Home Must See Fifty years of The Walking Dead? Welcome to ‘Franchise TV’

Fifty years of The Walking Dead? Welcome to ‘Franchise TV’


AMCs boss has revealed The Walking Dead could be at the start of a decades-long run. With similar plans for Game of Thrones will viewers simply burn out?

In terms of TV, 2017 has been the year of the spin-off, sequel, reboot and remake. Will and Grace came back. Curb Your Enthusiasm came back. Twin Peaks came back. 24 came back. Star Trek came back. Even Legion, arguably the most deliberately esoteric series of the last 12 months, was technically an offshoot of the X-Men movies.

The television landscape is littered with variations on existing properties, because networks are increasingly cloistered away behind their own paywalls and they need big, recognisable names to draw subscribers. Original ideas, always harder to market, are starting to lose ground fast. Its the same hole that the movies have been stuck in for a decade.

And now, already, this trend seems to have located its natural endpoint. Because AMC wants to keep The Walking Dead on air for much longer than youd expect. The networks CEO, Josh Sapan, has even started to throw the F-word around. The use of the word franchise, we dont take lightly. Its not a sloppy or casual word, Sapan recently said. Weve studied the best. Some have been around 30, 40, 50 years. We have a chance for a lot of life in the franchise.

Oh God. If AMC has its way, The Walking Dead will keep running long after you and everyone you love has died. Maybe even longer. Ive got a horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach that, even if the world is destroyed in a fiery flurry of nuclear explosions, AMC will somehow find a way to film and broadcast a new cockroach-based Walking Dead spin-off bookended by a new Talking Dead spin-off where distracted celebrity cockroaches gather together to add absolutely nothing to the viewing experience.

Theres an awful lot to be said for bowing out at the right time Mad Men Photograph: Justina Mintz/AP

Worse, AMC isnt alone in thinking this. After the Kevin Spacey abuse accusations started trickling out, reports that Netflix was considering all manner of House of Cards spin-offs quickly followed. Theres apparently a Doug Stamper series in the works, and Robin Wright will want something, and why not go the whole hog and do a Young Sheldon-style House of Cards prequel called Lil Frankie?

Similarly, HBO seems equally committed to fracking Westeros for stories once Game of Thrones ends it is said to be simultaneously developing five separate spin-offs even though this last season has shown the mess that can be made when showrunners let go of George RR Martins hand.

Perhaps this is the way of the world now. Perhaps the Golden Age of TV was simply a Big Bang, and 50 years from now when were all snared up in a dingy mycelium of eighth-generation franchise spin-offs, well be able to trace all of television back to a single clutch of shows made during a miraculous five-year period when people actually invested in original ideas.

I hope this isnt the case. There are already signs that eyeing up franchise TV isnt the smartest idea Fear the Walking Dead has started to erode the audience of its parent series, so the tactic carries with it a real danger of diminishing returns plus in retrospect the best shows from the Golden Age were the most finite.

Mad Men resisted the urge to make a spin-off, and as such has retained all its power. As much as everyone clamoured for a follow-up movie at the time, The Sopranos now feels like a satisfying novel with a definitive ending. Im convinced that The Leftovers will only grow in stature over time, because nobody will ever think to dilute it with The Further Adventures of Nora Durst. Theres an awful lot to be said for bowing out at the right time. Hopefully TV will remember this. It is, after all, what makes it better than cinema.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us


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