Monday, November 15, 2010

Honking Box Review: The Walking Dead

Thank God for FX. We'll conveniently swerve the fact they're an offshoot of the conglomerate Faustian malevolence that is Fox, because it's hard to have disdain for a channel that provided us with such genius programming. The stream of Family Guy awesomeness; introducing us to and providing us with the outstanding True Blood while terrestrial TV is left floundering behind; and the vintage Buffy episodes that pad out its schedule (though this does also serve as a reminder of how horribly wooden the earlier adventures were).

So kudos for yet another gem to be proudly displayed in the FX trophy cabinet, in the form of The Walking Dead, an adaptation of the graphic novel of the same name which sees a lone cop – portrayed here by Andrew Lincoln – awake from a coma to discover a world overrun by zombies. On paper, it’s about as trite and overdone a concept as you can get, but wipe away some of the gore splattered generously across the screen and there’s promise in abundance.

Lincoln more than demonstrates his thespian worth – it takes more than just an American accent (albeit an effective one) to pull off the portrayal of a desperate, petrified deputy clinging onto the shreds of his sanity, but it's executed brilliantly. Five minutes in, any memories of Egg were entirely drowned out by Officer Rick's plausible intensity. Mind you, no army of zombies with guts-a-flailing can be anywhere near as repulsive as Milly and O'Donnell shagging, so maybe This Life was actually better preparation for the role than one might initially expect.

It's perhaps difficult to do something original with zombies, given (a) the vast catalogue of zombie texts in existence, and (b) their limits as an entity. And granted, Dead Set gave the genre a fresh update. But it'll be interesting to see where The Walking Dead takes it - episode one borrowed heavily from I Am Legend, while episode two introduced an ensemble boasting any number of potential twists and complexities.

Furthermore, it functions as a nice - by nice, we mean bloody and gripping - gap-filler before the arrival of True Blood's third season, due in January (as a slight aside, is it any wonder True Blood is gaining diddly-squat in the way of viewers on Channel 4 when they're showing it a good decade-and-a-half after the US airing?). Whether The Walking Dead will equal such lofty standards is perhaps unfair to judge at this stage, but incredibly high production values and some impressive performances set it on its way nicely, and we await the comedy edible brains merchandise with ironic glee.

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