The world cannot get enough of Robert Kirkman’s zombie tales. The launch of Fear the Walking Dead on August 23 in the US blew apart the previous cable ratings record with 10.1 million live/same day viewers (its predecessor, The Walking Dead, took a then-AMC record 5.3 million five years ago).
Anticipation for the series had been building since US cable channel AMC revealed Walking Dead creator Kirkman would tell the new zombie apocalypse series. That AMC’s new global channel then acquired the show from distributor Entertainment One Television drummed up industry headlines, as did a flurry of lucrative sales to channels where AMC Global was not yet available.
Showrunner and executive producer Dave Erickson understatedly describes the astounding numbers as “very good”, adding: “If it maintains the number we have taken it would be an unqualified success. It was never an expectation for me that it would do numbers akin in the original Walking Dead.”
“The original universe is the foundation, but you can come to this having never seen The Walking Dead,” he adds. “We’re getting to the show, loosely speaking, in the time before [Walking Dead protagonist] Rick Grimes wakes up from his coma.”
The location has also switched from the woodlands of Atlanta and Washington to sun-soaked Los Angeles, with new group of lead characters.
Kim Dickens (Deadwood, Treme) and Clifford Curtis (Missing, Body of Proof) play a newly-married couple trying to bring together their equally dysfunctional families, as reports of a mystery virus in the US surface. Before the end of the 90-minute pilot, they are left in no doubt that something awful is happening.
The remainder of season one will follow the breakdown of society as the zombie outbreak destroys the city, but having a luxury of a second commissioned before launch, Erickson says Fear will delve “deeper” into the mystery and mythology created through the original series and the comic books that launched the franchise.
“One of the challenges of season one is trying to capture the crash of a major city, what the first days of an apocalypse might look like with the confusion and the violence,” he adds. “We had to compress elements, but it has worked really well. Having sixteen episodes for season will allow us to follow things a bit more.”
One question raised has been how Fear will be sufficiently different to The Walking Dead once the outbreak phase is over and the characters are left to survive in their horrific and dangerous new reality.
“The rules remain the same, and there are connections with elements of the comics, but even those who make connections and recognise the look of full survival mode will be immersed in our own characters and dynamics,” says Erickson.
The show: Fear the Walking Dead
The producer: AMC Studios
The distributor: Entertainment One Television
The broadcaster: AMC (US), AMC Global, Amazon Prime Instant Video (Germany, Austria, UK [second window]), FX (Australia), HBO Nordic (Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland), SoHo (New Zealand), Canal+ (France)
The concept: A dysfunctional family fights for survival as Los Angeles society crumbles in a zombie apocalypse in the companion series to US cable television’s biggest show, The Walking Dead