Gift guide: Deluxe edition THE WALKING DEAD — RISE OF THE GOVERNOR

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Shipping time is nigh and deluxe giftables are pouring into our inbox. Here’s one from Skybound at Image, a deluxe, leather bound, slipcased hardcover edition of THE WALKING DEAD – RISE OF THE GOVERNOR novel written by Robert Kirkman and co-writer Jay Bonansinga with spot illos by Charlie Adlard.

“Many have asked me whether I will ever write a prequel about the lives the character lead before,” said Kirkman in a statement. “Well, that’s basically what we’re doing with these novels. And we wanted to offer the fans a special edition before the holidays.”

The book — first in a planned trilogy or prequels based on series characters — explores the origins of the Governor, the most hated villain in the whole series.

The book ships on December 7 and retails for $74.99. A signed limited edition is also available for $124.99.

New Walking Dead TV featurette


In advance of the Walking Dead DVD release, they are making some of the extras available as videos. Here’s one about how to make a zombie attack scary.

Borders Walking Dead fail

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A pal snapped this recent photo at a local Borders.

Perhaps there is a reason they are in trouble.

Video: Walking Dead Zombie death orgy


Speaking of The Golden Globe nominated The Walking Dead, here’s a video mash-up of all the zombie deaths from the first six episodes. Let’s call in Dexter for some blood splatter analysis.

Walking Dead Season Finale Review: Ya kinda LOST me

Season One/Episode 6: TS-19

Last night the mini first season of AMC’s smash insta-hit, The Walking Dead went out with a great big zombie plague origin story bang. Among the casualties were a couple of non-comic book canon characters who won’t be missed and lots of precious plot cohesion, plausibility or originality. I love the sheer, unadulterated page turn-ability of the Walking Dead comics and the first two episodes of the television show were incredibly good with the promise of even more great things to come. So it is with great regret that one of the only nice things I have to say about how the first chapter of the TV adaptation wrapped up is that new survivor Daryl and his crossbow will be around next season.

When I interviewed the cast and crew at NYCC Comic Con , I asked Norman Redus (Daryl), Laurie Holden (Andrea), and Steve Yuen (Glenn) if they were nervous about dealing with comic fandom’s geek army, who, as all respectable people know, can be notoriously prickly and meticulously critical of film and TV adaptations of the stories they love. But I didn’t realize I’d be one of those nerds. The first two episodes of The Walking Dead were smart, tightly scripted and faithful to the comic without being distractingly so or derivative. Those two episodes worked. But right around episode four, things went off course and now they’ve officially LOST me. And by that I mean, we’re six episodes in (HALF of the running time of a regular television season) and the show’s already receiving criticism for becoming unfortunately Lost-ian in its introduction of new and unnecessarily sprawling scenarios. Kirkman’s basic story template is so strong and provides such a firm and easily transferrable foundation for a television series. It’s truly a shame that Darabont and fellow executive producers, Gale Ann Hurd and Robert Kirkman, were unable to trust the strength of that source material.

Take the start of the episode, for instance. Was it truly necessary to flashback to Shane at the hospital? Did we really need to labor on whether or not he was trying to save Rick or leave him for dead?  

Why start there, only to cut back to a series of farfetched and wholly odd scenes of the survivors interacting with the only remaining scientist at the CDC, Edmund Jenner? And, worst of all, there wasn’t a single freakin’ zombie fight in the whole friggin’ episode. Man. What I wouldn’t have given for a crossbow to the brain right about the time Rick drunkenly confessed to Jenner he was running out of hope for survival and humanity and Shane was attacking Lori. Shane should totally be dead by now anyways!

