Z Nation is one of the offerings in the zombie apocalypse sub-genre of television shows and movies which traces its roots to horror films dealing with similar threat to humanity in a similar style from the 1980’s. It is produced for the cable channel Syfy by The Asylum, known for producing only the highest quality direct-to-DVD entertainment, such as the acclaimed Sunday School Musical. #ZN doesn’t have much of the low-budget charms of most of their productions, but it doesn’t take itself as seriously as many other television dramas (uptight Prison Break comes to mind). Its other major departure from company policy is the unexpectedly high production values of the show. It is their most commercially successful venture to date.
The expected characteristics of the style have been clearly delineated by now. You have the necessary diverse motley crew of survivors – in ZN, we have such colorful characters as a hacker working for the NSA, a psychiatrist turned drug addict turned zombie killer, a Mexican drug lord, and a young sharpshooter who looks and dresses like Kenny Fisher from Can’t Hardly Wait (they thought we wouldn’t notice). There are the high levels of gore and violence. There are the ruins of grand cities in a post-apocalyptic desert. Perhaps most importantly, there is a delectable barrage of one-liners which punctuate the endless action scenes.
The show has its charms, no doubt, but the big question is how it’s doing in the polls, especially compared to the yardstick by which 2010 zombie apocalypse action-drama-comedies are measured, The Walking Dead. Critics are highly skeptical of the show, calling it a knock-off of The Walking Dead and giving it only a 48 out of 100 on Metacritic. Fans are much kinder to the show, and it ranks in the 6 out of 10 range on Metacritic and IMBD with a respectable 85% approval rating from Rotten Tomatoes. This last one is especially interesting since it beats out The Walking Dead’s score, which is a surprise since Dead is heavily praised by critics and has a much wider following.
According to the ratings, it would appear that the rapidly growing community of zombie fans is finding #ZNation to satisfy their cravings. Although viewers are down in later seasons from season 1 by around 30%, they have remained consistent throughout season 2 and season 3 with around 1 million people tuning in for the zombie adventure. With unexpected deaths like those of Mack and Cassandra in season 2, an eclectic cast of characters, and more humor, it is not difficult to see how Nation has been able to crystalize a segment of the zombie apocalypse lovers into a loyal fan base.
1 million might not seem like much compared to The Walking Dead’s 12 – 14 millions, but the Syfy channel has a smaller scope, catering to the so-called geek subculture. These ratings are comparable to other scripted programs on the channel and not fantastically far off from their highest rated show, Ghost Hunters. It would also appear that Syfy is putting a lot of effort into the television show, having commissioned a made-for-TV movie which was shown before the premiere of the third season. All
What do you think of #ZNation’s lighter take on the zombie apocalypse? Do you think it’s just a copycat for The Walking Dead, or has it been unfairly compared by critics? Who do you think will die next on the show? Do you think they would dare to kill off one of the central characters in the spirit of Game of Thrones?