Is ‘The Walking Dead’ In Danger Of Cancellation?

Could AMC wind up cancelling The Walking Dead, its zombie apocalypse drama and flagship series, sooner rather than later?

Too far-fetched you say for a TV show that is justifiably appointment viewing on Sunday night for millions of fans?

Pro athletes have retired while still in their prime, haven’t they?

Some media outlets are starting to suggest the golden era for The Walking Dead may be coming to a close, the Inquisitr observed in the immediate aftermath of the Season 6 premiere.

It’s still the most popular scripted show on basic cable, making it a “monster” hit in the increasingly fragmented TV space, but the Season 6 ratings for both the debut episode on October 11, 2015, and the midseason finale on November 29, were down from the equivalent period last year, although the episodes pick up tons of more viewers with DVR time shifting.

“The Season 6 debut of The Walking Dead snared 14.6 million viewers on Sunday with 9.4 million among adults 18-49 for a 7.43 rating, according to Nielsen. While great numbers for any show on broadcast or cable nowadays, that’s down 16% and 15% in viewers and the demo, respectively, from the then and still record-breaking Season 5 premiere of the AMC series on October 12, 2014. It is also down from the Season 4 debut on October 13, 2013, which had an 8.2 demo rating and 16.1 million total viewers,” Deadline Hollywood explained.

“Compared with last year’s fall finale, Walking Dead was down about 7% in the demo (7.6) and 5% in total viewers (from 14.8 million),” Variety reported.

The Walking Dead, which saw its first slight season-to-season dip with its fall 2015 return, has been recouping more viewers with time-shift,” the Hollywood Reporter noted.

“With a total audience of 19.5 million and 12.9 million among the 18-49s in Live+3 results, TWD’s Season 5 winter finale was up over Season 6 by a close 6% and 8%, respectively,” Deadline Hollywood added about the Season 6 midseason finale, which garnered 18.3 million viewers.

[Spoilers]

Perhaps the ratings slide — as modest as it appears — could be a trend, given that the current season started off with two action-packed episodes and then bogged down considerably with digressions and flashbacks. The gimmicky and transparent misdirection with Glenn’s “death” hardly helped matters, either.

Consumers can be fickle with their preferences about products as well as entertainment, and there is a history of once-popular television shows “jumping the shark,” i.e., overstaying their welcome or shelf life and just going through the motions until they eventually disappear from the schedule.

 Walking Dead's Danai Gurira, Norman Reedus, and Andrew Lincoln
That being said, have you noticed that The Walking Dead has lapsed into predictable pattern over its six seasons, which may not bode well for its future?

  • Rick’s group searches for sanctuary/safe haven — finds sanctuary — loses sanctuary
  • The group travels together — group is separated — group reunites
  • One or more of the them is kidnapped — one or more of them escapes or is rescued
  • Bad humans have the upper hand over the good guys — the good guys have the upper hand over the bad humans
  • Rick is the leader — Rick is no longer the leader — Rick is the leader again
  • Rick has PTSD — Rick recovers from PTSD — Rick suffers PTSD again?

Rinse and repeat.

Although character development is a key component of any drama — with the emergence of Carol (Melissa McBride, shown below) as a major Walking Dead protagonist as a prime example — narrative pacing on The Walking Dead has continued to be an issue. You may recall that Season 2 devolved into a soap opera at the expense of action — at least until the famous barn bloodbath.

Or, as someone once wrote on the internet at the time, the episodes could be improved by “less chat and more splat.”

Although all bets are off in a chaotic environment when irrationality understandably prevails, that the characters sometimes make inexplicably dumb decisions is another issue.

Walking Dead star Melissa McBride at premiere event
The unpredictable deaths of well-loved main characters such as Hershel, Beth, and Tyreese — and the others that preceded them — have shocked the audience and created a lot of buzz. With so many core survivors becoming fan favorites, it’s unclear if the showrunners still have that option, unless the stars want to move on to other opportunities, which is likely at some point, and will prompt script adjustments accordingly.

With that in mind, sometimes new characters are only introduced to obviously become cannon fodder, with the only question of when.

With the ability to mix and match from the comic/graphic novel, the TV version presumably has no shortage of content (which makes the above-referenced repetition even more puzzling), including the much-anticipated — by fanboys and girls, anyway — intervention by bad-guy Negan in the second half of Season 6, which premieres on February 16.

According to one of the producers, Walking Dead storylines are mapped out through Season 12.

“The Walking Dead has the potential to run for probably 4-5 more seasons based on the existing source material right now. That would mean we’d hit season 10-11 before finishing up everything in existence at the moment. But of course, [Robert] Kirkman is still writing the series, and has publicly stated that he has enough content mapped out to have the series run for 300 issues,” Forbes explained about the show’s “enduring appeal.”

A wild card is the lackluster and disappointing prequel/spin-off, Fear the Walking Dead, which was supposed to satisfy the bloodlust or withdrawal symptoms of Walking Dead fans while the parent show is on hiatus. In its first six episodes aired this summer, what was presumed to be a depiction of how the zombie outbreak gradually destabilized Los Angeles morphed into a tedious contrivance about National Guard overreach as it related to a group of unsympathetic main characters, which included one of them criminally unleashing a horde of zombies on a military base/hospital.

Do you think that there is any possibility that in the near term, The Walking Dead could be canceled?

Do you expect that Fear the Walking Dead will gain significant traction when it returns for a full 15-episode run in spring 2016?

[Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP]