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‘A Game of Thrones’ vs. ‘The Walking Dead’: TV’s Latest One-Two Genre Punch
NeverWanderer   |  

The Walking Dead and A Game of Thrones cover artGeek shows have gotten more recognition in recent years than they ever did in the past. Once upon a time the height of genre television was the Star Trek franchise, which, while always intelligent and ambitious, was still shunted by society into that niche of fandom reserved for the obsessive and the dateless. Thankfully, with the success of shows like Lost, Battlestar Galactica, and True Blood (and we’ll just ignore the unjust deaths of shows like Firefly, Dollhouse, and The Sarah Connor Chronicles for the moment), genre television seems to have entered into a new golden age, much like comic book movies did ten years ago.

Two of the most recent — and, it could be argued, most anticipated — such shows share a unique mission statement, despite their vastly differing subject matter. Both are adaptations of decidedly adult material, from mediums often given the short shrift in live-action television. Both will attempt to subvert genres that come heavily burdened with the preconceived notions of the common audience. And both feature a surprising pedigree of creators who are dedicated to their success. Those two upcoming shows are AMC’s The Walking Dead and HBO’s A Game Of Thrones.

A Game Of Thrones

Sean Bean as Eddard Stark in A Game of ThronesExecutive-produced and overseen by the author of the books upon which it is based, and boasting a star-studded cast of genre-favorite actors, HBO’s A Game Of Thrones prepares to step into dangerous new territory for serious, dramatic television: high-budget, epic fantasy. Owing more to shows like HBO’s Rome than to its campy cousins Hercules and Xena, A Game of Thrones weaves a tale of political intrigue, betrayal, and mystery against a backdrop of feuding noble families and warring countries in an imaginary world where seasons last years, and magic is lurking just around the corner. It will seek to satisfy not only the ingrained supplicants of the fantasy genre, but a far more fickle and jaded audience… Everyone Else. Based on the award-winning A Song of Ice and Fire novel series by George R.R. Martin, this heavily anticipated television adaptation has been in the works since HBO first obtained the rights in early 2007. Since then, the development process has been a careful and deliberate one. An award-winning international cast and crew was assembled for the pilot, and upon viewing it, nine more episodes were ordered by HBO. Recently, the first official images from the series, along with a 20-second teaser trailer, were released for public consumption, each of which displays a bleak, unforgiving tone, in keeping with Martin’s novels. All indications are that the show, which debuts in Spring of 2011, could deliver the strong dramatic kick in the ass that televised fantasy has needed and deserved for decades.

The Walking Dead

Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes in The Walking DeadOn the other side of the spectrum comes a show featuring a cast of almost entirely unknowns, but nurtured, produced, and, at least where the pilot is concerned, directed by one of the most respected and accomplished filmmakers of the past 20 years. Frank Darabont‘s career is littered with successful adaptations (and an apparent love of Stephen King). The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, and The Mist were all heartfelt, character-driven dramas, each critically acclaimed, and the latter, at least, a strong indication of what Darabont could accomplish with The Walking Dead. Robert Kirkman‘s award-winning zombie comic (drawn with horrific flair by Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard) is an apocalyptic tale that places more emphasis on the intrinsic human drama than straight-forward scares. The focus is always the characters and how they go about their lives with the ever-present danger of the undead lurking just beyond the panel. It’s the ongoing story of the human condition — how we survive as a society and as a species in unthinkable circumstances — and it’s about as perfect a marriage of creator and material as could be hoped for. AMC is a network that has blossomed in recent years with a growing catalogue of edgy, high quality drama (Breaking Bad, Mad Men), and it would appear they intend to push the envelope even farther with this series. How? Well… it’s an American TV show about a zombie apocalypse. Decaying human corpses will shamble across prime time television. Add to that the show’s comic book origins, and it will be no surprise if the cynical eyes get rolling and the preconceived notions start flowing. But, under the care of a brilliant filmmaker who understands the material, it’s a fair bet that this newest — and riskiest — addition to AMC’s roster will uphold the standard of quality we’ve come to expect. 

So there you have it: Geek shows for grown-ups.

Will wonders never cease.

