You'd be hard pressed to find someone who hasn't heard of AMC's runaway success show The Walking Dead, the graphic novel adaptation of the popular series of the same name by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore. Holding the title of highest viewership ever for a cable show, The Walking Dead has become the crown jewel for network AMC, who has spun a tale that runs closely to the comics while changing certain aspects around to make the story more palatable for network television.
But things nearly turned out very different for The Walking Dead. Before the show ended up with AMC, showrunner Frank Darabont already had a deal with NBC in place, to whom he presented the first copy of the Pilot script.
But NBC had very different ideas for the overall concept of The Walking Dead, as show EP Gale Anne Hurd revealed at the Edinburgh Intl. TV Festival last week. According to Hurd, NBC's initial reaction to The Walking Dead Pilot was to ask:
"Do there have to be zombies [in it]?"
Do There Have To Be Zombies In It?
For a show named The Walking Dead — which bases its entire premise upon the fact that a zombie apocalypse has taken place — you'd think zombies would be a pretty key element of the whole thing.
Of course, the show itself is less concerned with the zombies themselves — they're more of a necessarily evil to set the ground for the harsh world in which our survivors have to try to, well, survive. It's the presence of other desperate people and brutal groups that cause the real problems for the group, as well as the pressures that come with a life-changing event that forces ordinary people to come together to survive.
As Hurd pointed out:
"It’s not about the zombies, it’s about the humans. What attracted me to [Robert Kirkman’s] comic book series is that it is a story about characters on a journey into this new world, and constantly trying to figure out not only how to survive but what’s important to them, and some characters give up, some characters commit suicide, and they are constantly evolving, they are constantly meeting new characters; they have to determine friend or foe, and very quickly we realize that it is not the zombies you have to be afraid of, it’s the other humans."
But without zombies providing the proverbial stick in this metaphor, the human drama that drives the show wouldn't really be there. Sure, a nuclear or climate change apocalypse would create a similar world, but zombies add another layer of humanity to the drama through the way they are used to explore the human psyche.
Would we all, stripped of humanity, become the Walking Dead, as the Whisperers do in the post-time skip in The Walking Dead comic books? And how would we react when faced with a monster wearing the body of our friends, family and loved ones? Though the core of the show is human-driven drama, without the zombies it wouldn't be The Walking Dead.
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A Zombie Crime Show?
The mystery deepens. Following the discussion about whether or not The Walking Dead really needed to feature the walking dead, NBC then enquired if the show could be run in a procedural format featuring — get this — two main protagonists who would solve zombie crimes. As Variety reports:
NBC then asked Darabont if the show could be a procedural in which the two main protagonists would "solve a zombie crime of the week," [Hurd] said.
Putting aside the fact that this sounds almost exactly like the plot of the tongue-in-cheek iZombie, it's a bafflingly weird concept to apply to a show like The Walking Dead — especially when looking at the source material. Perhaps it was the violence of the comics that put NBC off doing a true adaptation, but then they ran shows like Hannibal, so maybe not.
So, thankfully for the show, NBC passed on producing The Walking Dead, allowing Darabont to take it to AMC. The rest, as they say, is history. Violent, zombie-themed history. But this does beg the question: What if NBC had got its way with adapting The Walking Dead?
What Could The Walking Dead Have Looked Like?
- Nathan Fillion as Sheriff Rick Grimes: A small town sheriff forced to step up and take responsibility of his estranged young son after his wife runs off with his former best friend. As a cache of zombie-crime starts breaking out across his county and the power goes out, he stumbles into being put in charge of a group of assorted survivors — stepping up in an attempt to win back the respect of his ex-wife.
- Marianne Jean-Baptiste as Detective Michonne: A take-no-shit boss bitch, the quiet and deadly Michonne is a disgraced former detective who is convinced by Rick to pick up her badge again to help him solve the rash of zombie-crimes breaking out across America. There's something growing between them for sure, but can they make it work when Rick is still pining for his ex-wife?
- Ki Hong Lee as Glenn Rhee: Rick's highly competent sidekick, Glenn, is a former track runner, which means he gets sent out on various dangerous tasks to support Rick and Michonne. He's super in love with Maggie Greene, the popular girl in school who never really noticed him until he was one of the last men in the world.
- Alexandra Daddario as Maggie Greene: Former prom queen Maggie has to adapt quickly when the zombie outbreak begins and she loses her family to the virus. These events bring out a strength she never knew she had, and she begins looking at old acquaintances in a different light in the new world.
- Silas Weir Mitchell as Daryl Dixon: A wacky bounty hunter with a heart of gold, Daryl is the social outcast of the group until they begin to look past his gruff exterior. There's probably a scene where he rescues some kittens or babies or something to prove his worth.
- Yvette Nicole Brown as Carol Peletier: Daryl's friend and confidant, Carol is a strong independent woman who don't need no man — but she does need the de-facto family she finds in the survivors group.
- David Caruso as Abraham Ford: The redheaded stepchild of the group, Abraham is a washed out drill sergeant who can't let go of the glory days. Thankfully there's plenty of work to be done for a man with Abraham's set of skills in this new world — if he can stop arguing with Daryl long enough to get to work.
- Jonah Hill as Eugene Porter: The bumbling comic relief of the group, Eugene is incredibly smart but not so good with expressing his genius, so everyone tends to overlook his ideas. He keeps things ticking over in the background though, unbeknownst to everyone else.
Notable Episode Titles:
- "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang Die Die Resurrect Resurrect"
- "The Maltese Walker"
- "Dawn of the Procedural Drama"
- "Love In The Time Of Zombies"
- "The Walker With The Dragon Tattoo"
- "Who Killed Roger The Zombie?"
- "Murder on the Midtown Express"
Hmm, looking back at that, it's probably a good thing that NBC didn't get its way after all.
Do you think The Walking Dead would've worked as a "zombie crime" show? Who would you have cast for the NBC version? Have your say in the comments, and check out the nail-biting Season 7 trailer below!