Weekly Binge: The Walking Dead

In our newest column, we give you what you need to know to dive into the popular shows everyone's talking about.

Welcome to the maiden voyage of the Weekly Binge, where we'll be taking a closer look at the shows that are worth your time. And by that we mean a lot of your time - we'll be focusing on the shows that will obliterate those nights and weekends that would otherwise be spent on more "productive" pursuits (and when we say "productive," we mean "less interesting"). So without further ado, let's try to convince all the fence-sitters to take the plunge and get all caught up on The Walking Dead!


The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead

What's the basic premise? A disparate group of people attempts to survive the zombie apocalypse.

What's it like? Take a cup of zombies a la Dawn of the Dead, add a dollop of menacing atmosphere from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, sprinkle in a bit of existential hopelessness from The Road, and add a dash of goofy splatter from The Toxic Avenger, to taste. Viola! You've got a heaping helping of basic cable ratings gold!

Where can I see it? Starting Oct. 13, new episodes air on Sundays on AMC at 9 p.m. EST, and are available for streaming the next day on iTunes, Vudu, and Amazon. Past seasons are available on iTunes, Vudu, Amazon, and Netflix.

How long will it take? It's three seasons long (at six episodes, the first season is actually more like a mini-series, but the second and third are 19 and 16 episodes, respectively), and each installment is around an hour. If You've got a strong stomach and you start early enough, you could probably knock out most of it over a holiday weekend.

What do the critics think? Each season is Certified Fresh (at 90 percent on the Tomatometer, the second season is the worst-reviewed of the three). J Linda Stasi of the New York Post calls it "the flat-out scariest, best, most unusual show to ever hit the small screen," while Willa Paskin of Salon.com writes, "There are moments of creepy elegance and elegiac morbidity in The Walking Dead that no show on TV can match."

Why should I watch this? I'm not gonna lie: The Walking Dead has its share of dead patches and dull characters. But the basic setup is so compelling -- how would you respond if the whole world went to hell? -- that you're likely to press on regardless. Plus, when it comes to creative zombie slaughter, this show can't be beat -- you get the feeling that every stabbing, every shooting, every beheading has been lovingly conceived and executed by some of the finest craftspeople in the business (for me, there's something surprisingly satisfying about the "crunch-splat" sound when a zombie gets a hatchet to the skull. It never gets old. In fact, I'm grinning just thinking about it). The makeup people on this show deserve their own wing in the Max Factor museum.

What's my next step? The show is based on a series of graphic novels published by Image that began its run in 2003; in other words, it's pretty extensive at this point. Telltale Games' Walking Dead episodic graphic adventure games are available for a variety of gaming platforms, and have been well received by the gaming press. And if that doesn't sate your appetite for undead entertainment, there are probably a couple million zombie movies on Netflix or something.

What do you like about The Walking Dead? How would you explain it to a newbie? Any big predictions for season four? Get in on the conversation here. And don't forget to check out these Walking Dead webisodes.

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