Caught by the River

Favourite Things

6th December 2010

Things we have enjoyed in 2010.

The Walking Dead.

A brilliant new American TV show hits the screens and inevitably people start making comparisons with The Sopranos and The Wire; unfairly hoisting a fledgling programme onto a pedestal next to those benchmarks of gogglebox genius before its had the chance to live and breathe. Actually, in this case, possibly it’s just me who’s guilty of bestowing such pre-emptive plaudits.

This year’s fresh obsession has been The Walking Dead, AMC’s everyday story of a good man trying to find his wife in a country overrun by rampaging zombies. Coming from a generation after Mean Streets – also the one after the Godfather – my coming of age movie was undoubtedly Star Wars. From that point onwards, I’ve sought out the strange escapist worlds of fantasy movies rather than plausible scenarios of crime dramas and mob films. Don’t get me wrong – both the Sopranos and The Wire all but headlocked me infront of the TV; I adored them. But at the time, whilst publicly espousing those shows, I was always far more rapt in the reborn Battlestar Galactica television series.

The Walking Dead debuted on the FX channel a few weeks back with an uninterrupted ninety minute pilot. A guy wakes up in hospital to find everyone gone or laid out dead. So far so Day of the Triffids/28 Days Later. As the series unfurls, the characters each becomes three-dimensional as the locations become vast and terribly bleak. The whole thing is also unflinchingly gory. Zombies end up cropping up everywhere, taking down major characters with them with little warning. Stylistically, the ‘bad guys’ here are more in the Romero vein than those recent souped up, sprinting hulks like in the 28 Days/Weeks Later films. Although based on the graphic novel of the same name, the show has been brought to the screen by Frank Darabont who directed the Shawshank Redemption. If you saw his take on Stephen King’s The Mist – one of the bleakest horror movies ever made – you’ll know the kind of territory you’re stepping into.

I tried so hard to get the Mrs to watch this with me – partly because I knew it would be brilliant and partly because it was clearly borderline terrifying and I’d like some company in that respect – but as she’s part of a generation after me, weaned on rom-coms. Desperate Housewives was always going to win out. So it’s a solo mission, following this soulful, nerve-shredding telly show to its grim conclusion. The last episode screens on FX this Friday night*. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Truly, it’s been a hell of a trip, this weekly trip to hell.

* I’m pretty sure they’ll repeat the lot pretty quickly and a free-to-air channel will screen in the New Year. If not, search the net, it’s uploaded everywhere.