Much like the enduring survivors of the zombie post-apocalypse and the tireless monsters that haunt their steps, AMC executives have no current plans to lay The Walking Dead to rest. That might seem obvious considering that the show remains arguably the most popular (and lucrative) one on television at the moment, with even its companion series Fear the Walking Dead proving to be a worthwhile extension eagerly consumed by the ravenous fanbase. But when you shift gears to look ahead a few years, the way network executives often must, it would be understandable to see an end of the road for even as successful a show as The Walking Dead.
According to a new report from Vulture, who spoke to AMC network chief Charlie Collier and programming boss Joel Stillerman about a host of shows including The Walking Dead, there is no energy being wasted on figuring out how to bring their best series to a close. From a financial outlook, this is obvious, and from a narrative standpoint, it’s just practical, since Robert Kirkman’s comic series is still running. Now in its sixth season, The Walking Dead’s current storyline is somewhere around the comics’ 80th issue or 14th volume; the comics are currently at about 150 issues and 26 volumes, and still going. The real issue now is how to keep the show feeling fresh, which was addressed by Collier and Stillerman as follows:
Vulture: Next season, The Walking Dead will match Mad Men as your longest-running series. Death is a natural part of life in TV, so even though this franchise is massive, do you have to start thinking about an endgame? Particularly now that you appear to have launched a show that can speak to the Dead audience even after the original ends?
Stillerman: What’s so fascinating about The Walking Dead is that Robert Kirkman set out to do something that proved to be remarkably brilliant in a couple of very fundamental ways. One is he wanted to use the world of the zombie apocalypse as a way to get at social commentary. That was always the killer app for the show. But if you ask Robert what his motivations were for writing The Walking Dead, he would say, “I loved zombie movies, but I just felt like the worst part of them was always the ending. You always had to manufacture some ending.” So he set out to write this totally open-ended story, and the proof of that is in how vibrant the comics are.
The answer to how long the show will go on in some way is directly correlated with the health of the storytelling in the comics. Those comics are firing on all cylinders. He still writes every line of dialogue in those books, and is as engaged as he was when I think he was sitting around in Kentucky writing the first issue. That is very much part of the DNA of the show. He sort of felt like, in real life, this goes on for a very long time. We’re along for that ride.
Collier: I will tell you we are not actively talking about the end of The Walking Dead. We’re talking about how to keep this No. 1 show on television feeling as fresh as it does in season six. As a brand, we’re very sensitive to making sure that every aspect of it feels fresh and original, and that it’s not treated in any way that’s derivative or taken for granted. Our planning is current and future-focused, and it is not focused on the end at this time.
The Walking Dead returns for the second half of its sixth season on Sunday February 14th at 9pm ET on AMC.