When The Walking Dead had to struggle

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The Walking Dead episode 006 When The Walking Dead had to struggle

At the recent Produced by Conference, a ton of Hollywood heavy hitters got up and blabbed in panel-format chats. One by Walking Dead producers Gall Ann Hurd and David Alpert recount the familiar but becoming legend story of the show that everyone didn’t want to do: notoriously dumped by NBC, it was reluctantly picked up at AMC even though vampires were hot and zombies were cold:

“We sold it to NBC in 2005, who liked the book but wanted to do something totally different,” said Alpert, who first met creator Robert Kirkman at Chicago Comic-Con in 2000, where the comic scribe was promoting his first title, Battle Pope. “I learned the first time that anytime a broadcast network says, ‘We’re going to do something totally different,’ it’s not going to work.”
NBC famously passed on picking up the project, with Aplert recalling being told that the network didn’t want to do a zombie show. “That was one of the more frustrating things,” Alpert said of the process.
At that point, Alpert and Kirkman began looking for other homes for the property, with Hurd suggesting Darabont take the property (which had already gotten a pass at countless cable networks) to AMC — which at the time was having tremendous success with its annual Fear Fest Halloween two-week programming block in addition to critical hits including Mad Men and Breaking Bad.


According to the story, even Image Comics was reluctant to do a zombie book at one point until Kirkman joked that he was adding aliens.

Just a reminder that even if something is perceived as “stone cold,” when it’s one of the great archetypes, it’s still going to come around again.

Comments

  1. jonboy says:

    The people that run NBC make the people that run DC and Marvel look like geniuses.

  2. Silly but True says:

    Something doesn’t feel right meshing this account to the long-developing “unnamed Darabont zombie project” vs. the comic’s breakout success.

    Certainly, we all know that what Darabont and Hurd had in production for years is what got married with Kirkman to yield The Walking Dead.

    But the comic series didnt really attain rock star status until after its first or second year; maybe in the issue’ teens. This puts it on the pop culture map beginning about 2005, and later. I mean, wasn’t Kirkman at this time one of Marvel’s “new bloods” or whatever the heck they were calling that wave of exclusive creators?

    Could it be that what NBC passed on was Darabont’s long-developing zombie project predating its marriage to Kirkman’s TWD?

    When did the comic TWD even land in Darabont’s lap as possible vehicle for his project? Was Kirkman already shopping TV rights on the property after just about a year — or less — of stories?

    And if it was NBC who passed on TWD (actual TWD), then what’s the list of schmucks who passed on Darabont’s zombie TV show predating TWD?

  3. Thomas Wayne says:

    Well said, Jonboy, well said…

  4. During my rather short tenure at NBC, I had stumbled across an e-mail exchange between Jeff Zucker and head legal litigator Marc Graboff . Zucker’s immediate response to Frank Darbont’s pitch of the Walking Dead to NBC was that it was the most stupidest premise of a television show he had ever read.

    And the legacy seems to live on since they passed on a potential cash cow in the Sixth Gun.

    But I award them points in renewing Revolution, Grimm, and Hannibal.

    ~

    Coat

  5. Majorjoe23 says:

    “But the comic series didnt really attain rock star status until after its first or second year; maybe in the issue’ teens. This puts it on the pop culture map beginning about 2005, and later. I mean, wasn’t Kirkman at this time one of Marvel’s “new bloods” or whatever the heck they were calling that wave of exclusive creators?”

    The Walking Dead got a pretty big boost after the first TPB came out in 2004.

  6. Jerry Smith says:

    I’m glad NBC passed on the show. I love the AMC show so much it made me seek out and read the comics, even though I’m not a big Kirkman fan. Network TV would have given us a dumbed down, non-violent “Super Friends” Walking Dead, with no nuance and no words over three syllables. Things turned out how they were meant to be.

  7. Silly but True says:

    Majorjoe,
    Yeah. Good point. If Kirkman had already been shopping TV rights, had already married it to Darabont’s zombie TV project, and TWD was being pitched by 2005, then kudos to Kirkman. He had to have hit the ground running in late 2003 wh some sort of TV project in mind, I think, before the comic series attained any sort of popularity.

    What this makes we wonder about even more is “when Darabont’s (pre-walikg-dead) Zombie television show had to struggle?” How long had it been in development before Kirkman’s IP came along, evidently, at the right place and right time to strike gold.

    I wonder, partly due to the comic lawsuit. It puts Kirkman in a bit more favorable light I think. The TWD show pretty much was not a result of the comics’s success then, but apparently something Kirkman was planning since the comics’ infancy. (Lo and behold Darabont was waiting to develop a viable property) And so Kirkman should legitimately not need to share as much TV $$ with the other comic contributors.

  8. I actually enjoy the TV series more than the comic. I read the first volume of the comic but I felt it was meh but maybe I did not read far enough. I think the story and characters really transfer well to live action TV.

    And with the whole NBC thing about, “lets take a comic about zombies and turn it into something entirely different!” I don’t understand how those kinds of people get jobs when there are so many more creative people out there struggling.

  9. Jeff Trexler says:

    To be fair, NBC had just finished running a show about zombies, with the main difference being that it was mostly set in a coffee shop.

  10. Jerry Smith says:

    Jeff T, that’s not a very friendly thing to say.

  11. Molnek says:

    I can see networks passing on TWD it’s a good show but a lot of it is quite slow. Even if they hadn’t passed it wouldn’t have survived more than a season.

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