[Z Nation images courtesy Daniel Sawyer Schaefer/Go2 Z/Syfy]
Fears of a Zombie Apocalypse got you feeling down?
Is constant worrying over the possible The End Of The World As We Know It (TEOTWAWKI) giving you a severe and permanent case of the blues?
If you turn to the TV for comfort, you have two (main) choices for escape to a zombified future. In one corner is AMC’s ratings behemoth The Walking Dead, currently shambling its way through a seventh season. Opposite TWD is a scrappy, much less serious take on the zombie apocalypse – Z Nation, just renewed for a fourth season on Syfy.
The contrast between the two shows starts with their respective ratings. The October 23, 2016 seventh season premiere of TWD drew a total audience of 17 million; 10.7 of those eyeballs in the coveted by advertisers 18-49 demographic. Ratings for Z Nation have averaged around 1 million viewers per episode; quite a drop from TWD numbers, but still good enough to rank in the top 10 for scripted television programs on cable.
Since this season’s premiere, however, TWD‘s ratings have steadily declined to season three levels. By episode six, the 17 million strong audience tuning in to see Glenn’s head turned into mush by Negan’s barbed-wire wraped baseball bat “Lucille” had shrunk to 14.3 million (8.9 million in the 18-49 demographic). TWD is still a ratings monster. But it looks like some of the viewers turned off by the sixth season’s cliffhanger ending and the extreme brutality of Glenn and Abraham’s deaths in the premiere followed through on their promise to quit watching.
In contrast to The Walking Dead’s “all small scale doom & gloom, all the time” atheistic, Z Nation has a much lighter mood – and a focus beyond the struggle of a small band of survivors. The lighter and much less serious tone shouldn’t be a huge surprise – the show is produced by production house The Asylum. If you don’t recognize the name, you probably know their most famous product. A little seen, so-bad-its-good series called Sharknado.
Besides seeing the laughs possible in an end of the world scenario, Z Nation has a larger framework to tell stories; the whole point of the series revolves around the possibility of a cure for the zombie plague. TWD has fallen into a pattern inherited from the source comic. Rick and Company find a “safe haven”, find out it’s not so safe, then lose that home after confronting a “big bad”. Rise, Wash, Repeat.
Sure, TWD will continue at the top of television ratings for some time to come; AMC wants to get as much revenue as possible from their zombie cash cow. But as one of the viewers who said “Check Please!” after the deaths of Glenn and Abraham, I’m definitely giving Z Nation a try. I can only watch the same depressing story played out so many times.