Shane, who should already be dead, may or may not have thought Rick was dead when he left him for dead (Photo: Courtesy of AMC)

The intent of those scenes seemed to be creating a subtle, climatic build up to the penultimate scene of Jenner explaining your brain on the zombie virus. Instead they just came off as spurious and obvious. While it was intriguing and informative to delve into how zombie “resurrection” happens that knowledge could’ve been better executed. As I said last week, the introduction of the CDC excursion storyline played more like the introduction to an entirely new TV show. It would’ve been more respectful to the television canon so far (not to mention the comic’s) to continue to mine the intra-survivor dynamics for drama. Speaking of survivor dynamics, where the heck is Merle? Or Morgan and his son? Why were the specters of rendezvousing with Morgan and son and rescuing Merle introduced and then dropped? If Darabont and Co. are going entirely off comic book canon, an effort to stay within realms that are believable and organic to the show’s storyline so far should be observed.

To that end, don’t even get me started on the whole mad scientist setting off the Countdown to Decontamination Clock thingy.

I'm a keerayzay scientist! (Photo: Courtesy of AMC)

That was just played and, worst of all; totally superfluous and distracting. Prior to the CDC “hatch” storyline, The Walking Dead TV show, while diverging wildly from the comic, was still grounded in the fresh and original premise of basically realistic characters losing their shit as they deal with a fucked up, apocalyptic scenario. Hopefully, when next season picks up on the car caravan of survivors rolling away from the CDC explosion, Darabont and his new team of writers will return to strong storytelling based on character development. They’ve already made the show a hit, now they just need to make it as great as the first few episodes suggested it would be.

In spite of my strongly negative opinions on the finale and second to last episodes, I think the odds are good that they’ll succeed in ironing out the kinks. This was a short season and there were some things that had me intrigued last night. I’m wondering just what Jenner whispered to Rick and whether or not Carl will off Shane eventually. I also can’t wait to see how they introduce the Governor. Heck, I’ll watch for the prospect of Daryl crossbow-stickin’ it to more of the undead alone! In summary, even with my dissatisfaction with how the first season wrapped up, I remain an avid and eager viewer of this show.

Hey buddy... psst psst, here's what's up for Season Two... (Photo: Courtesy of AMC)

What do y’all think? Was I too harsh on the finale? Or not nearly harsh enough? What do you want to see more or less of in Season Two? Will you be tuning in next Fall or is this it for you? Sound off, people.

The survivors head out to the greener pastures of the great unknown (Photo: Courtesy of AMC)

Kirkman talks about Walking Dead staff changes

101202robert-kirkman1.jpgWhile an earlier Deadline report set tongues twittering, you’ve got to like how Robert Kirkman has deflected some of the freak-outs over changes at The Walking Dead’s writing staff by frankly addressing them. In an interview with TV Guide, he explains that things aren’t how they look. “It’s kind of unfortunate that it’s being reported that our writing staff has been fired because that’s not the case.” Writer Chic Eglee left of his own volition, Kirkman explains:

“Chic Eglee is a high-level television writer. He was brought onto The Walking Dead with the idea that Frank was going to work on the first season and then go off and do movies,” Kirkman says. “Chic didn’t want to be second-in-command on a show when he’s used to being a top dog, and so he decided to go off and do something else, which is something that happens and is not a big deal.”

As for the next season, they haven’t decided if there will be a staff, ala standard Hollywood procedures, or of they will hire freelance writers for the 13-episode order. But in any event, Kirkman is confident that grown-ups are still running things. “Everybody knows what they’re doing. AMC has done a few television shows before, and Frank Darabont is a professional. Whatever is decided, I don’t think it will affect the show one way or another.”

(Via Splash Page)

Has The Walking Dead jumped the shark before they even built the shark tank?

