The Walking Dead and Criminal Minds are two popular TV series with extreme violence and extremely well-developed characters. Both are among the most interesting shows on TV and both have seen an abrupt decline in ratings this season. So what are fans saying?
The Walking Dead ratings are down by 25 percent, according to Entertainment Weekly. Still, at around 11 – 12 million viewers per episode they are still OK. Apparently, about three-quarters of the audience are still watching, and some love the recent twists. More losses could be cause for alarm, but for now, the ratings are certainly within safe limits for The Walking Dead.
Criminal Minds ratings have dropped from at least 12 million viewers per episode on average to less than 8 million recently and that is a huge drop. Losses are generally attributed to the loss of Thomas Gibson and Shemar Moore as Agents Aaron Hotchner and Derick Morgan. Gibson was fired and could be brought back, but so far no move has been made to rehire Gibson or arrange for Moore to return.
Both Criminal Minds and The Walking Dead balance carnage and character development in a precarious balancing act. Carnage and violence can desensitize the viewer, while great characters force the most hardened of viewers to care.
The Walking Dead and Criminal Minds balance character development, that makes the viewer care what happens, and horrific violence that can make fans wish they didn’t care so much. The Walking Dead and Criminal Minds handle that balance in completely different ways.
Criminal Minds compartmentalizes violence. The Criminal Minds episodes are formulaic. They rarely break that pattern, so viewers know when to expect the violence. Character development is restricted to the regular co-stars. Those one-time characters killed in weekly episodes are deliberately underdeveloped. This reduces the impact of violence, in the same way, hack and slash cult classic films kept the characters pretty flat, or better yet annoying. That was not an accident.
The Walking Dead violence is random and in most seasons nearly constant. Anyone can die at any time on The Walking Dead. At the same time, though, after up to seven years of character development, fans love their heroes. As a comment by Ashley Sweet on a recent Inquisitr article pointed out this show plays by different rules than most.
“It’s a zombie apocalypse.. people are supposed to die and when the show started the director told everyone nobody is safe… The Walking Dead is still the best show ever!!”
The Walking Dead is a great show, as Ashley points out. Viewership has grown to staggering proportions over the course of the show, and perhaps there is room to fall a bit before panic ensues, but it could be cause for concern. Everyone wants the show to continue for another seven seasons at least, but shockingly many fans are complaining that Season 7 is boring. It’s a common complaint, but why? Is it the reduction in zombies, in favor of human combatants perhaps?
Criminal Minds unlike The Walking Dead, keeps a distinct division between the generally safe regular cast and the guest stars who usually get the ax very early in the episode. While guests are dismembered, flayed alive and so forth by serial killers, on the rare occasion of, either serious injury or the passing of one of the main characters, scenes are always handled tastefully.
Criminal Minds fans protest when their favorite characters get terminated.
— Tiffany Ann Bumbarge (@tab261985) November 24, 2016
— leckybecky (@leckybecky123) November 21, 2016
— Meagan Rose (@Pagets_Wife) November 17, 2016
On The Walking Dead, however, there is no safety zone like on Criminal Minds, no one is safe, and that point has been driven home almost unbearably in The Walking Dead Season 7. The Season 4 to Season 5 transition was bloodier, but somehow the impact was different. Ratings increased during Season 5 while season 7 has the biggest rating plummet in The Walking Dead history, according to Entertainment Weekly. Why?
Unlike Criminal Minds, where fans want their old characters back, a new character is really a sticking point for many The Walking Dead viewers. It turns out that nearly as many fans find Negan annoying as terrifying, according to a recent poll by The Gold Derby. While 47 percent agreed that “Jeffery Dean Morgan has taken the show in a bold new direction,” 36 percent agreed with the statement that “Negan’s unending sadism makes me want to tune out.”
The Walking Dead characters have entered a state of hopeless oppression, and that is not comfortable for some viewers, especially in the current climate of real life hardship and paranoia that has increasingly beset the 21st century. As Stacy Oliver Faldetta commented on the recent Inquisitr article, it may not be the best time for these conflicts.
“I think it is also because it is too much a reflection of our hate-filled society right now. We want the zombie conflict… not a human on human hate fest!!”
The Walking Dead fan Marylyn D’Amore Kruger added her feelings.
“I stopped watching The Walking Dead, too miserable, disturbing, depressing, and boring, the way it just goes on and on, no end in sight to their miserable existence.
Another The Walking Dead fan, Jennifer Gordon, added a rather nihilistic view.
“Because fans of the show are finally realizing it’s a zero sum game. No one will ever win. There will never be a safe place. Everyone will suffer and fight and struggle until they die–and stink to high heaven the whole time.”
Who says The Walking Dead isn’t like real life?