Whichever floats your boat more in the end, it seems pretty apparent that the golden age of genre television isn’t quite over yet. The only question that remains now is… Which show has you more excited? 


  1. Game of Thrones.

    By a landslide.

    Comment by About Yea High — June 24, 2010 @ 1:47 pm

  2. Walking Dead, no contest.

    I hate fantasy, LoTS, Xena-type shows. It is embarrassing to have them lumped together with scifi… they should be in the pro-wrestling category or something.

    Zombies are second only to killer robots in awesome factor.

    Comment by David — June 24, 2010 @ 3:38 pm

  3. Game of Thrones by a slim margin lol ….I’m actually almost as excited for the ‘The Walking Dead’…however comparing ‘Game of Thrones’ to LOTS or Xena is just super ignorant and tells me the author of such nonsense doesn’t know a thing about it…it is a truly magnificent book series and with HBO producing it , I and millions of fans are eagerly awaiting it…this show is not for kids or the faint of heart ….it is a brutally violent world …where characters are more grey than black or white….a world were no character is safe….George rr Martin may be the worlds cruelest writer …

    Comment by Coltaine777 — June 24, 2010 @ 5:27 pm

  4. Oh and by the way…’Game of Thrones’ has zombies too

    Comment by Coltaine777 — June 24, 2010 @ 5:30 pm

  5. Walking dead!

    Comment by mo — June 24, 2010 @ 5:44 pm

  6. Please…. Read George RR Martin before making comparisons…his is no Zena or Lord of the Rings. The Game of thrones is more political intrigue and warring factions ala War of the Roses. There are no elves or wizards, good and evil are not cut and dry as in most fantasy- characters are real, and make human choices.

    Comment by Rooben — June 24, 2010 @ 6:08 pm

  7. To make it clear, the author of this post expressly says that Game of Thrones will be more HBO’s Rome than Hercules and Xena.

    My pick – I’m definitely more excited for Game of Thrones. The George RR Martins books are some of the finest in the fantasy genre, and as a few of you pointed out already, it’s rooted more in realism than most fantasy fare.

    I would be excited about The Walking Dead (a great comic), but I’m feeling a bit burnt out on the zombie genre already, but I’m still going to check it out.

    Comment by Empress Eve — June 24, 2010 @ 6:48 pm

  8. The Walking Dead, The Walking Dead. A thousand million times The Walking Dead. I’m so excited for this show I could crap my pants.

    Comment by Josh — June 24, 2010 @ 6:50 pm

  9. Game of Thrones without competition. Can’t await to see it!

    Comment by Tomaszync — June 24, 2010 @ 7:44 pm

  10. Game of Thrones. It is going to be EPIC.

    Comment by Avalanche3319 — June 25, 2010 @ 12:08 am

  11. Glad to see an almost even split! I admit, I’m torn on which show I’m anticipating more… I have had my ups and downs with both source materials, but I fully recognize the quality in both, and I have absolute faith in the creative teams bringing them to the screen. So, for the moment, I’m a fence sitter… but I wrote the article, so I’m allowed to be. =P

    And, David, you of the Xena and LoTS (?) references… YOU are exactly who these shows are trying to rope in. Congratulations, my friend, for you ARE Everyone Else. I would hope you’d give Game of Thrones (minus the “A” as a friend pointed out to me earlier) a shot based solely on the fact that it’s HBO and… well… they usually do okay for TV series. You may find yourself overlooking, forgiving, or even appreciating the fantasy aspects in favor of the acting, characters, and story. (And I’m sure the sex, violence, and giant wolves won’t hurt.)

    Comment by NeverWanderer — June 25, 2010 @ 2:37 am

  12. Can’t we have a Game of Zombies….or the Dead of Thrones? Shotguns, Sorcery, Undead, Sheriffs…..It would be great!

    All we need now is Showtime to adapt Arthur C. Clark’s RAMA books……

    Comment by The Insomniac — June 27, 2010 @ 10:37 pm

  13. Thrones!!!!!!!!

    Comment by Fierste — June 30, 2010 @ 11:16 am

  14. 100% game of thrones…walking dead is nowhere to be seen near.

    Comment by Jenish Kachhadia — March 16, 2012 @ 5:22 am

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