'Walking Dead' season finale breaks more records at AMC

On the March 18th season finale of AMC’s The Walking Dead, the basic cable network scored a record breaking 9 million viewers. These numbers are hugely important for basic cable in general and reflect embarrassing on the broadcast networks who are struggling to find an audience for any of its scripted series beyond aging shows like Big Bang Theory and NCIS. Their failure to create any series with compelling characters, or interesting concepts without relying on some tired formula or silly gimmicks is dooming them. While not all basic cable shows are worthy of such praise, they still seem to capture viewers. Some will say the violence and the gore basic cable can get away with on The Walking Dead is what makes the show so popular -this is stuff that the broadcast networks can’t do because they have the FCC breathing down their necks. While that may be true for most, I also believe The Walking Dead excels at storytelling and has a wonderful, believable cast. The gore, in some cases, is just a by-product of the story, and not used in a disingenuous way. And I’m not fond of gore. I enjoy the show because it’s well written, creepy and brilliantly acted. The fact that the broadcast networks are relying on the same cop show formula since Dragnet and the same comedic format since I Love Lucy is where the problem lies. They seem to back away from any idea that cannot be boiled down to a short sentence; they can’t allow a series to grow because it was not a hit to begin with, or tinker with the shows concept so much that whatever creative aspect they had, is gone. If I was pitching a series these days, and it was creative, unusual and bent away from typical TV shows, I would be knocking on the doors of basic cable networks. At the end of the day, ABC, NBC, CBS, The CW and FOX embrace mediocrity, while basic cable (even the premium ones) seem to be saying they want shows that defy the same ordinariness the broadcast networks swim in.

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