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Tuesday, March 28, 2023

‘Talking Dead’ is a plague on AMC’s Sunday night lineup

On Sunday nights the most-watched show on television, AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” airs. Immediately after it ends, a foppish blonde man—comedian Chris Hardwick—comes on screen and talks about the show for the next hour. Nothing else happens. Hardwick and whatever celebrity guests and/or cast members tell jokes, talk about what just happened and what possibly could happen. The most interesting part of this is that people watch it. Viewers stay tuned in to watch Hardwick and his weekly compatriots draw the interest of “The Walking Dead’s” fans.

The “Talking Dead” phenomenon is a sign of television to come. Over the past decade, television has become increasingly aware of itself, and this show about a show is just another indication of this new self-awareness. “The Office” and its subsequent followers allowed for actors to break the fourth wall with their “documentary” style. Shows like “Family Guy” make references to themselves being in a TV show in order to highlight the absurdity of a situation. Many see this as a storytelling shortcut and a way to get cheap laughs. In many cases, this is true. As Abed explains in the “documentary” episode in “Community’s” second season, telling stories this way is like “shooting fish in a barrel.” Yet, “Talking Dead” moves past these fictionalized versions of meta-ness and becomes its own, very real entity. “Talking Dead” is like something that would happen on “Family Guy” or “Community,” not a real thing that people like.

Again, this is a product of our time, and it only works for shows like “The Walking Dead” that have openly encouraged their fans on social media and through promotions. If HBO had started airing something like “Talking Dead” after “The Sopranos” or “Six Feet Under,” it would have been ludicrous. These shows were made for people to take their own meanings from and to appreciate on their own. Even among other AMC shows, “The Walking Dead” stands alone. Can you imagine if “Breaking Bad” or “Mad Men” had something akin to “Talking Dead?” No one would like it, want it or watch it. Yet for “The Walking Dead”—which wants to be considered as seriously as its network counterparts—“Talking Dead” airs after it twice on Sunday nights.

While “Talking Dead” is certainly part of how “The Walking Dead” has remained the most popular cable show, it’s hard to see the need for it. “The Walking Dead” does not need anything to speak for it. It’s a show about a bunch of people killing zombies, other people and generally surviving, and if that does not sell you on the show, you probably just are not going to like it. It’s actually as simple as that. It seems like a better idea to air some of AMC’s newer dramatic programming after the first airing of “The Walking Dead” in the hopes that some of the show’s popularity will bleed into whatever follows. “Turn,” the network’s Revolutionary War era espionage show, would probably do very well in that slot. Hell, “Mad Men” would probably do alright too, and moving “Comic Book Men” up an hour would at least make it a little easier for the four people who watch “Comic Book Men” to get to bed on time.

By giving up a prime piece of prime network space to “Talking Dead,” AMC hurts its own original programming. And, at the end of the day, isn’t it just doing what you’re supposed to be doing with your friends?

Watch "Comic Book Men?" Don’t have any friends? Are these things related? Let Jake know at

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