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Stay in the House, Carl: 'The Walking Dead' Declines into Cruddy TV

Why do we keep watching AMC's 'The Walking Dead' if its characters keep acting like idiots?

Going out on a limb here: Does anyone else think that The Walking Dead is, well, kind of terrible?

Those first six episodes were pretty amazing, I’ll grant it that. The characters were smart, and scared, and stuck in a world turned upside down. And we got a good six hours of scary, gooey, gory antics as the suspense and horror mounted and we learned about this new environment and what to expect as things went from bad to worse.

And then the show got, well, worse. And you can blame that on writer firings or director turnarounds or producer interference or any number of things. But it happened. And everyone’s watching, but I’ve started to notice this fleet of Walking Dead apologists.

“It’s the only place to go for zombies on tv.”

“It’s gonna get better.”

“She’s got a sword!”

I actually heard the last one as a reason given, last week. If “woman has a sword” is enough of a reason for a focus group to tune in, I’m sorry, I want off the ride.

See, here’s my problem with The Walking Dead: any show that relies on creating tension because the characters repeatedly do the same dumb things, over and over again, is not a good show. These people (with the possible exception of Rick) just don’t learn.

Let’s look at Carl, our impressionable youngster. Every time there’s zombie trouble, someone says to Carl: “Stay in the house.” Or car, or prison, or whatever. You get the point. And where does Carl not stay? It’s become an eye-roll-inducing moment, because we know there’s no payoff. Carl doesn’t listen, he gets imperiled, it all ends up okay. It’s happened that way at least three times.

We’re also at the point where all suspense, with a few notable exceptions, is based on characters just being idiots. At this point, don’t you think our gang would’ve tracked down some thick clothing, or body armor (maybe from those prison guard zombies…), or something, in order to minimize cuts and scratches and bites? A little bit of forethought and maybe ol’ Hershel wouldn’t be watching My Left Foot with a whole new sense of sadness…

That was a terrible joke. My apologies.

Anyway, I like having zombies on my TV, I like the potential of this show, I’m just so…well, miffed at the general gap between that  potential and execution. Let’s kill off some of the dead weight characters (Lori…) and actually create some real white-knuckle drama. I keep hoping that the new prisoner characters will do that, or maybe the return of Merle and the Governor (one of the best parts of the comics…Google if you want to spoil yourself rotten).

But as it stands, this is a show I’m watching as an eye exercise. It’s not scary, it’s not suspenseful, it’s not dramatically powerful, it’s not even really entertaining. It’s just on.

C’mon, AMC. You can do better.

So, with that, a very special Halloween edition of WATCH IT, FLIX IT, DUMP IT:

WATCH IT: American Horror Story: Asylum follows all the trappings of horror that The Walking Dead seems to have gotten wrong. In its first season outing, AHS took a page from Stephen King: you can put your characters through Hell, you can do awful and revolting things to them, you can kill and maim and sap them of their will to live…but at the end of the day, every horror story needs to have some form of happy ending, or it’s all just not worth it.

This season takes the cast of season one and throws them into different roles, in a different setting, with a whole bunch of different rules and thrills. It’s one of the few shows on TV where I have no idea what’s about to happen…and that’s a great thing. Turn out the lights. Light some candles. Watch it.

FLIX IT: I have to give it up for Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the majority of the work of Joss Whedon, all available right now on Netflix.

What’s possible with science fiction and fantasy/horror on TV expanded dramatically because of shows like this. It’s alternatively spooky and scary and heartbreaking, and it’s awesome to watch episodes from ten years ago and see tricks that made it into Whedon’s blockbuster The Avengers.

If you’ve got to watch just one creepy episode this weekend, track down season four’s “Hush,” where a squadron of creepy demons steal the voices of everyone in town, and the score does the heavy lifting. A neat lesson in suspenseful filmmaking.

DUMP IT: Hey, after reading this whole thing, how about we dump The Walking Dead and just watch Dexter on Sundays, instead?

See you next week, lovelies, when I’ll talk about Thanksgiving specials, and what’s great and terrible about them.

Jen October 27, 2012 at 08:09 PM
Umm... TWD >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> AHS... In fact I'd rather watch the title sequence over and over again for an hour than watch the preachy mess that is Asylum.
Ivan pee October 27, 2012 at 09:46 PM
Carl sucks! Why is T Dog still fat it'd there was no food?
Joseph October 27, 2012 at 09:53 PM
Poor Mr Elliott, he tries so hard, but this article is just pointless. TWD is compelling TV. AMC fails regularly with Hell on Wheels, or Mad Men, but TWD gets it and Mr Elliott does not. Nice way to drive page views though.
ty krean October 27, 2012 at 11:18 PM
TWD is the best show on television, u wanna point out plotholes go look at revolution or any other new action adventure show, TWD really makes u feel how bad they are having it and is great tv, period
Matt Skoufalos (Editor) October 27, 2012 at 11:27 PM
What are the reasons that people who love the show love it besides the setting of zombie apocalypse? Because I've watched from Season I, I've read the first omnibus of the comic books that the series draws from (I realize it's not meant to be a strict adaptation), and I have to agree with John here. It is starting to get a little into the same territory as late-period Lost or Heroes Season 3: advancing the story by making bad character decisions. Do any of you get sick of seeing the characters make dumb calls?
Matt Skoufalos (Editor) October 27, 2012 at 11:35 PM
I love the opening titles of The Walking Dead. I even loved the fan-created titles they did on the AV Club a while back, set to The Eels: WARNING -- the art is a little edgy -- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-TWCXE0hsbQ If the rest of the show lived up to the quality of the title sequences (or the early trailers, which featured The Walker Bros. "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore," http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQTLp4kpSuU), it would be awesome. But it has only hit those heights a handful of times. I know what I love about it as a fan; I also know how much better it could be.
Charles Brock October 28, 2012 at 12:42 AM
Lets see what has not been said if you do not like it then change the channel and the show only comes behind American football when it comes to ratings, so that means your argument is pretty much invalid bro better luck next time Fail.
Michael Wilson October 28, 2012 at 10:40 AM
Matt, good comparison to Lost and Heros! Hey Charles... so if I get what you are saying, then High ratings = good writing? Then explain Honey Boo Boo to me...just because ratings are up doesn't mean that the substance of the show is of any quality. We've invested so much time in to the show that we're sticking with it. The epic first season keeps us holding on. We know the writers have the ability "It's gonna get better" (I hope) is what I've been saying since Carl was shot and they spent the whole second season on that stupid farm. Carl is no longer in the house fellas. He's gassing up the speed boat and Rick is getting his skiis ready. The zombie shark is circling...
Sammywilson November 02, 2012 at 12:12 AM
And his dumb
Grant Morey February 21, 2013 at 01:10 PM
lol. Carl is a kid. How believable would it be for him to make intelligent decisions at every turn? Kids do dumb things. Though, I actually had more respect for him when he started showing signs of becoming an adult in the rough environment of the story. They needed all the defense they could get, and it was because of his rebellion that he was there to save his father from zombification. Also, keep in mind the story is set in the South and dressing too heavy would cause weariness and heat stroke. Remember the dude digging all day? They said he was compromising his health, which is the same thing they would be doing by layering on heavy clothing and armor.

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