August 31, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Pilot + 1 Review: “Fear the Walking Dead”




A lot can happen between the creation of a TV pilot and the production of regular episodes: writer/producers may be hired or fired, audience focus groups weigh in, networks and studios (which may have had their own turnover) give plenty of notes, helpful and otherwise, and critics start to rear their ugly heads. Tone, pace, casting, and even story can change. Here at SHOWBUZZDAILY, we look past the pilots and present reviews of the first regular season episodes as well.

Previously… on FEAR THE WALKING DEAD:  Something odd is happening in Los Angeles, years before and a continent away from Rick Grimes and his troupe of survivors.  People are dying and then coming back to life, hungry for more than sushi and protein shakes.  High school counselor Madison (Kim Dickens), her live-in teacher boyfriend Travis (Cliff Curtis), and her children Nick (Frank Dillane) and Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) don’t know what to make of it–but they’ll learn as the bodies pile up.

Episode 2:  The key aspect of Fear the Walking Dead continues to be the fact that we know so much more than its characters.  This can be amusing, as when someone scanning through radio channels hears a near-hysterical voice referring to “a disaster of biblical proportions”–which turns out to be an injured football player.  But when Alicia insists on remaining at the bedside of virus-ridden boyfriend Matt (Maestro Harrell), who’s moments away from turning into a walker, it’s easy to get impatient with her.

This week’s hour, written by Consulting Producer Marco Ramirez and directed by Adam Davidson, had more mayhem arising from the living than the undead.  The sole zombie on prominent display was the principal of Madison and Travis’s school, whom she had to bash in the head with a fire extinguisher before he’d stop trying to eat prescient (and probably doomed) student Tobias (Lincoln A Castellanos).  The larger scale action was in “downtown LA” (the series is shot in Canada, so this all looked pretty generic), where citizens protested the police shootings of unarmed virus victims, and looters ran amok.  Travis and his ex Liza (Elizabeth Rodriguez) went there to track down their son Christopher (Lorenzo James Henrie), although neither of the latter got to do much more than look tense.  We also made the acquaintance of cranky Daniel Salazar (Ruben Blades), who owns the barber shop where Travis and his family sought refuge.

Fear the Walking Dead is compelling, especially in its normal 1-hour format after last week’s extended 90 minutes, and both Dickens and Curtis bring a great deal of conviction to their genre roles, especially as Madison had to deal with the fact that she’d had to kill soneone who just a day ago was human.  But so far the show isn’t justifying the journey back to a period where we have to supply the exposition.  As we wait for each character who coughs (like Madison’s neighbor, who was chewing on his family by the end of the episode) to turn viral, we might find ourselves wishing for a time-jump so the series could catch up with us.

None of that matters, of course.  Fear the Walking Dead had the highest-rated debut of any series in cable history, and its premiere beat the launch of Empire, last season’s broadcast phenomenon.  Fear is already renewed for next season, and barring catastrophe, AMC can pencil it in for several seasons beyond that.  It’s going to be watched, but it has yet to fully prove itself more than just “the other zombie show.”


PILOT + 1:  How Long Till They Learn To Aim For The Heads?



About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."