Though many will not include The Walking Dead in the same class as AMC’s Breaking Bad or Mad Men, due largely to its genre and a lot of cry-babying about its diversions from its source material, the Robert Kirkman series belongs to the same upper tier of cable television as those more acceptably dramatic series. And in a rare instance, the series has only become more popular with viewers as it has become increasingly well-written and conceived; every season is more substantially thoughtful in its dramatic turns and more visually expressive. So, it’s ultimately not the biggest surprise that Fear the Walking Dead, the Kim Dickens-fronted spin-off of the original, proved to be a major hit this past Sunday with viewers in the key demos. What is a bit of a surprise is that it turned out to be the most watched cable premiere in the history of television, bringing in some 10.1 million viewers that watched live.
AMC is now home to three of the most watched series premieres in cable history, with Fear the Walking Dead squeaking by Better Call Saul, which currently holds the second spot in the rankings; The Walking Dead has held strongly onto its place in fifth on the same list. It’s a huge accomplishment, to be sure, and Fear the Walking Dead shows quite a lot of promise, even if I found the pilot a little too heavy on the ABC Family drama and low on thrills and style. That being said, and as AMC even admitted while announcing the record-breaking premiere, numbers on these things are hard to nail down and, considering the level of viewers who watch digitally or illegally, do not really give a firm sense of a series’ popularity.
In fact, news like the announcement of Game of Thrones‘ downloading record for the Season 4 finale was a far more telling number in terms of modern viewing habits than this. I’d love to see similar numbers for Fear the Walking Dead, to say nothing of shows like Mr. Robot and the soon-to-be-defunct Hannibal. For now, however, a round of applause is due to AMC for this success, and if this means that the great Dickens, to say nothing of Cliff Curtis, gets more roles and more attention, all the better.
Check out my recap of the Fear the Walking Dead pilot here.