What follows is a tightly parsed reconstructed article written before New Year that disappeared when Windows decided it could no longer read my user profile. That’ll learn me to save in a folder on the desktop.
True Blood and The Walking Dead (hereafter abbreviated to TB and TWD) have a lot in common: the undead, the south, desperate situations, religion and high quality source material (novel and comic book series respectively). So then why is it that one is so much better than the other? I’ll tell you.
TB’s undead are cool, nutso, sexy and diverse. TWD’s have great make-up but no personality. TB is set in Lousiana which means swamps, forests, weeping willows on river banks, plantation mountains, Cajun twang, great food and sweat. TWD is supposedly set (well, it was) in Alabama which means it should have really cool rednecks, great music and lots of guns. Instead it has sweat and long grass lining freeways.
TB has desperate situations that in spite of their fantastical nature are believable and shed light on both the peaks and depths of human emotional experience. TWD settles for over-wrought, ham-fisted, very vanilla human interactions based on every other survival movie/show ever. It also has an interpersonal logic not unlike the terminal time waster with no payoff, Lost (glad I bailed on that midway through the second season – hey producers, give me my time back, assholes).
Certain forms of Catholicism and Baptism underpin TB making even the most trite utterances of “God bless you” and “Jesus have mercy” ring with a truth and conviction consistent with the multicultural colonial historic flavour of the South. It has voodoo, too! TWD uses the same lexicon but instead it rings of mediocre, middle American, fat free fatuousness. I mean really, post apocalypse wouldn’t your view of god have changed somewhat?
TB’s source material is great. The production and direction of the show takes it in interesting directions. TWD’s is great as well (even if it is eerily similar to Vince Locke’s totally depraved, off the hinges Deadworld), the show fails to capitalise on this and instead of innovation offers up plot retreads and scene recreations lacking originality and punch. How did that happen.
The Walking Dead should have been brilliant. It could have been so much more. It was supposed to be a human drama but instead feels like Lost with zombies and implausibly worse pacing. True Blood has fun, enjoys its medium and shows how it is possible to make a midday melodrama, complete with heaving bosoms, pecs, biceps, gory violence and kinky sex (help, I’m being gang-raped by female werepanthers!) just work. You be the judge.