Recently a writer published an article asking realistically how long The Walking Dead will last on TV. The writer speculated that even though AMC might want the show to go on for 15-20 seasons and even though there is a lot of source material the show probably won’t last that long. The writer thinks that the public will get tired of the zombie trope and turn away from the show long before the show can hit the 20 season mark. But, is that realistic? Not really when you look at these key factors that the writer didn’t even consider:
Zombies Aren’t Going Anywhere
Zombies have been a part of pop culture since 1968 when Night of the Living Dead came out. Since then there have thousands of feature films about zombies and even more books, short stories and TV shows. Over the decades zombies have only gotten more popular. When the CDC released its graphic novel showing people how to prepare for a zombie apocalypse as a way to get people to care about disaster readiness they were tapping into the cultural obsession with the idea of a zombie apocalypse in order to teach very real and relevant survival lessons. That campaign has now been expanded to a blog, posters, and an entire media campaign. Zombie obsession may be reaching a critical mass point culturally but even if there is some fall off in the numbers it’s safe to say that zombies will always be a part of popular culture. The idea that people will just get sick of zombies and stop watching is not realistic if you look at the evolution of zombies in popular culture.
We Are The Walking Dead
While it’s inevitable that shows will experience a dip in ratings as the seasons go on The Walking Dead is heading into Season 6 and is still continuously setting new records when it comes to viewership. Some of the best critically acclaimed TV shows in history barely lasted six seasons but The Walking Dead is still attracting millions of new fans six years into the show. Just based on the hard numbers of fans still watching the show it’s clear that The Walking Dead has a lot of life left in it still. While most shows develop a small but loyal core group of fans The Walking Dead has inspired a fan following that is millions strong and so loyal to the show that even when their favorite characters are killed off they continue watching and supporting the show.
TWD Family, as the fandom is called, is a fandom that dwarfs the fandom of any other show on television. They will continue to watch the show as long as Robert Kirkman and the writers and cast make the show whether that’s 20 seasons or 30 seasons. For whatever reason the show has managed to appeal to a massive cross section of the population and even people of different ages, beliefs and backgrounds have been united by their passion for the show. Networks wants to make money and advertisers want to reach consumers so as long as there is a TWD Family that supports the show the network will keep the show on the air because there is money to be made from the fans.
The Walking Dead is, at the core, a show about the survival of humanity in the face of some pretty dark events. That mirrors the world and society as it exists now, to an extent. There may not be any zombies but there are pandemics, decades of war, terrorist attacks, an unstable economy and dozens of other bleak conditions in the world. Fans are not going to get tired of watching Rick and the others fight for the survival of humanity because they feel like they are out there fighting for humanity everyday too. Seeing Rick and other humans survive and hang onto some humanity despite the impossible conditions they live in inspires people to think they can overcome all the problems they face every day too. And they need that. The 1950s era society of civility is gone and it’s not coming back. Cultural has shifted to reflect the current conditions of the world and it’s only getting darker. People will continue to look to shows like The Walking Dead for hope and inspiration for many seasons to come. It is not at all far-fetched to think this show could last 20 seasons or more.