How Long Should “The Walking Dead” Continue?

October 31, 2010 is a date all Walking Dead fans should know. That is the date of the first episode of The Walking Dead. Moving into its 7th season, the debate has begun on how long the show should run before we have been restored to a zombie-free world. AMC President and CEO Josh Sapan has said he would like to have a zombie infested world forever, but that may be more hype than reality.

Here are some of the lessons television history has taught us about the perils of having one of the longest running shows to date.

  1. Times change. Before October, 2010, zombies were only a mildly interesting phenomenon that had appeared in movies going back to the 1950’s. The Walking Dead has made them a cultural phenomenon 60 years later, even to the point where there are real world emergency plans for dealing with a zombie apocalypse. Back in the 1950’s, global thermonuclear war was headline news but those emergency plans have been generally scrapped.

 

  1. Actors and writers move on. Daryl and Rick take 2 of the top 3 spots in the Hollywood Reporter and IMDB surveys (IMDB is ongoing) and one reason we love them is because of the actors who portray them. We would not like them much if they came back as zombies, so how will viewers react when they move on? Whether it was M*A*S*H*, Law and Order, or The Simpsons, remove the main character-actor and see how long the show continues. In the case of Law and Order, some writers and producers believe the show came to a halt not because of a lack of storylines, but moving the writing from New York to Los Angeles put the show in the hands of people “who just didn’t get” what the show was about.

 

  1. Competition and Spinoffs. Where there is a viewing audience there will be spinoffs and writers doing a variation on the theme. When there are enough zombie-like alternatives, a certain part of the viewing audience will move on to greener pastures. The problem is that the vast majority of the spinoffs generally do not end well. There are exceptions, such as Law and Order SVU which lasted almost as long as the original (19 years).

These are the reasons the series will likely perish, but the question is when should it end. There is a recent example of the best way to end a popular series, and it comes from AMC itself. The difference is that it was not under thre cable network’s control, but the writers of the series.

AMC had the Breaking Bad series that actually was seeing a growing audience when its final episode aired. Writer Vince Gillian said the series had to come to an end sooner than later. Ask yourself whether we are better off wanting more. As Bryan Cranston said when asked if there would be a revival of Breaking Bad, he said, “You didn’t actually see Walter White die, did you?”

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