Over the past decade, zombies have undergone, ironically enough, a pop cultural resurrection. Movies like 28 Days Later, Shaun of the Dead, and Zombieland offered clever spins on classic zombie films; video games like the Resident Evil series and the first-person shooter Left 4 Dead allowed players to gun down the undead in real time; and books like Max Brooks' World War Z and Seth-Grahame Smith's irreverent Pride and Prejudice and Zombies turned zombies into popular literature.
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The only medium that hasn't been overrun by hordes of the undead is television. It's easy to see why. Zombies lack the soulful, seductive appeal of the tween-friendly vampires in the CW's The Vampire Diairies and the Twilight series (and, for that matter, the decidedly not tween -friendly vampires of HBO's True Blood). With a vocabulary that consists mainly of groans (and, occasionally, "braiiiiiins"), zombies don't tend to make particularly nuanced characters. And the favored method of killing a zombie—a hard blow or gunshot to the head—is far too graphic for primetime television. What kind of network would have the guts to even attempt to make zombies work on the small screen?
Enter AMC, which recently pulled off a second life of its own with innovative, critically-acclaimed original series like Mad Men and Breaking Bad. AMC is taking yet another gamble with The Walking Dead: a TV adaptation of a comic book series, centered on a small-town deputy who struggles to survive in an alternate-universe America overcome by flesh-eating zombies. In the wrong hands, such a story could be lurid, gory pulp. In the hands of executive producer and director Frank Darabont (of The Shawshank Redemption fame), The Walking Dead is as dark, intelligent, and uncompromising as any of AMC's other dramas.