Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Short Season Shows

This week we watched the season finales of both HBO’s Boardwalk Empire and AMC’s The Walking Dead. Both were short-season shows – Boardwalk Empire at 12 episodes and The Walking Dead at just six.

There is still a delta between premium cable and basic cable channels. Boardwalk
Empire was sweeping and lush. Similar to Deadwood (a show I am admittedly biased about because I consider it the best television show ever produced), Boardwalk Empire takes historical figures and plays with them a bit, providing a fictionalized version of them and their world. Steve Buscemi is genius in his main character role, surrounded by a brilliant cast and held up by an engaging story. Although spread over a dozen episodes, they still wrought tension from every episode… not a clunker in the bunch.

The Walking Dead, from the comic book series by Robert Kirkman, was ambitious from the beginning. To bring a zombie tale to the small screen and do it justice is a challenge. The Walking Dead comic series is one of my all-time favorites (and that of a lot of other comic fans I know). It is incredibly well-written and perfectly presented. Just basing a show on this series was enough to get me to watch.

Tracy enjoyed the first six episodes, and I’ve heard the same from others who have no familiarity with the comics. I am able to divorce myself from the source material (particularly comic books) and just enjoy a television show or movie if well done. They are different animals with different audiences and sensibilities. But it was surprising just how far The Walking Dead show chose to depart from the source. It wasn’t that deviation so much as the general meandering of the story that seemed to detract for me. The first season seemed to shamble along like of the undead walkers the protagonists are trying to avoid. The characters didn’t really develop much outside of some rather broad strokes, but I’m willing to give this another season (perhaps the gutting of the writing staff for the second season will help with things?) and see where it goes.


Rick Hansen said...

What are your thoughts on them using freelance writers versus a staff? Does that create more opportunity for others or is it a way to avoid commitments? Will it hurt continuity between episodes and subplots?

AB said...

I hope it wasn’t just a cost-cutting move. The sets were decent (although the CDC set was kinda cheesy), the acting was good, the makeup was amazing. But I think a change of some kind was needed for the show to continue. My biggest complaint regarding The Walking Dead is the one-dimensionality of the characters, and I have to lie that at the writer’s feet. Hopefully, these changes behind the scenes will improve on a great premise and all the good things already in place.

Rick Hansen said...

The one-dimensionality of the characters might be intentional, since we're meant to notice major changes in their personalities down the road. I was a bit underwhelmed by the CDC, as well, and I'm sure I'm not the only one who thought it was eerily like The Hatch from LOST, complete with "Desmond" and the countdown timer.