Saturday, May 24, 2014

Can 'The Walking Dead' Survive Being Edited for Broadcast TV?

"The Walking Dead" will shamble on in a new broadcast-TV syndication deal. But it is really possible to make such a gory series family-friendly?

"The Walking Dead" may feel like a zombie show, but fans have always made a post-apocalyptic-sized stink about how the series is really about the people, and how it's all so character-based — you know, like James Joyce, but with intestines.
And in some ways, they have a point; how many times have we seen our tortured Officer Friendly agonizing over whether he's The Leader? How many times have we wondered whether today will be the day that Tyreese Finds Out About Carol? Whether such plot points are even entertaining is beside the point; what's relevant is that there's nothing inherently family-unfriendly in what appears on the screen during those very frequent, very gore-free moments.
As for those other scenes — those neck-chewing, blood-spewing good times that could send the Parents Television Council into conniptions — it's unclear at this hour exactly how the edits will be made. We do know that the Fox-owned syndication channel MyNetworkTV has nailed down the exclusive re-broadcast rights. We know that MyNet will run two previously aired episodes on a single, yet-to-be-announced weeknight, starting this fall. We know that, unlike the episodes that run on AMC, the MyNet shows will be edited to a more family-friendly TV-14 rating.
nd we know that, at the end of the day, sanitizing "The Walking Dead" isn't necessarily that herculean of a task.
"They did it with 'Sex and the City' on TBS," Syracuse University media scholar Robert J. Thompson points out. "They even did it with 'Dexter' for a season on CBS. And that's about a serial killer who was a good guy."
What we don't know? Whether we may actually get some new scenes out of this deal. Spokespeople for AMC and MyNet declined to comment. But there's a decent chance that "TWD" producers have taken a step similar to those of HBO's "Sex and the City."
For that show, producers recorded more family-friendly versions of problematic angles during the regular shooting season... just in case the series ever made it into syndication. For example, an explicit sex scene might be shot from a different view. (HBO also needed the safer footage for distribution in certain foreign markets anyway. "The Walking Dead" itself airs in dozens of countries, including Taiwan, Turkey, Chile, and South Africa.)
As for dialogue, it's not uncommon for actors to return to a studio to record new lines that meet broadcast standards — even years after the original show has aired.
If so, the effort will most certainly be worth it.
"With this deal with 'The Walking Dead,'" Thompson notes, "there's a chance to build a whole new audience."

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