That would be me, after two weeks of something that never quite turned into flu but wasn't much fun anyway.
I don’t really watch television, no time and very little tolerance, but I do occasionally binge on it.
And I don’t know whether it’s my way of avoiding the traditional Christmas chocolate binge, or the fact that I’ve been sick for a lot longer than I figured on being, but I have been having a mother of a TV binge this week.
In the past I have become obsessed with shows like DEADWOOD (still the best of all), THE WIRE (excruciatingly close second), ROME, and MAD MEN. Obsessed means that I watch every episode as soon as I can get it, which can present a time management problem when I discover a show that has actually been on the air for several seasons already.
I may be able to blame this current one on Our Steve, because it actually started when I was feverish and I guess I needed to see people sicker than I was or something, so I watched Outbreak (a movie Steve helped develop) on Netflix. I’ll see Dustin Hoffman and Kevin Spacey in anything, and this is them together, and I’ve been kind of wanting to see it again after seeing one of what must be one of the year’s most excruciatingly dull movies—CONTAGION.
I don’t know what it is about the plague that is so hard to get right in a feature film. At least I didn’t until I discovered the AMC TV series THE WALKING DEAD. And now I know what has been missing from these plague movies.
Now you have to understand this. I like apocalypse stuff but I am NOT a zombie girl. Couldn’t care less. Mystified by the popularity (plus, that wave has l o n g passed, hasn’t it?) I read THE PASSAGE (good book) and some of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES (cute, but you get it after a few chapters and don’t have to keep reading. ZOMBIELAND was funny and 28 DAYS LATER was scary but has one of the worst endings I’ve ever seen from a talent like Danny Boyle.
But WALKING DEAD – well, it’s created by Frank Darabont, based on the graphic novel series by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard. Darabont is one of my favorite filmmakers. Only person who’s every pulled off a Stephen King novel on film (besides Cronenberg with DEAD ZONE. I love Kubrick’s THE SHINING but it’s not King’s THE SHINING. And yes, STAND BY ME is great but it’s not a King NOVEL.).
The first episode of WD is so scary I had to turn it off periodically and calm myself down. I am beyond stunned that it didn’t give me nightmares.
It’s cinematic and riveting, often heartbreaking, purely wonderful storytelling.
Well, only the first 13 episodes are available so far and I went through that in a day. (When I say binge, I mean binge.).
Which meant that I could actually resume writing the next day, which is the good news.
The bad news was I was jonesing for more apocalypse. So I did some searching and discovered the BBC series SURVIVORS (the recent remake, or revision), which is post-flu apocalyptic.
Watching both series back to back was a seriously interesting exercise. I’m not entirely sure in what – British vs. American TV, British vs. American gun culture, British vs. American people. . . zombies vs. flu. . .
Here’s the thing. I’m not a particularly violent person or writer; I avoid gore in my reading and my own writing. But after 13 episodes of WALKING DEAD, I am seriously craving bloodshed on SURIVIVORS. Sure, everyone but a dozen people died in the first episode (shown through tasteful shots of the soles of tennis shoes and limp manicured hands).
But once the human encounters started again, there were some people who needed to be dead. And the British characters in SURVIVORS just refuse to kill people. Also, I know this series aired on the BBC, but I have to think that in actuality there are more than two guns in Britain. I’m sure Zoe has at least that many. Okay, I’ve actually seen four guns on the show so far, but only two in play at once.
Now come on, Brits, in case of an apocalypse, even without zombies—wouldn’t guns be one of the FIRST things you’d be looking for? Like, after water, but before food? That seems to me basic survival. I know that you don’t have gun shops at every random strip mall, but you do have a military, and in the world of the show, the military is just as dead as the rest of the world. So there would be guns to be had, right?
I’m sorry, but tire irons aren’t going to cut it.
That’s me being logical, there. But there’s another aspect to it, not logical at all. I have to confess, thatcompared to WD, where zombies are shot, arrowed, pickaxed... skulls crushed with shovels, bodies torn apart by ropes (and by other zombies) – gruesome casualties by the dozens almost every episode . . .
Well, it sounds terrible to say it, but after all the excruciating tension of WD I just was not sure SURVIVORS was going to be violent enough for me. Even with all those British accents, I wasn’t getting into it. It was, no big surprise, sex that kept me with it for the first two episodes. There are two pretty fine leading men in this show, Max Beesley and Paterson Joseph; I’m happy to see the producers realized they should be shirtless more often. The other characters grew on me and the lead actress I disliked in the first episode turned out to be a villain, so that was okay. The lead actress I like best got to kick some serious ass a few episodes in, which was a pleasant—or maybe I mean gratifying—surprise. And I like the conceit of the show, which is that, at least so far, the Odyssey-like encounters the main group has with other survivors are modeled around famous stories from literature, like Peter Pan and Oliver Twist. It could have been corny but it works.
I am having one continuing problem with it, on the morality front.
With zombies of course you don’t have to have debates about morality, you can just break skulls—although THE WALKING DEAD does pretty well finding moral dilemmas, with some zombie killing anyway.
But I’m starting to wonder if my own morality got a little warped by the show, as with SURIVORS I am getting TIRED of the good guys letting the bad guys go. Especially in the case of two would-be rapists, who should have been put permanently out of commission. The good guys could have talked about it, argued it, but someone should AT LEAST have brought up the idea. Instead of turning them loose to attack other women. Or children, if there don’t happen to be any women handy.
There’s another weasel I’m sure the writers are just keeping around to keep people’s blood boiling, but it makes me long for the take-no-prisoners skull-crushing of WD.
I bet you’re all starting to wonder what my point is. I’m not sure, actually. My questions are not so much about zombies, but if you’d like to talk about them, have at it. Give us some classics. But what I was really wondering was - have other people started to experience holiday meltdowns? How did or do they show up for you?
There’s also a question for the Brits. Do you have more than two guns in the entire country? (Sorry, kidding.) But I can’t say that I’ve seen a lot of gunplay in my favorite British series. Am I just missing the gory ones, or do you all look aghast at the level of violence in American cable TV, especially?
And I’m up for any recommendations of apocalyptic favorites. I only have five more episodes of SURVIVORS to go . . .
The very happiest holidays to all (with or without zombies), and hoping all wonderful things for everyone in the new year.
P.S. If I have not responded to anyone who requested review copies of THE HARROWING, THE PRICE or BOOK OF SHADOWS, please re-mail me at alex AT alexandrasokoloff DOT com. I was late getting to my webmail on this because of my bout with plague, and may have deleted a few e mails along with the deluge of spam.
(And Reine - your e mail is not working for me....)