Criminal Minds, though more realistic in plot, stays away from hopelessness except in the case of Derick and Hotch’s departure. Thomas Gibson and Shemar Moore are still desperately missed, and the show has offered no hope of their return.
The Walking Dead Season 7 has been bleak, even in contrast to their usual, which is pretty rough. The new villain Negan is a human oppressor and that makes it uncomfortable for some.
Criminal Minds co-stars rarely face bleak hopelessness. Death touches them just enough to facilitate a drama element.
Criminal Minds is at times a bit bloody, but it has never gone as far in the gore department as The Walking Dead either. In general, Criminal Minds is comfortably predictable and gore is compartmentalized. Most of the fear, suspense, and blood and guts are in the intro, where a guest star is brutally murdered. Then it is on to the crime scene. It always gets suspenseful near the end. Then the unsub is caught, and the Criminal Minds co-stars fly away on their jet.
The Walking Dead is, as it is supposed to be, a total gore fest. It equals or surpasses most horror flicks. At the same time, though, there is character development, which most hack and slash movies totally lack and for good reason. It is the same reason farmers don’t allow their kids to make pets of the livestock. People do get attached.
Criminal Minds co-stars like Thomas Gibson, Matthew Gray Gubler, and A.J. Cook portray government agents and are the knights in shining armor, protecting the world.
The Criminal Minds characters are nearly untouchable, and that might be a good aspect, especially as the show goes into Season 12. In all those years, viewers have become accustomed to those characters. It isn’t the same show without them, as Terri Woodruff pointed out in an Inquisitr comment.
“As far as Criminal Minds, we want the cast members back!! Derek and now Hotch are missing from this season.”
Criminal Minds fan Jackie Miller and others liked the old cast better.
“I want the Criminal Minds show back the way it was.”
The Walking Dead characters come in two categories, the protectors and the protected. Characters who survive long enough can become more adept, but generally, some are just tougher than others.
The Walking Dead characters like Daryl (Norman Reedus.) Glenn (Steven Yeun,) Michonne (Danai Guria), Abraham (Michael Cuditz.) and Rick (Andrew Lincoln) have been the strongest protectors. They make the audience feel more secure about the fate of the group. The loss of Glenn and the demoralization of Daryl and Rick seem miserable to many fans.
Criminal Minds is faltering over the loss of Thomas Gibson and Shemar Moore, and they may not recover enough ratings to go for another season. By contrast, very few The Walking Dead fans have said that Steven Yeun’s absence is the main reason they stopped watching.
The Walking Dead still has vast millions of avid fans, many of which want the show to follow the comic book closely, while others want the show to take its own direction. Tyler Fuller feels the show should stay the course of the comics.
“So what I’m getting from this is that “fans”, who I can only assume have only watched the show and not read the comics, are angry that the show that they are watching is following the source material that’s it’s based on. Excuse me while I pull up all the stuff from the comics that should have happened in the show that make Glenn and Abraham’s death look like a children’s T.V. show.”
The Walking Dead fans have certain expectations for the show. Some feel the plot should follow the comic, while others feel that the show is already diverse enough from the graphic novel to choose an alternate path. Certainly, Norman Reedus’ character Daryl, though not in the comic, has facilitated the plot of the TV show. Rick was the main character of the source material, but he shares that role more in the TV series.
Criminal Minds may not be a comic book, but fans have certain expectations of the show due to a 12-year pattern. Now with fans adoring their heroes it seems wrong to replace 12-year veterans of Criminal Minds like Thomas Gibson and Shemar Moore. Is the same true of The Walking Dead for some fans? Linda Alford thinks so.
“Rick’s gang is our heroes. They are not supposed to be killed. They are the strong ones that take care of others. Carol has become weak when she was one of the strongest and now you killed Glenn and Abraham-you have also killed the show. they should be recast if they want to leave not killed.”
The Walking Dead and Criminal Minds are balancing violence and character development in ways that lately are making the audience anxious. Will it pay off in the end?
RELATED REPORTS FROM THE INQUISITR
Nothing would please the Criminal Minds audience more than to find out that Thomas Gibson’s firing and Shemar Moore’s quitting were all a publicity stunt to make fans believe they could be killed off, in a suspenseful episode. Is that the case? It’s doubtful, but it would be a lovely story the Criminal Minds producers could tell to save face while saving the show.
The Walking Dead audience is not in agreement on what should happen, and many viewers are just waiting for the Negan segment to play out. There is at least some confidence that even though not everyone likes what is happening, this too shall pass and the zombie fighting will resume.
The Walking Dead and Criminal Minds have lost viewers, suddenly, but it is hoped that both shows will recover their fan base by choosing the right course.
[Featured Images Jesse Grant and Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images]