Published Saturday, February 16, 2013

Coweta-filmed TV series 'The Walking Dead' sets basic cable records


Sunday night's mid-season premiere of AMC hit television series "The Walking Dead" brought in an incredible 12.3 million viewers — and that was competing with the Grammy Awards.

Only the Grammys telecast was watched by more people on Sunday night.

The premiere of the mostly Coweta-filmed show got 7.7 viewers in the coveted 18 to 49 age group — a record for any series in basic cable history. The season three premiere in October had previously held that record.

Total viewership was 16.6 million, including the 11 p.m. and 2 a.m. encores.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the average viewership in the 18 to 49 range has been 6.8 million this season. And that's outperforming major network hits "The Big Bang Theory," "Modern Family" and "NCIS."

"When you look at numbers like this, the first thing that comes to mind is how grateful we are to the fans of this show. They embrace 'The Walking Dead' in a way that we wanted to believe was possible but we never take for granted,” said Charlie Collier, AMC president. “The cast and crew put everything they have into making this show. They’re a phenomenally talented group who truly give their all. We congratulate everyone involved.”

Though viewership was high, reviews and fan reaction to the episode, titled "The Suicide King," have been mixed — with a share of negative comments.

It was an episode full of action. Daryl and Merle are rescued from what the Governor had billed as a "fight to the death." On their way out of Woodbury —with the Coweta city of Senoia is used as a backdrop — they don't close the door behind them, allowing a few Walkers to enter the next day.

In the show, despite having now seen clear evidence that her boyfriend the Governor is not a good man, Andrea seems to still be determined to stick by him. Her fellow residents of Woodbury had other ideas, with several trying to leave the town. They are stopped by the armed guards. That's when the walkers show up, and Andrea manages to rally everyone with a short speech about how the people of Woodbury will be in the history books for persevering. Amazingly, it seems to work.

Daryl and Merle set off on their own, after Rick, Glenn and Maggie adamantly oppose allowing Merle to come back with them to the prison.

At the end of the episode, Rick has yet another crazy moment, seeing a vision of his dead wife while he's supposed to be deciding whether or not to allow the four newcomers to join their group. Even though they probably need all the help they can get with an attack by the Governor and his minions almost certain, Rick flips out and tells them to "get out."

When it comes to reviews, the scenes in Woodbury and Andrea's speech got the worst of it. "Her speech to rally the troopes, with all its talk of rebuilding 'hearts and minds,' was incredibly lame," said reviewer Eric Goldman on .

"Andrea's character has slipped from merely irritating and stubborn (in the first two seasons) to willfully blind and a terrible judge of character (in the first half of season 3) to flat out ridiculous and awful in Sunday night's episode when she decided that she'll stick around in Woodbury," said Erik Kain on .

Even more frustrating for some is the tight-lipped character of Michonne. Some communication early on could have avoided most of the problems of the mid-season finale, yet she remains infuriatingly silent.

"Michonne... is basically incapable of normal human communication," said Kain. "There is no reason for this other than to create dramatic tension," he said. "That Michonne has still not fully opened up about what happened in Woodbury and before is painfully nonsensical."

But there were good parts too — Carol's reaction to Daryl's departure, Glenn's talk about family.

And there is plenty to look forward to in the next episode. When will Daryl show back up at the prison? For that matter, how will Daryl and Merle get along after all this time? What is the Governor's next step? Will Andrea finally realize the error of her ways? And will the group at the prison continue to follow their increasingly unhinged leader?

And when will those scenes filmed in downtown Grantville in southwestern Coweta appear?

Scenes from Main Street in Senoia and downtown Newnan were prominent in the episode. Senoia stands in for the walled town of Woodbury, while the battle scenes take place in a courtyard at Caldwell Tanks on Newnan's East Broad Street. Scenes from Haralson in southeastern Coweta are in the opening credits this season.

"Like any series, it is not without its due flaws, but there's a very good reason why 'The Walking Dead' is the most watched program on television," said Michael Hughes on .

"The relentless gore of the first season and a half has been replaced with intriguing character interaction that one cannot help but appreciate in a series with such a premise. The war is coming and viewers can expect a handful of premium episodes in the future, packed to the brim with satisfying character drama and impressive action sequences," Hughes said.

There are seven episodes left in season three. The next one, "Home," premieres Sunday at 9 p.m. It will be followed by "Talking Dead" and then an encore of "Home."

If you missed last week's episode, not to despair. It comes on at 8, before the new episode.

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