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The cycle of “the new things is awesome!” to “we are so over it!” has accelerated to mere minutes. Case in point: The Walking Dead. Only last week it was on the cover of EW with a triumphant story:

To be clear, no real persons alive or undead were harmed in the filming of that scene. (Your fake-guts recipe: faux blood, Vaseline, K-Y jelly. Mix and enjoy!) To be even more clear, The Walking Dead— developed by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Frank Darabont from an acclaimed comic book by writer Robert Kirkman—is a monster smash, one that’s being hailed as the year’s best new series. Debuting on Halloween to record-breaking ratings for a basic-cable drama, this great and gory end-of-the-world epic has stunned industry observers by holding strong, averaging 5 million viewers a week—more than twice the average of AMC’s now-second biggest hit, Mad Men. The network has already ordered a 13-episode second season that may not arrive until next fall. That may sound like an interminable wait for fans (call them Undeadheads), especially since the first season concludes on Dec. 5 after only six episodes. Then again, Halloween does seem like the most wonderful time of the year for a zombie saga. In the words of exec producer Gale Anne Hurd (The Terminator): “Why mess with a good thing?”
 
Please: Don’t. While it’s way easy to define The Walking Dead by its outrageous horror-genre violence and viscera (never has a TV series more indulged a blood-splattering head shot), what makes it a cut above is its brainy envisioning of a terrifying apocalyptic meltdown that leaves human characters struggling for physical and spiritual survival by snaring them in one moral quagmire after anothe


But already, tales of behind the scenes turmoil as Deadline reports producer Frank Darabont has let go of the entire writing staff and could possibly go to a more experimental BBC-style freelancer system, hiring various writers to write the episode. Or maybe he’ll write them all himself.

Darabont, who hails from the feature world with The Young Indiana Jones as the only series credit before Walking Dead, ended up writing 2 of the first season’s 6 episodes of Walking Dead – the pilot and the second episode – and co-writing/rewriting the other 4. Two of those 4 were written by non-staff writers, one by executive producer Robert Kirkman, on whose comics the series is based, and one by Glen Mazzara. The freelance model is employed by the Starz/BBC series Tourchwood, which in turn borrowed it from the U.K. where the show originated. Having BBC as producer has allowed Torchwood to proceed with no writing staff but I hear such a plan on an U.S.-based network series such as Walking Dead may face issues with the Writers Guild. And, while the first season of Walking Dead was only 6 episodes, its second-season order is for 13, which may prove harder to manage in pre-production, production and post-production with no writing staff. Sources tell me that no final decision has been made yet with all options open, including using some combination of a writing staff/freelances. There is time – AMC is mulling launching Walking Dead’s second season the way it did the first one – in October during Fearfest.


Darabont, director of one of the most beloved films of all time in THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, has in recent years gotten a bit of a reputation as a Hollywood “maverick” — which is studio code for one of two things

1) off the rails
or
2) someone who doesn’t listen to what studios say

You can pick your option here. American TV shows are traditionally written “in room” with a bunch of white men who went to an Ivy League school sitting around and throwing around ideas, hammering out story points and so one.

At the BBC, assignments are given out to freelance talent, much as in the comics system. American TV’s accelerated schedule would make this a bit more complicated but perhaps it’s time to experiment.

The Walking Dead’s success is definitely kudos-worthy for whoever wants to claim birthrights — the fifth episode rated higher than even the pilot, although AMC keeps changing how they measure the ratings. It’s similar to how the comic, against all odds, built a higher and higher readership every month for years. The setup of human drama against the backdrop of constant, low level death threats is both a Darabont signature and something he handles extraordinarily well — and something that people are coming back for.

People have been kvetching about the script tropes, and yeah, the cliches of rednecks and noble nursing home attendants are a little frayed, but the execution is on a high level.

Some are wondering where this leaves creator Kirkman, who wrote episode four of the mini-season? The EW piece has Darabont and Kirkman huddling on an endgame to prevent Lost-itis, and he’s reportedly slated to write at least one episode for season two.

“My next big conversation with Robert, now that we’ve gotten through the first six, will be: ‘What is your endgame, Robert? I can’t believe I have not asked you this!’ I kinda wanna know Robert’s idea, for my own sanity and purposes,” says Darabont. “I’ll let you know what he tells me.” No worries. We’re not in a rush for The Walking Dead to die anytime soon.

