AMC’s zombie-themed drama The Walking Dead finished its six-episode run on Dec. 5 as the mostwatched basic-cable drama series ever among adults 18 to 49, averaging 3.5 million viewers in the advertiser-coveted demo. Charlie Collier, the network’s president, spoke with Multichannel News programming
editor R. Thomas Umstead about the success of the series.
MCN: Did you think The Walking Dead
would perform as well as it did?
Charlie Collier: It was a show we had
high hopes for from the beginning, but
you don’t go in thinking it’s going to be
the most-watched basic-cable show ever
among 18-to-49-year-olds. We always
thought it would pair very well with
[AMC Halloween horror-movie stunt]
We always thought that the strategy
of paring like-minded films with
series that had similar qualities specific
to the genre would do well for us, but
we’re obviously very pleased with the
MCN: Why did Walking Dead resonate so well with
CC: There were a lot of relatable elements to Walking
Dead that helped make it successful. It was a
genre piece that we launched during Halloween,
so we did a lot of marketing and promotion to turn
the premiere into an event. Add to that
Frank Darabont and Gale Anne Hurd —
Frank directed Shawshank Redemption
and Gale Anne knows something about
creating hits with Terminator and Aliens.
The talent on both sides of the camera was
remarkable. There also were some universal
themes of survival and what one does
when faced with adversity.
MCN: AMC will produce a 13-episode
second season for The Walking Dead.
Do you think the series loses some of
its appeal by telling the story over a
longer 13-episode run, rather than six
CC: Not at all. We viewed this as an ongoing
series from the start. There are 80 editions of
the comic book and still counting, so the road map
for telling this story is perfect for series television.
Walking Dead is the first series where we didn’t do a
pilot, so in a lot of ways we viewed it as a six-episode
pilot that worked very well.
MCN: Will you look to tap the horror genre with another
CC: I think for those who love zombie stories,
there’s a lot for those fans, but it’s so much more. It’s
an amazing character drama and, in a lot of ways,
the hallmark of what our original series are.
It’s about one man’s search for his family — Rick
Grimes is a reluctant hero who hopes he can find
his wife and family in an incredible situation. The
universal questions of survival and what you would
do in a situation like that make it so much like a
universal character drama that, I think, has broad
appeal beyond the core horror fan.
MCN: Will you launch the second season next Halloween?
CC: We’ll be back in the fall next year, but we haven’t
figured out the exact date yet.
MCN: Can you duplicate Walking Dead’s ratings success
in its second season?
CC: What we’ll look to do is what we do for every series
— try to superserve a passionate fan base. Th ere are a
lot of consistent themes that run through Breaking Bad
and Mad Men and into Walking Dead — the quality of
the storytelling is high on all three, and each is led by
a very strong auteur — so hopefully Walking Dead will
continue to grow like those two series did.