Squawking Dead – Episode One

To clarify, I meant to write Season 4.  (Image from collider dot com)
To clarify, I meant to write Season 4. (Image from collider dot com)

Season whatever of The Walking Dead has begun.  I’ll admit to being a fan of the zombie apocalypse series.  In fact, I’ve never missed an episode.  That won’t stop me from poking fun at the show.  As my wife will attest, I’m not against mocking the things I love.  Episode 1 of this season’s TWD is no exception.

We rejoin our merry band of survivors in their happy prison home.  The original group’s numbers were expanded at the end of last season by a bunch of refugees from the compound of the evil governor.  Despite the paranoid screening process the survivors typically enforced, they let the whole busload of people in, without even checking them for references or bite marks.

The troop has decided to grow their own produce and raise hogs.  While the population has tripled, only one person, Farmer Rick (formerly known as Sheriff Rick), appears to be doing all the weeding or hoeing or whatever it is that farmers do.   Rick deals with the drudgery of tilling the good earth by wearing earbuds and listening to some vintage hillbilly music.   I realize the  ghouls are on the other side of the fence, but I personally would prefer to keep from compromising my sense of hearing in a world filled with growling brain eaters.   Lord only knows where one goes to charge an iPod or download Boxcar Willy’s Greatest Hits in a low tech world overrun with zombies.

Nothing quite says "Happy Holidays" like Boxcar Willie's rendition of "Away in a Manger in the Ozarks" (Image from last dot fm)
Nothing quite says “Happy Holidays” like Boxcar Willie’s rendition of “Away in a Manger in the Ozarks” (Image from last dot fm)

While it only takes one guy to farm, it looks like it takes quite a few more to patrol the inside of the perimeter fence, killing zombies by poking them through the fence with sharp sticks and in one case, a cane.  The zombies just stand there and take it, almost eager to have their egg-shell thin foreheads pierced.  The chain link posse members dance around looking for the opportunity to shish-kabob zombie heads, as if they require a perfect shot.

There appears to be a budding romance between Hershel’s pretty younger daughter and some young Romeo.  I had always thought that she and Carl would hook up, but that goofy kid is still too wrapped up in wearing Daddy’s cowboy hat and killing things.  I paused the DVR playback and asked my wife who the hell this new young buck was.  She shrugged at me.

Young Romeo joins Crossbow Daryl and a few others to go scout out a grocery store for supplies.  The store had been taken over and fenced off by the military in the early days of the zombie infestation.  As the gang of survivors go inside, the camera pans upward, and we discover there is a wrecked helicopter and tons of walkers randomly staggering around all over the roof.  The usually doglike hearing of the zombies was conveniently absent this time.  None of the roof-toppers heard Daryl and Young Romeo’s five minutes of witty dialogue outside the front doors of the store.  I was going to pause the DVR again and ask my wife how a hundred or so zombies got up on top of a supermarket in first place, but before I could, the camera showed the decomposing roof.  TV foreshadowing experts like myself know this can only mean one thing.

My wife keeps putting tape over this button on the remote.  I don't understand why.  (Image from powerofted dot com)
My wife keeps putting tape over this button on the remote. I don’t understand why. (Image from powerofted dot com)

Despite their constant, random stumbling all around the roof, none of the zombies had thus far managed to fall through the weak spots.  That history changed once the guy inside drew the zombies’ attention by putting a bottle back on a shelf and causing a massive set of shelves of liquor to fall over on him.  True to movies and television, he wasn’t hurt, but his leg was “caught”.   I’ve never pulled a set of shelves over on myself, so I guess it’s possible.

I often wonder how I would manage myself if the world as I knew it ended and the streets were filled with flesh eating zombies.  I don’t know if I’d be able to figure out how to use a crossbow, but I can guarantee those shelves of liquor would not be quite so well stocked.  Before I could make a wise-assed comment to my wife about the overabundance of alcohol, the zombies started falling through the roof.

The world is largely populated with flesh-eaters.  You'd think there'd be a shortage of chianti and fava beans.  (Image from the guardian dot com)
The world is largely populated with flesh-eaters. You’d think there’d be a shortage of chianti and fava beans. (Image from the guardian dot com)

Despite their paper-thin skulls and lack of any sort of balance reactions, most of the falling zombies survived the twenty foot drop onto the concrete floor and came up chomping.  Crossbow Daryl killed one by stomping his head like an over-ripe melon.  Even with craniums like fine china, the zombies manage to have unreal biting power.  One of them caught Young Romeo’s leg and tore a big chunk out of his calf, right through the leg of his blue jeans.  In the spirit of audience participation, readers are encouraged to pause for a minute and go find a pair of Levi’s.  I defy you to bite through the material.

On some less plot-critical points;

It was fabulous luck that the survivors managed to pick a prison with an extensive children’s book selection in their library.

In previous episodes, we’ve watched as survivors go foraging for food anywhere they can find it, but there are one or two cast members who’s anatomy suggests that they are at least partially responsible for the lack of food.  These folks aren’t missing any meals.  They know who they are, enough said.

