Each year conventions around the globe celebrate the zombie craze. Last month there was even a themed cruise where fans got to meet some of their favorite stars from the show.
So what gives? What makes The Walking Dead so popular? Friends innocently tell friends to give the show a try - that it’s not just about the zombies. Before they know it, these hapless victims join the ever growing horde that's hungry for stories of survival in a post-apocalypse world.
Recipe for a Winning Show
Many recognize that the show is more than just a story about a zombie apocalypse. Quite a few studios now regret passing up this successful series because they didn't understand this, says executive producer Gale Anne Hurd.
"The reason the audience has grown is that people care so deeply they want to be able to share it with friends and family," says Hurd. "They have to convince them to watch the show because they want to talk about what they think about the moral choices that are made."
“The Walking Dead is popular because of the psychology,” says Travis Langley, Ph.D., aka @Superherologist.
Not only the author of The Walking Dead Psychology and a professor of psychology, Dr. Langley ought to know. He was a fan himself of the original comic books long before the #Television series became popular.
“Human beings,” he says, "are hard-wired to process fears about things like the wolves from the days of our ancestors, and we’ve always shared these feelings around the campfire." Indeed, today’s world presents a range of fears that are constantly looming on the horizon - real and imagined.
Each week the stakes get raised higher and higher - anyone can die at any time. Over the course of the series, one major character after another has been killed. So, as an audience, you’re left saying to yourself, 'wow, no one is safe..'
“But,” Dr. Langley continues, “It’s not just about scaring each other.. there’s a sharing of real fears, but we’re still okay.”
He points out how Twitter discussions around the hashtag #TWDFamily are more than a kinship around television viewing.
“There’s a community experience - years ago we’d all tune in to watch a show like MASH. Today there aren’t many shows where this happens.”
What also hooks viewers are the weekly twists and turns like the classic serials, continuing where a show like Lost left off.
Of course, none of this works without a production that makes it all happen. You need actors who can carry the story - writers who can create a rich world - a crew that can put all this on-screen.
So far, out of 97 award nominations, The Walking Dead has won 26.
What’s Next? The World May Be Watching
While most traditional networks are struggling with falling ratings, AMC continues to get stronger, as it expands into global markets. So far, the Season 5 premiere has been the highest-rated episode with 17.3 million viewers.
Yet this is still a fraction of the potential viewership in China, which as reached more than 250 million views on Youku, the Chinese version of YouTube.
Skybound Entertainment - the studio of comic creator Robert Kirkman - already has plans to produce five seasons of a pre-apocalyptic Korean drama with streaming-video site, Viki. “There are millions of Korean drama fans around the world,” said Viki CEO Tammy Nam. “Viki is a conduit between #Hollywood and Asia for fans all over the world.”
Still, it’s uncertain whether the censors will step in the way that China banned the movie World War Z.
All we know for know is that more and more people from all walks of life are tuning in and sharing bonds over their experience of watching this show. That's something that hasn’t happened in television for some time. #News