To celebrate the start of the new season of The Walking Dead, I figure to write a post about Zombies and the two shows about them that you should be watching.
I enjoy zombie movies. From the classic George Romero, slow moving types to the fascinating and fast running zombies of 28 Days Later to the swarm like hordes of World War Z.
Early zombie movies often focused on a group of survivors doing just that. surviving. The Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead and its ilk followed a formula. Zombies were slow moving, they were after one thing, “brains, brains…” Somehow, as slow as zombies were, one survivor or the other would trip, sprain or break an ankle, and that person was done for. It was comedic, even though it was not necessarily meant to be. The better zombie movies often pointed out that the zombie apocalypse started because man did something stupid, whether it was radiation, experimentation, or something else. It really relied on suspending disbelief. A lot of the newer stories out of the genre tend to go to the “infestation” route and focus on finding a “cure” for this disease.
Whatever caused the zombie apocalypse, a common thread in the genre was that the only one way to stop a zombie, you had to damage or destroy the brain of the undead.
Zombie stories were typically movies and a lot of these movies have been of the B Movie variety. Thus the earlier statement of “It was comedic, even though it was not necessarily meant to be” became common through my zombie movie experiences. Sure, the stories were scary and/or gory, but at its best, a lot of the movies also brought laughter. Albeit inadvertently.
Since my better half does not enjoy zombie stories as much as I do, it was a treat that I saved for those occasions that I enjoyed at times when she is on a trip or distracted by something else.
However, a few years ago, The Walking Dead moved from comic books to TV, and became a hit. The Walking Dead is awesome, great drama. It is serious story telling filled with great plot and character development. If typical zombie shows were often B Movies, The Walking Dead is Oscar worthy drama. After four seasons and on the eve of its fifth season, The Walking Dead is a brand and institution.
However, not all zombie stories are so dramatic. Some of my favorite recent zombie shows have been Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland. Both of which combined comedy with zombies. On purpose. The end product was brilliant. It made zombie story fans enjoy the genre with humor.
While The Walking Dead elevated the genre with excellence and drama, Z Nation has started the process with comedy. If The Walking Dead is the latest incarnation of Batman in the Dark Knigt trilogy, then Z Nation is the 1960s campy TV Batman series, with a little more suspense and funnier (at least a contemporary version of funny.)
From the use of a zombie baby in the first episode, Amish zombies in a subsequent episode! the use of an American Icon to “take care of business”, and it’s homage to its network sibling Sharknado (the show is aired Fridays at 10pm Eastern/7pm Pacific on SyFy (DirecTV 244)) in the latest episode (Znado anyone), Z Nation is awesome. It is funny, scary, and well-written. It is tongue-in cheek entertainment with purpose and an overarching plot line that makes one wonder what will happen from episode to episode. I look forward to the show every Friday night and thank goodness that I have a DVR so I can catch it even if it’s not live. The only thing Z Nation needs to complete it is a guaranteed renewal for the second season and a live talk/chat show like The Talking Dead, perhaps bring Wil Wheaton in to host, as SyFy decided not to renew The Wil Wheaton Show.
In fact, Z Nation is more in line with the zombie movies that I grew up watching. Except it doesn’t take itself seriously and does a really good job of using camp and comedy in purpose to come up with a great entertainment product. Additionally, Z Nation uses a mix of the frightening fast running zombies as well as the classic slow moving one.
The zombie genre is alive and well and represented by two very different shows. I’ll take Z Nation to start a weekend, and end my weekend with the drama of The Walking Dead.