The Walking Dead shambles to another season, setting ratings records

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This is either a zombie renaissance, or a comic book renaissance for TV, as The Walking Dead has officially been greenlit for a second season or a whole 13 episodes after record ratings. As the President of AMC put it:

“No other cable series has ever attracted as many Adults 18-49 as ‘The Walking Dead.


That’s called making an impact. The second episode, which aired last night, was down only a tick from the premiere’s record-breaking ratings.

Congrats once again to Robert Kirkman and company. PR below.

AMC announced today the renewal of “The Walking Dead” for a 13-episode second season. Since debuting Sunday, October 31, “The Walking Dead” has broken ratings records, with the series reaching more Adults 18-49 than any other show in the history of cable television.

Today’s announcement also includes Fox International Channels’ (FIC) global renewal for a second season, following record-breaking premiere ratings in 120 countries in Europe, Latin America, Asia and the Middle East.  “The Walking Dead” was the highest-rated original series premiere ever to air on FIC simultaneously worldwide.

“The ‘Dead’ has spread!” said Charlie Collier, President, AMC.  “No other cable series has ever attracted as many Adults 18-49 as ‘The Walking Dead.’  This reaffirms viewers’ hunger for premium television on basic cable.  We are so proud to be bringing back ‘The Walking Dead’ again, across the globe.”

 Ratings Highlights for The Walking Dead – Episode 2, which premiered  on AMC Sunday, 11/7:
•  10pm airing – 3.1 HH rating with over 4.7 million viewers;
• Adults 18-49 – 3.3 million viewers;
• Adults 25-54 – 2.8 million viewers;
• Men 18-49 – 2.1 million viewers.
Ratings Highlights for the The Walking Dead – Episode 1, which premiered on AMC Sunday, 10/31:
• 10pm airing – 3.7 HH rating with over 5.3 million total viewers;
• Adults 18-49 – 3.6 million viewers;
• Adults 25-54 – 3.1 million viewers;
• Men 18-49 – 2.0 million viewers.

“I wish all programming decisions were no brainers like this one,” said Sharon Tal Yguado, SVP Scripted Programming. “‘The Walking Dead’ is a TV masterpiece on so many levels. We want at least 10 seasons, if not more. Kudos to AMC!”

AMC’s “The Walking Dead” is based on the comic book series written by Robert Kirkman and published by Image Comics.  Kirkman serves as an executive producer on the project and three-time Academy Award-nominee Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile) serves as writer, director and executive producer. Gale Anne Hurd (The Terminator, Aliens, Armageddon, The Incredible Hulk), chairman of Valhalla Motion Pictures, serves as Executive Producer. David Alpert from Circle of Confusion and Charles “Chic” Eglee (Dexter, The Shield, Dark Angel) serve as Executive Producers.

 “The Walking Dead” tells the story of the months and years that follow after a zombie apocalypse. It follows a group of survivors, led by police officer Rick Grimes, who travel in search of a safe and secure home.  The comic goes on to explore the challenges of life in a world overrun by zombies who take a toll on the survivors, and sometimes the interpersonal conflicts present a greater danger to their continuing survival than the zombies that roam the country.  Over time, the characters are changed by the constant exposure to death and some grow willing to do anything to survive.

Shot on location in Atlanta, “The Walking Dead” is led by a cast that includes Lincoln (“Teachers,” Love Actually) as Rick Grimes, Jon Bernthal (“The Pacific,” The Ghost Writer) as Shane Walsh, Sarah Wayne Callies (“Prison Break”) as Lori Grimes, Laurie Holden (“The Shield,” Stephen King’s The Mist) as Andrea, Jeffrey DeMunn (Stephen King’s The Mist, The Green Mile) as Dale, Steven Yeun (“The Big Bang Theory”) as Glen, Emma Bell (The Bedford Diaries) as Amy and Chandler Riggs (Get Low) as Carl Grimes.

