hooray!!

I caught myself comparing this to the recent BBC sci-fi drama that was Outcasts, you remember, the one you watched right to the bitter end in the vain hope that it might at some point lift itself out of a scene from Doctor Who circa 1973 but left you feeling like you had asked for a piece of Black Forest Gateaux but got packet blancmange instead. I was left wondering why the BBC, for all its great taste and free money, isn’t able to spot the turkeys and then lets the gold dust slip through its fingers (think Mad Men series 5. Grrr! Some of us are still Sky-less.)

More zombies and daftness please. And don’t make it too serious. I might start having nightmares again.

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