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TV on DVD: The Walking Dead

In television on 03/08/2011 at 9:11 am

Two things.

No. 1: I am a zombie. Or at least that’s what the The Walking Dead Survival Test tells me. Apparently the blanket over the head strategy is not the best way to go in the face of an apocalypse that turns neighbours into dinner.

Which is strange, because if not blanket over the head, then hoodie pulled tight and chair backed into a safe cubicle was the best way to survive watching the first season of The Walking Dead. Don’t get me wrong (and yes, I’ll get to No. 2), the zombie drama was most enjoyable. Thrilling even. But a little scary. Also, I don’t recommend planning meals around your viewing of the six-episode, two-disc DVD or Blu-ray sets released March 8, 2011. Me? Being deprived of zombie channel AMC (Hello Videotron? What’s that? You’ll take my channel suggestion “under consideration”? Super.), I followed The Walking Dead last fall on my smart phone, downloading the episodes from iTunes and watching them at work during lunch hour. And let me tell you there were a few uneaten lunches. Partly, predictably, because zombie drama in general is a gory endeavour and in particular, Walking Dead does not shy away from the necessary chopping, removing, shooting of the head required to put down a “walker”. Buut mostly because I was so wrapped up in the action and intensity of the series, I forgot to eat.

The Walking Dead, which returns to AMC and iTunes in October 2011, was a huge hit when it aired. Are vampire lovers looking for more undead drama alongside True Blood and Vampire Diaries? Maybe. I suspect, however, the surprising depth of drama in The Walking Dead is what did the trick. Adapted from the comic series by Robert Kirkman and helmed for TV by Frank Darabont (Green Mile, Shawshank Redemption), the titular “walking dead” are not the lurching, flesh-eating walkers. They are the survivors, chief among them Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), a uniformed law man, who gives viewers their first look at … whatever has brought on the end of the world as Grimes knows it.

The themes are so heavy, that the 90-minute first episode left me nervous the series would collapse into cliche. No worries (though it helps to love a bit of over the top). While BIG concepts — including fidelity, marriage, family, self vs. community, fear of the other and the (sigh) American flag — occasionally make the story stumble, they are also deftly woven into scenes of escape, brief victory, bonding and then more zombie killing. And guts. Which are everywhere and which is the title of Episode 2. And which I have to admit is another draw of the show: the makeup and special effects and the many ways in which the show does not shy away from … well, rolling in zombie guts and re-creating the zombie mythology.

My favourite of the six episodes is No. 4, Vatos. Pay attention to Jim, who is digging holes. Spookiest. Sweetest. Though “sweet” is not the first word that will come to mind immediately after watching.

My favourite of the DVD extras is the featurette on Bicycle Girl, whom you’ll meet in Episode 1. (Watch the episode before the extra, of course!)

Not for everyone, to be sure, but when Darabont and fellow exec Gale Anne Hurd repeat the phrase “family drama” ad nauseam in the disc extras they are correct. The Walking Dead is about family, especially in finding family among the people you end up with. And even without a zombie apocalypse, we could all use a bit more of that, no?

Now then, back to my Two Things, No. 1 being, if you’ll recall, that I failed my Walking Dead Survival Test. (One of many fun diversions on the show’s official site.)

No. 2: So, if it’s just you and me and I get bitten and then go into the unconscious phase of zombification, do not wait for my eyes to go glassy and my appetite to go all … fleshly. I’d be obliged if you’d honour me with a bullet to the brain; axe if that’s all you’ve got, though please get it right the first whack. Unless I’m just napping. Wait, maybe I need to rethink this …

In the meantime, here are a few more new releases of TV on DVD for this week:

McMillan & Wife: Season 3
Dalziel & Pasco: Season 3
Judge John Deed: Season 3
Doctor Who: The Seeds of Doom (Story 85)
Doctor Who: The Ark (Story 23)
Black Butler: Season One, Part 2
Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman
Hannah Montana Forever: Final Season
Nature: Birds of the Gods
Emergency Mine Rescue: An Engineering Triumph in Chile
Leverage: Season 2

Denise Duguay

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