Can we talk for a moment about what a great show “Talking Dead” (9 p.m. Central Sundays on AMC) is? No, not “Walking Dead,” “Talking Dead” — the show that airs immediately after the zombie drama and dissects what we’ve just seen.
Obviously, “Talking Dead” couldn’t exist without “The Walking Dead,” but by the same token, I think “Walking Dead” would be less fun if it wasn’t followed by “Talking Dead.” As host Chris Hardwick said last night, the show has become a hug for people after watching an hour of horrific — albeit entertaining — post-apocalyptic drama. The talk show has found a nice balance between P.R. (“Walking Dead” cast and crew often land on the couch) and criticism. Hardwick is clearly an enthusiastic fan, but he has an analytical mind, not the typical P.R. mind — he’s not likely to rip “The Walking Dead,” but he can poke fun at the show, and AMC allows him some leeway to do that.
“Talking Dead” has done a nice job of choosing guests, too. Last night’s session with actors Scott Porter and actress/podcaster Aisha Tyler provided a gripping analysis of the mindset of crazy Morgan in “Clear.” The week before, “30 Rock” actor Scott Adsit was quite critical of the episode. I admire the confidence of AMC to have their hit show be open to criticism after it airs. At the same time, it must be a financial boon — the cost of “Talking Dead” must be about 10 percent of “Walking Dead,” yet I bet it retains at least half of the audience; considering the recent expansion from a half-hour to an hour, it’s gotta be a money-maker.
Correct me if I’ve overlooked anything here, but no show other than “The Walking Dead” is followed by a companion talk show. TV Guide Channel used to air “Curb: The Discussion” after reruns of “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” “Curb” actress Susie Essman led a lively discussion about the issues raised in the episode.
Of course, there are Internet podcasts. They usually air in the week between episodes, giving the hosts and guests time to re-watch the episode a few times and really dig into it. The best I know of is “Clone Wars Declassified” on Rebel Force Radio, hosted by Jason Swank and Jimmy McInerney. How cool would it be if this show aired in a studio setting after new episodes of “The Clone Wars?” Like “Walking Dead,” “Star Wars” is so popular that fears of it being criticized shouldn’t be a P.R. concern, and Jason and Jimmy Mac aren’t afraid to question or criticize specific aspects of an episode.
And, of course, there are more episode reviews on the Internet than ever before. Entertainment Weekly and The Onion A.V. Club provide the best episode analyses, although there are gaps in their coverage — for example, neither covers “The Clone Wars.” (Both cover “The Walking Dead,” though.) EW is particularly prone to drop coverage of a show based on low reader response.
But the post-episode talk show might be the perfect format, and I think other series should consider trying it. I think AMC should do one for “The Killing” — this would have a certain amount of risk in that a guest could end up making a spot-on prediction that some might see as a spoiler for future episodes. But like “Walking Dead,” “The Killing” — which will return for Season 3 later this year — demands to be discussed immediately after it airs.
Actually, any good drama (it wouldn’t work as well with a sitcom) lends itself to a follow-up talk show — how fun would it be to get a breakdown of “Bunheads” afterward, complete with cast interviews and colorful behind-the-scenes footage? Or a “Parenthood” talk show as an analysis of human behavior in universal situations?
Hopefully some other buzzworthy shows will consider airing the buzz in talk-show format, following the successful template of “Talking Dead.”
What current TV shows would you like to have a companion talk show?