Among the most vexing parts of The Walking Dead is that, in this apocalyptic wasteland where zombies eat people with impunity, somehow none of them ever get arrested. Frankly, it’s pretty unrealistic—and in terms of providing a tidy resolution to each episode, deeply unsatisfying. And had the show ended up on NBC, where Frank Darabont first pitched it years ago, this never would have happened.
According to Variety, executive producer Gale Anne Hurd reflected on the series’ brief almost-life at NBC for the Edinburgh International TV Festival, where she repeated what creator Robert Kirkman has said for years was the network’s first note: “Do there have to be zombies?” After determining that removing the zombies—while definitely allowing the human characters plenty more time to argue about the nature of trust—might disappoint fans of the zombie comic-book series, NBC settled on a compromise. Make The Walking Dead a procedural where two protagonists “solve a zombie crime of the week,” it said, and you might have yourself a TV show.
Granted, most cases would be solved with “a zombie wanted to eat a person, because it’s a zombie, and therefore it did.” But look, nearly every episode of Miami Vice involved Crockett and Tubbs going undercover to bust up a drug smuggling ring, and that show ran for five seasons. Besides, maybe The Walking Dead’s two protagonists could initially seem mismatched, but there’s an undeniable physical chemistry? Over time, they begin to realize their relationship goes far deeper than just being partners—they’re falling for each other. Maybe they learn that all the lonely people out there, those desperate souls walking around with no one to give their life meaning, maybe they’re the real walking dead. Also, maybe one of them could be played by Blair Underwood? NBC has been trying to find the right project for him for years.
But no, instead The Walking Dead ended up on AMC, where it currently has both zombies and zero discipline. Sure, keeping fans hanging on, waiting for someone to finally round up all the undead and slap the handcuffs on them, might translate to record ratings in the short term. But how much longer can they really keep it up?