Here are my first episode impressions of “The Walking Dead,” which airs at 9 p.m. Central Sundays on AMC.
1. It looks like I’m in the minority on this one. “Walking Dead” is already a huge hit for AMC, and people seem to be loving it. It’s certainly not bad; it has that same stamp of capital-Q Quality that the network asks of all its shows. But it’s not notably good, either. It’s about a sheriff’s deputy who searches for his family even as zombies take over the planet (or at least the greater Atlanta area). “Walking Dead” is the first zombie-themed TV series, but the fresh medium hasn’t translated into a fresh take on the concept, at least not yet.
2. Another Matt, a regular contributor to these comment threads, is a big fan of the “Walking Dead” comic, and he was happy to see it adapted into a TV show, feeling that is the appropriate medium. I agree; I’ve always thought that books should become movies and comic books should become TV series. That’s part of why the “X-men” films leave me a bit cold, but if those yarns had been spread out over the course of a TV series, I probably would’ve dug it.
3. “Walking Dead” already has better (and more) zombies than last year’s disappointing, sort-of-comedic film “Zombieland.” The zombie effects might even be better than “28 Days Later” and “Shaun of the Dead.” Particularly impressive are a couple shots of a half-zombie crawling along with guts hanging out of what should be its lower half. “Walking Dead” doesn’t hide its effects under the cover of dim lighting; it often shows them off in broad daylight.
4. “Walking Dead” is completely bereft of humor. It plays it straight. There’s a scene where Rick looks in the mirror and mumbles “Is this really happening?” He doesn’t wake from a dream, his reflection keeps staring back at him and he knows it’s real — and we, as viewers, understand this is no “Shaun of the Dead” or “Zombieland.” The closer comparison would be “28 Days Later,” but that was relentlessly dark and stylized; “Walking Dead” wants to take place as much in reality as possible, and this includes hot, sunny days. The only sci-fi aspect is the zombies; everything else is on the straight and narrow.
5. I recognize a few faces. Lennie James from “Jericho” plays Morgan, Rick’s first ally after he wakes up. Sarah Wayne Callies from “Prison Break” plays Rick’s wife (in an odd choice, we don’t see the two of them together in the pilot, so I only know they are husband and wife from reading up on the show). Jeffrey DeMunn, a veteran of many Stephen King movies, is among the Atlanta encampment of survivors. And I see that Laurie Holden from “The X-Files” is a cast member, although I don’t remember her from the pilot.
6. “Walking Dead” is a deliberate character piece. In the hour-and-seven-minute pilot, we get to know Rick, then Morgan and his son, then — rather briefly — the Atlanta encampment. Even after such a long episode, it’s clear viewers will have to come back next week to get to know the key Atlanta players. The problem is that Rick’s and Morgan’s stories are such zombie-yarn clichés (Rick seeks his family; Morgan can’t bring himself to shoot his wife, who is now a zombie) that I’m not exactly hungering for more of this show’s idea of character development.
Verdict: I’ll try another episode or two because everyone keeps talking about how great this series is, and so I’ll having something to chat about with Another Matt. At least the standard zombie story exposition is out of the way, so I think I’ll like future episodes more than the pilot. However, I don’t see greatness yet. Sorry.