Walking Dead was a hit!

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The Walking Dead premiere last night was the highest rated cable series premiere of 2010, and its highest rating EVER on AMC for an original series, Deadline reports. The premiere drew 5.3 million total viewers, and the second showing increased the total audience to 8.1 million. “It’s a good day to be dead,” said AMC president Charlie Collier “We are so proud of this series, its depth of storytelling and the remarkable talent attached.”

AMC heavily promoted the show, and the nerd-related internet played right along with a barrage of promo. Reviews have been generally very, very positive.

This first season of The Walking Dead is only six episodes long, making it really more of a miniseries. However, a contest to be a zombie during the show pretty much gave away that a second season is planned, hopefully one that is a little longer.

As for the folks at Stately Beat Manor, we watched and greatly enjoyed the show, finding the tone highly reminiscent of Darabont’s polarizing The Mist. (The scene with the dad and zombie wife in particular.) The biggest complaint about it is the slow pacing but the franchise is really all about survival and character — let it unfold so we care.

If we can get a little analytical for a moment, the appeal of both The Walking Dead and Y: The Last Man have always seemed very similar: strongly written stories about the nitty gritty of post-apocalyptic survival through highly relatable characters. Both comics feature low-key art that emphasizes storytelling and character. Both have been huge hits in collected form. Y has been rumored for a movie for a long time, but for many of the same reasons that TWD is a potentially great TV series, Y would also be much better as a TV series than a movie…the fact that TWD is so similar may mean that we will never see a Y movie or series, we’d guess.

One final note: it was recently pointed out that the WALKING DEAD books have over three million copies in print. That is an amazing number. (For some perspective, the Stieg Larsson books, the biggest phenomenon in publishing since Harry Potter, have sold 15 million copies in English.) This is a hugely popular multimedia franchise that looks to have real legs. Congratulations to Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, and Charlie Adlard for achieving this and also doing it on terms that favor the creator. It’s a good day for creator-owned comics.

Review: The Walking Dead delivers stylish gore

by Shannon O’Leary

So, does The Walking Dead (premiering this Sunday, Halloween, on AMC at 10:00/9 PM C) live up to the hype?

One Word Answer:  Ewwwwwwwwww!

Gross (Photo courtesy of AMC)

It’s definitely the grossest basic cable show of all time and possibly the grossest TV show ever. Seriously, even the gorier episodes of True Blood or Keeping up with the Kardashians don’t come close.  Definitely don’t plan on handling meat of any kind after watching it. 

Is it groundbreaking and amazing? Only in the sense that you can’t believe something that gnarly is on TV. The storytelling is very good and the style and pace of the first two episodes are great. The show was either shot with a warped lens or something was done in post-production to create an unsettling, claustrophobic 3D space for the viewer. There’s not a wasted minute in either the first or second episodes.  Both move quickly and maintain suspense for their entire running times. Series Writer, Director, and Executive Producer, Frank Darabont left nothing to chance and it shows. His teleplay is tight and the production is meticulous yet epic in scale.

Rick checks out of the undead hopsital (Photo: Courtesy of AMC)

But where The Walking Dead really succeeds is in how well it realizes the source material while reinventing it. There are new survivors who don’t seem tacked on and whole new scenarios for old familiar survivors that are tweaked just enough to be different without straying too far from the original template. The Walking Dead has always been a typical zombie set up but it’s never been a typical zombie story. Just like in Kirkman’s comics, there are significant stretches where the survivors don’t interact with (or even say the word) zombies. The real investment for readers of the comic has always been seeing how the characters adapt in the face of zombie adversity and the TV incarnation seems to be setting viewers up for the same kind of payoff.