Some may wonder why I waste my time fussing about a successful TV show.  Who cares, right?  A whine-fest I wrote long ago on The Walking Dead, complained about the lack of untied shoes on zombie feet may have reached the right people.  Camera shots of shuffling feet nearing the rotten parts of the roof, showed zombies wearing untied shoes or missing shoes altogether.  I can only assume that someone in a position of power read my words and made sure to make corrections.  If only they’d conferred with me about the rest of this year’s premier.

THE FUTURE OF REALITY TV

"So...these shows will have just like regular people OK?..but cooler than just regular people, because you know, they're like...on TV and stuff"

I’m sure if someone told you ten short years ago about what would pass for entertainment in 2012, you would have looked at them as if perhaps they’d lost their mind.

“There’s going to be a show about an exterminator, OK?  The camera follows him around while he gets raccoons out of attics and knocks hornets’ nests down from porches.  Sometimes he gets stung by the bees and possums try to bite him.  He wears a funny hat and he’s like..a rocker dude?  Then, there’s gonna be this other show, OK?  where they follow meter maids around in Philadelphia while they give parking tickets and put boots on cars.  It’s gonna be really funny because it makes Philly look even worse than usual.  Cool, right? There’s all kinds of people screaming and yelling ’cause you know, nobody likes having their car towed and stuff.  Then, there’s gonna be this other cool show where you watch people make cakes, but wait, don’t make that face, cause they’re really cool cakes that don’t even look like cakes man, and the bakers are all like these kind of Soprano-talking dudes and then…”

By this point you’d have tuned the person out and tried not to roll your eyes at their insane rambling.  He’s off his meds again – hide the pets.

Of course, as we know all too well, these are all shows which have actually come to life in these strange times.

Now the obvious question: What next?  What could possibly be more interesting than watching inept, out-of-work loggers trying to mine gold in Alaska?  What in the world could compare with the trials and tribulations of rich, suburban housewives from Atlanta, Orange County or New York?  Hold on to your hard-hats and/or breast implants people, because I’ve figured it out!

Several of these shows have already given us hints as to the future of reality entertainment.  “The Deadliest Catch” stepped away from showing the gritty, tough lives of crab fishermen in the Bering Sea and focused instead on their own difficult job of recording the gritty, tough lives of crab fishermen in the Bering Sea.  That’s right – they showed the cameramen, sound guys and producers of the show as they worked in challenging conditions to film the fishermen.  On a special episode of “Gold Rush”, the emphasis was on filming the film crew running around to catch all the action as miners threw tantrums and pick-axes (OK, I’ll admit, I didn’t see anyone threw a pick-axe – it’s called poetic license).

A brief, but necessary detour from our topic: It’s a fact that nothing is more appealing to show-biz people than shows about show biz-people.  You can see it now and way-back-when in entertainment from sixty or seventy years ago.  The black and white movie flickers on the screen, some freckle-faced young actor calls out “Hey kids!  Let’s put on a show!”.  Soon the whole gang is building scenery and practicing dance numbers.  There were notably fewer movies where the freckle-faced youngster calls out “Hey kids, let’s open a veterinary clinic” or “Say fellas, wouldn’t it be swell if we started our own full service nail salon right here on Main Street?!”

In the years since, there’s been plenty of narcissistic examples of show biz focusing on itself.  Movies and TV series like “Fame”, “A Chorus Line”, “A Star Is  Born” and more recently “Smash” all tell the stories of people acting and singing all about their lives acting and singing.

I know what you’re thinking: “Dave, what the hell does ‘Smash’ and ‘A Chorus Line’ have to do with reality TV?”   Keep your pants on, I told you it was a brief detour, didn’t I?

Show biz has waited patiently for America to get through this awkward phase of infatuation with reality TV.  Now they have found the gateway back into our viewing hearts.  Drum roll please…The next phase in reality shows is:

Reality shows about the making of reality shows!  The reality show will have less emphasis on the subject of the show and increasingly focus on the people who make the reality shows.  After the new “show about a show about a baker” phase runs its course, the logical evolutionary step into the future will be “a show about a show about a show about an exterminator”.  There will be a brief period where cameramen and sound engineers will be as famous as Kardashians.

In this scene, one of the miners takes over the sound boom to catch the audio as the camera crew pushes a car. A second camera crew records this special moment. In the next phase, a third camera crew will record the second camera crew - capturing the gutsy intensity of people filming other people who are filming other people who are pushing a car.

As the number of people on-camera swells, it will be increasingly difficult for producers to count on so many people who have traditionally been on the opposite side of the lens to act naturally.  Since the 1st and 2nd camera units will no longer be shooting any actual footage, the producers will eventually replace them with good looking young actors and actresses.

Within a few additional years, the viewers, who aren’t all that bright to begin with, will not be able to tell reality TV from scripted TV.  Television will once again be in the business of telling stories.  Writers, long thought extinct, will creep back into brainstorming sessions.  Actors, who were already confused by all of this, will settle back into the simple job of pretending to be a fictional character in a scene, rather than posing as a cameraman in a show about a show about a show about people who buy abandoned storage lockers.

Got it?

I didn’t think so.  Don’t worry, just keep watching TV and it will all be explained to you in due time.