Well, folks, “Breaking Bad” is over. It’s been over a month, and it had a good run. However, now that it’s over and there’s a gaping hole in our Sunday nights, we have to ask: What’s the new best show on TV? It’s time to come out of our “Breaking Bad” induced shock/withdrawal/tiny meth addiction—It’s no big deal guys, I can quit whenever I want—and figure out what we should be wasting our lives on now.
There are a lot of contenders waiting in the wings, ready to claim the newly relinquished title of best overall show. I’ve heard people say everything from “Game of Thrones” to “Mad Men” to “New Girl”—a lot of people really like New Girl—should be given the championship belt. However, to me, there is a clear-cut winner: “The Walking Dead.”
When people talk about the best shows on TV, “The Walking Dead” seems to get lost in the shuffle much of the time. Part of this is because it’s on AMC, the same channel as “Breaking Bad” was and “Mad Men” is, and that’s understandable.
Yet, a lot of it has to do with the nature of the show. “The Walking Dead” is definitely not for the squeamish—it is without a doubt the most visceral and violent show I have ever seen. This is not to say that only a certain type of coolheaded, steel-stomached viewer (like myself) can watch it, only that many people are almost immediately turned off by the show because somebody sticks a blunt object into the bloated head of a zombie, which makes the zombie explode.
While I enjoy a good zombie kill as much as the next guy, the violence is not what makes “The Walking Dead” so great. It’s the characters and the story that set the show apart.
“The Walking Dead” evolved from a show about people surviving a zombie apocalypse in season one to people living in a zombie apocalypse season two, and now in seasons three and four, it’s become a show about people surviving other people in a zombie apocalypse.
Most zombie-related games, movies and shows deal specifically with fighting zombies. The objective of the protagonists is usually to survive the onslaught of the undead, not establish and create new life.
This, however, is the story of “The Walking Dead.” Zombies are no longer the main concern of the survivors; they want to grow old, have families and enjoy their lives. Although the zombies are still important and govern many of the actions of the show’s characters, zombies—or walkers as the characters call them—are no longer the most immediate threat. The remaining survivors on the show are worried about food, sickness, the threat of other people and especially the threat of people in their own group.
Another way “The Walking Dead” separates itself is the realistic death rate of its characters. There are only four characters left alive in “The Walking Dead” that were introduced in season one.
To compare, “Game of Thrones” has more than ten main characters left on the show from season one over an equivalent amount of time. While “Game of Thrones” has an obscenely large cast, the death rate in “The Walking Dead” is far greater. This is part of what keeps me watching the show week after week—I never know who is going to go and when it will happen.
For years, “The Walking Dead” has captured my attention and enjoyment with its action, survival motif and smooth character development. Now that I have bestowed it with the “best show on TV” title, I can only hope it continues to do so for years to come.
What’s your favorite TV show? Let Jake know at Smasal@wisc.edu.