I’m cracked out crazy about AMC’s other dark, more character driven dramas, Breaking Bad and Mad Men, but I didn’t realize I wanted to see some decent, unassuming TV folks faced with making indecent, inhuman choices until I saw The Walking Dead. This is a dark, plot driven story that pummels its characters mercilessly as opposed to a dark, character driven plot where the characters pummel themselves and everyone around them. These are uncomplicated characters who, prior to the Zombiepocalypse, were living simple lives. And right now, putting straightforward, salt of the earth types in a bad, total gross out situation is a TV twist that will still appeal to the current zeitgeist’s taste for the distasteful. People might cringe with self-recognition and secretly want to be like antiheroes Don Draper and Walter White, but I suspect they’ll wind up relating to and rooting for everyday hero Rick Grimes just as much, if not more.

Rick Grimes, just your average, well-armed everyday hero (Photo Courtesy of AMC)

Sheez, two episodes in, and I’m already hoping the best for the guy – even though I know the worst is yet to come.  Watch along with me, whydontcha, then check back here at The Beat for episode recaps starting November 1st.

31 Days of Halloween BONUS: The Walking Dead via Secret Headquarters

It’s Halloween Week AND Walking Dead Week and this is freaking radical: special limited edition artwork by four indie art stars, available at Secret Headquarters in LA.

The four prints were designed by Jordan Crane and hand-printed by Jordan Rae; each was illustrated by a different accomplished artist (Lisa Hanawalt, Jon Vermilyea, Johnny Ryan and Jordan Crane). Inspired by shooting range targets, the prints pay homage to the acclaimed comic series. Available individually or as a set of four, the archival-quality prints measure 23 x 35 inches on acid-free 70lb. paper. Each print is limited to a run of 100 copies and will be signed by both the artist and Kirkman; single prints are $40 and the set of four is $150.
 
Dave Pifer, owner of The Secret Headquarters, says “We’re big fans of The Walking Dead comics, and we’re thrilled to be able to mix it up with the varied style of these rad artists.”
 
Robert Kirkman, creator and writer of The Walking Dead, says “I’m astounded by the talent involved and couldn’t be happier with how this turned out. I think people are going to love these prints and I hope it brings people into The Secret Headquarters in droves because it’s a great store.”


Want to get your own? Either get down to Secret Headquarters (3817 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles / 323.666.2228) tomorrow or go to the website walkingdeadprints.com.
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Jordan Crane

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Lisa Hanawalt

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Johnny Ryan

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Jon Vermilyea

Party Poop: The Walking Dead premiere party, worldwide zombie invasion

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The premiere for The Walking Dead TV show was thrown last night and the after party was held at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery and it sounds frigging awesome:

The party was pretty phenomenal. They were serving Zombies (the alcoholic kind, not the dead kind), and they had some of the show set pieces outside as decoration. There were also a number of zombies roaming around on the walk up to the party. There’s nothing quite walking through a dark cemetery with a near full moon, a strong breeze and copious amounts of the undead shambling their way towards you.


Creator Robert Kirkman was also tweeting about the fête this morning — co-creator Tony Moore was also on hand.

There were also AMC-sponsored Zombie walks across the US WORLD yesterday morning, and a lot of photos are going up; here are some on Facebook. We especially like the one of the undead and the Eternal City.
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Just as a reminder, The Walking Dead TV show premieres on AMC on Halloween, Sunday, October 31 at 10 p.m. ET/9 p.m.

Walking Dead #80 teaser: NO WAY OUT

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Via Image.

Walking Dead to debut on Halloween

Too early for Halloween plans? Not really. The Walking Dead TV show debuts on Halloween at 10 PM ET with a 90-minute opening episode. Based on Robert Kirkman’s comics, the show follows the adventures of the survivors of a zombiepocalypse, and stars Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal, Shane Walsh, and Sarah Wayne Callies. The four-and-a-half minute trailer previously seen at Comic-Con was also released, and we would absolutely set our DVR for this while we were out trick or treating!

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