Back in 2015 on Marc Maron’s WTF Podcast, Robert Kirkman joked at the time that more The Walking Dead spin-offs weren’t out of the question. “We’re doing [Fear the Walking Dead], ” he told Maron. “and I’m sure that, if it does well, we’ll do The Walking Dead: China eventually. [And then] The Walking Dead: SVU.”
Cut to four years later, and production is ramping up on a third The Walking Dead series, Monument (which actually looks cool), there’s a Rick Grimes movie franchise heading to theaters, and there’s actually a The Walking Dead novel coming out this fall set in China (that could potentially one day be turned into a series or an AMC movie).
If that’s not enough The Walking Dead, AMC Networks CEO Josh Sapan suggested in an earnings call this week that the network is not getting out of The Walking Dead game anytime soon. In fact, he said, The Walking Dead universe is “in the early stages of life” and that it has “many opportunities for growth.” In other words: Don’t rule out The Walking Dead: SVU.
It’s hard to believe, at this time, that there are that many more opportunities for growth. If, as expected, the new The Walking Dead spin-off airs 16 episodes (like the other two series) when it debuts next Spring, there will be a new episode of a The Walking Dead show on 48 out of the 52 weeks a year. Nearly every single Sunday night on AMC will feature zombies and, for fans who have not gotten their fill, they can go to the theater to watch Rick Grimes movies, to boot. And don’t forget The Talking Dead after each episode of The Walking Dead.
Indeed, the network that came to fame because of series like Mad Men and Breaking Bad is now The Walking Dead network. But is that so bad? It’s good to have a brand. With the exception of Better Call Saul, The Walking Dead series are basically the only shows succeeding in a big way on AMC, aside from The Terror, though it remains to be seen how well the second season (debuting next week) will perform. Preacher is about to air its final season, and otherwise, AMC’s only other scripted shows at the moment are Lodge 49 (a great show with anemic ratings) and NOS4A2.
In other words, an entire network is being sustained by basically one zombie franchise. But is that so unusual? NBC currently airs three Chicago-set television series, Chicago Fire (7 seasons), Chicago PD (6 seasons) and Chicago Med (4 seasons). Before that, NBC also fared well with the Law and Order franchise, which literally spawned six spin-offs and a whopping 53 seasons among them (and one of those shows SVU, is still on the air, having aired for 20 seasons and 458 episodes).
In fact, as we enter the streaming era, AMC is in a decent position with The Walking Dead. It remains the highest rated series on cable, and with almost every other cable and network series being packaged as part of a streaming network, The Walking Dead may be able to keep cable alive for a few more years, if only because it’s the only place to watch The Walking Dead first runs. Moreover, as a free-agent, so to speak, all the other streaming networks are going to be competing over the streaming rights if The Walking Dead decides to part ways with Netflix (and HBO Max may have the inside lane).
It’s hard to say what the future of AMC may look like, but until the network manages to land another big hit, it’s best bet still remains more The Walking Dead, and if the other series can perform as creatively well as the ninth season of the parents series, it’s not a bad basket for the network to place all its eggs.