Opinion: AMC’s commercial agenda in The Walking Dead

This article is a follow-up to my article Emotional Manipulation vs Cliffhangers, resulting from The Walking Dead Season 6 Finale. It is purely my opinion. Read my review of the Season 7 Premiere HERE

Spoilers for the Season 7 Premiere of The Walking Dead

the-walking-dead-season-7-rick-lincoln-michonne-gurira-cci-key-art-1200x707-1.jpg
Source: ComingSoon.net

I am a massive fan of speculation, theorising, and fan discussion. It is something that drives pop culture and makes sure that entertainment like TV and Film continues to be a form of escapism. It also provides the fans and viewers with something to look forward to, something to motivate them to come back for the next episode. Entertainment is important because it allows the audience to be entranced by a fictional world, viewed by many others, each with their own interpretations.

However, in order for this discussion to continue, authentic narrative development is needed. Without it, the pace becomes slow and the audience is not engaged. But narrative development has to be built on a foundation. It has to have reason. You can’t just divert from or implement a twist or new plotline simply to keep the audience guessing. The new development has to have purpose within the fictional world that the author, producer or writer has created.

The Walking Dead was once a parable of surviving, morality and injustice, pushing its characters towards the brink of no return to test the human spirit. The narrative mirrored the increasing terrorism of our real world while its unpredictable nature was authentic to the story it was telling. But no longer. The Walking Dead now has become a parody of the apocalyptic genre it masterfully brought to TV. It’s brutal approach to survivalism has now turned into a comedic portrayal of death and suffering. Its twists and turns determined by the profit of the media organisation that produces it. The commercial agenda has more significance than the show’s authenticity.

The season 6 finale annoyed me (and pretty much every other viewer) as it looked to be a   stunt by AMC to increase the ratings for the season 7 premiere. Implementing the cliffhanger of ‘Who will Negan kill’ was manipulative due to the event being practically promised to viewers to occur in the finale. It could have worked if the death had not been over-hyped. It also could have worked if the show had not delivered the ridiculous cliffhanger about whether Glenn died previously in the season, (My full thoughts are found in the article linked above). Instead viewers had to wait months to find out who Negan had killed. This was not a cliffhanger, but emotional manipulation as a result of commercialisation.

So yes, while the ratings for the Season 7 premiere have yet to be released, by looking at social media and the Hollywood trades’ response, AMC should be pretty pleased with its advertising profit. It knew millions would tune in for the next episode and could sell the screen time to advertisers at an increasingly higher price. I have no evidence of this, but that’s practically how advertising works on TV (the amount of viewers expected to view a show sets the advertising price. This is why advertising for the Super Bowl is so expensive). Maybe this wasn’t the reason, but it certainly looks that way to me. While the show’s creators and writers may say that the cliffhanger was their idea and not influenced by the studio, lets be realistic. The writers, creators, directors etc. get paid dependent on how well the show does in ratings. If AMC ain’t making much money off the show, then those making the show won’t get a raise. Following a relatively poor and underwhelming season 6, the writers needed to implement something that would cause discussion (and greater ratings).

Social media normally only ever lights up in outrage when someone dies on a show. But beside the obvious deaths in this premiere, social media went crazy in discussing the constant commercial breaks. Even reviews I have read of this episode make mention of them. Was this just another way for AMC to make some money? Capitalise upon your viewership by increasing the number of commercials.

So while I have discussed my reasons that I believe the season 6 finale is manipulative and commercially influenced, this article is really to emphasise that point following the confirmation of how annoyed fans were.

The death of Abraham and Glenn was a fine resolution to this crisis. Their deaths (though predictable), will shock many and keep the viewers on their toes. But I believe this has not resulted from trying to be true to the narrative but to try bolster ratings. Media organisations focus on the profit. They typically do not care about quality. AMC will probably not care that the finale was critically the worst of the entire series. Because by viewing the season 7 premiere, you are making them money.

Yes, there will be the fans that will cry out that they don’t care who is making money. That they don’t care because they received a finale that was brutal and ruthless. But how many more of these cliffhangers can fans handle? Will we get another cliffhanger like this at the end of season 7? Will we get another drawn out “Did they die” storyline like how last season dealt with Glenn? From my perspective it is this commercialisation that hurts TV. It makes TV less about the content and more about advertising.

And that’s fine. I support capitalism, I support businesses making money. But when discussing entertainment there has to be balance. AMC cannot continue doing this and expecting the fans will not retaliate. You have to keep your audience happy. Not dragging them along. From the perspective of a fan (am I still a fan when I truly believe the show has become underwhelming and running on fumes?), AMC’s commerical agenda is poor form.

 

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