The Walking Dead’s success was a miracle in the eyes of many genre fans. The comic book was gritty and many worried that it wouldn’t translate to cable television. Luckily, it has and the ratings are astronomical. AMC’s marketing department has been able to take that victory and launch an experiment that worked out pretty well for them: the aftershow.
Talking Dead, hosted by Chris Hardwick, was a pretty brilliant idea because it grabbed the attention of those who normally would run post credits to their nearest social network and gave them a late night talk show to watch. Since the experiment of Talking Dead worked out so well, AMC has now brought the same format and host to Talking Bad.
Now FX is getting in on the party to see if it will work the same magic for them. Their megahit Sons of Anarchy is now getting its own aftershow. Anarchy Afterword will be hosted by Chelsea Lately’s Chris Franjola. SOA producer Kurt Sutter has tweeted that it will follow the same format as the Talking shows.
But are these aftershows really worth watching? It’s too early to judge what FX will do, but if they copy the Talking shows, the results will most likely be the same.
There are some positives to Talking Dead. They take questions from Facebook or call-ins, do online polls and even parody the Oscar In Memorium reel for those who died (or died again) during the episode. They give you a quick behind the scenes look and give a sneak peek at next week’s episode. But it lacks any substance. Hardwick discusses the episode with guests, either people from the show or just celebrity “superfans”. But the discussions are rarely informative or insightful. There simply isn’t time. It can be a fun show to watch for the pre-filmed segments that are like bonus material on a DVD or BluRay. Besides that, it’s pretty lackluster.
This issue really became glaringly apparent with Talking Bad. Since Breaking Bad’s ratings have increased over the last couple of seasons, Talking Bad may be AMC’s last grasp at viewers since it is probably regretting making the producers cut costs and create a shortened season, split over two years. It went through the same motions as Talking Dead, but the subject matter may have made it less enjoyable.
The Walking Dead is just as grim as Breaking Bad, but it is not nearly as good. Breaking Bad is multilayered. There is something going on in the background in every scene. The production, acting and writing are just brilliant. There is subtext and metaphors to be ripped apart and digested. It can be criticized for its misfires, yet it still holds up as one of the best shows on television.
You just can’t say that about The Walking Dead, and this is coming from someone who never misses an episode’s premiere. That’s why the lack of any critical discussion and the subsonic pace that Hardwick rushes the viewer through the many segments of Talking Dead isn’t as annoying. It’s an echo chamber hosted by a well-paid fanboy, (who is actually a pretty nice guy in person so I try not to hold that against him. We all wish we could be paid for geeking out over something, right?).
But Talking Dead is produced by the network that produces the show. It is no surprise that you are not going to hear criticism. If you are a fan of the show but you don’t want to look too deep into it, Talking Dead is the show for you. But with a show like Breaking Bad, it really doesn’t need shallow applause. It deserves real applause. It warrants actual discussion. Not just “talking”. It really just cheapens the effect of the actual episode.
This is why it is bothersome that this trend is now continuing onto FX. Is this all people want to hear? It’s almost like a pep rally. “Oh boy, what an AMAZING show! And fans, you have no worries! We all love this show and look at what we are giving you for your continued support! A fast-paced discussion of things you either already know about or the rare interesting question that will need to be answered in 30 seconds or less! Don’t worry if something didn’t work for you! We’re not going to talk about that anyway! We, the promotional machine, do not acknowledge flaws and even if there was something deeper to look into, we are probably going to gloss over it anyway! Hahaha! Yay show!”
It’s good that Breaking Bad is ending, if only because it will turn Talking Bad into a fading memory and fans can go back and enjoy the show without all the hype. Don’t get me started on how they’ve used Breaking Bad and Talking Bad as a launching point for their new show Low Winter Sun with promotions as subtle as nails on a chalkboard. “Stay tuned after the first break of Low Winter Sun for previews of next week’s episode of Breaking Bad!” I almost feel bad for the producers of Low Winter Sun that they can’t be trusted to launch their own show.
But, with Anarchy Afterword, is this a sign that networks will start producing these cheap talk shows to fill out their schedules? Hm, maybe AMC will start a Low Winter Talk soon…
Hear me now, dear reader! If I hear word of a Talking Mad show next year, I’m cancelling AMC.