Prior to last weekend’s premiere of The Walking Dead, season 6, America needed a Xanax. The collective excitement and anticipation was on par with the fever usually reserved for sports or, if you remember, season premieres when we only had three broadcast channels to entertain us. There were premiere parties, creepy cakes, even a huge pre-release screening for fans at Madison Square Garden in connection with NYCC.
The ratings tell the story, with 14.6 million viewers tuning in, and more than half (9.6 million) in the coveted 18-49 demographic. In that demo the premiere did top Sunday Night Football’s matchup of the Giants and 49ers, which drew 8.7 million 18-49 year olds, but didn’t best the overall viewership of 19.6 million. (According to Deadline, last fall TWD topped Sunday Night Football in overall viewer 5 out of the 8 times they aired opposite.) Regardless, those are impressive numbers for any show, let alone a cable show entering its sixth season.
More importantly, people still seem to be excited by the series, though there was some confusion about what was going on with the black-and-white flashback scenes. While some fans loved the look – one Twitter user commented it took him back to reading the comic – not everyone was so enthused.
— Fanged Ghoul Screams (@fangirlJeanne) October 12, 2015
Who's watching #TheWalkingDead ?? I don't like the black & white , it's very distracting.
— Ann Le (@anneorshine1) October 12, 2015
Regardless there were 611,000 tweets related to the premiere, second only this fall to American Horror Story: Hotel’s debut. That evening 878,000 tweets flew about Ryan Murphy’s season 4 horror.
Tech Insider spoke to Dead director Greg Nicotero who said the color-shifting was a tactic to help the audience determine the two timelines being portrayed: “We took sort of a rather bold move because we wanted to play with our non-linear timeline. We wanted to sort of make sure it wasn’t confusing for the audience. It really is a bold filmmaking storytelling style, but something that we all feel the show warrants after six years.”
Unless they stick to incorporating black and white all season the gimmick probably wasn’t enough to stop anyone from deciding to follow this season, and in fact ratings could pick up. This episode was down from last year’s record premiere of 22.3 million viewers so there’s a lot of room for returning viewers as people catch up on DVR watching.
Or is this an indication that people have jumped series, to follow Fear the Walking Dead? Are we starting to reach or threshold of zombie saturation? There are some rumblings that AMC has put too many eggs in this undead basket. Only time will tell, but if TWD‘s storytelling remains as strong as this first episode it shouldn’t have any fears of its own.
If you’re undecided on joining the series take a look here then head to Netflix to catch up on early seasons.