The first season of The Walking Dead, an American post-apocalyptic horror television series on AMC, premiered on October 31, 2010, and concluded on December 5, 2010, consisting of 6 episodes. Developed for television by Frank Darabont, who wrote or co-wrote four of the season's six episodes and directed the pilot episode, "Days Gone Bye", the series is based on the eponymous series of comic books by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, and Charlie Adlard. It was executive produced by Darabont, Kirkman, David Alpert, Charles H. Eglee, and Gale Anne Hurd, with Darabont assuming the role of showrunner.
The season received very positive reviews by critics. It was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series – Drama at the 68th Golden Globe Awards and received nominations for the 63rd Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards in several categories, winning Outstanding Prosthetic Makeup for a Series, Miniseries, Movie, or Special. The pilot episode received 5.35 million viewers, and the finale garnered six million viewers, including four million viewers among adults ages 18–49, making it the most viewed basic cable drama series at that time. Based on its reception, AMC renewed the series for a second season consisting of 13 episodes, which premiered on October 16, 2011.
This season adapts material from issues #1–6 of the comic book series and introduces notable comic character Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), who awakens from his coma in a post-apocalyptic world filled with flesh-eating zombies, dubbed "walkers". After befriending Morgan Jones (Lennie James), Rick sets outs to find his family and discover the origins of the walker virus.
The first season features seven actors receiving opening credits billing:
The series features several actors Walking Dead developer Frank Darabont has worked with previously, including Laurie Holden, Jeffrey DeMunn, Melissa McBride and Juan Pareja. All four appeared in his 2007 film The Mist, along with Thomas Jane, who originally was set to star in the series when it was pitched to HBO. He is also in talks with Darabont to possibly guest star on the series. Laurie Holden also appeared in the 2001 film The Majestic (she played Adele Stanton, Jim Carrey's love interest), which Darabont directed. DeMunn has additionally appeared in several of Darabont's films, in addition to The Mist and The Majestic: The Shawshank Redemption (1994) and The Green Mile (1999).
Robert Kirkman, who created the comic book series in 2003, says he had considered the idea of a Walking Dead television series, but never actively pursued it. "I certainly wanted it to happen, just because I knew it would be good for the book... I'm certainly not against adaptations, like some creators." When Frank Darabont became interested in adapting the comic books for television, Kirkman said it was "extremely flattering" and went on to say that, "He definitely cares about the original source material, and you can tell that in the way he's adapting it. It's an extreme validation of the work... Never in a million years could I have thought that if Walking Dead were to ever be adapted that everything would be going this well. I think that that's all because of Frank."
Darabont himself had been a fan of the zombie genre since seeing George A. Romero's 1968 film Night of the Living Dead when he was fourteen years old. ""Night of the Living Dead" had this weird vibe that was almost - it was like pornography... It had this marvelously attractive, disreputable draw... I loved it immediately." Darabont recalls walking into a comic book store in Burbank, California and seeing The Walking Dead on the shelf in 2005. "Being that I've always had "the love of zombies genre," I of course grabbed it, took it home and read it, and immediately started pursuing the rights to it. I thought it would make a great TV show... I loved the idea of an extended, ongoing, serialized dramatic presentation set in the zombie apocalypse." He described the process of developing the series and getting it set up at a network as "four years of frustration," and credits executive producer Gale Anne Hurd with finally getting the series on AMC. "I can't remember what the hell prompted her to read it [the script], but she said, "Wow, I really love this pilot you wrote. What are you doing with it?" I said I'd been trying to set it up forever... She said "I think AMC might be the place to take this." She did, and then bam! They were immediately interested. I had to credit Gale, her insight into marrying the material and the buyer."
Darabont's original pilot script was split in half and embellished, making the first two episodes instead of one, "...just to slow the narrative down and dig into the characters more deeply, so it's not just plot-driven, event-driven stuff. You really want to drag these characters into the equation." To write the remaining episodes of the season, Darabont recruited Charles H. Eglee, Adam Fierro and Glen Mazzara, all of whom he had worked with while directing an episode of The Shield. Jack LoGiudice also joined the writing team, along with Robert Kirkman, also an executive producer. "I have the best of both worlds," says Kirkman. "It was a lot of fun writing Episode 104, and I'm hoping if it continues into Season 2, I'll be able to write more episodes."
Principal photography for the pilot episode, "Days Gone Bye", began on May 15, 2010 with the subsequent five episodes beginning filming a few weeks later on June 2. The first season was filmed in and around Atlanta, Georgia where the episodes were primarily set.
The show's official website released a motion comic based on the first issue of the original comic and voiced by Phil LaMarr. The site also posted a making-of documentary primarily about the first episode, as well as a number of other behind-the-scenes videos and interviews. In the documentary, comic series creator and show executive producer Robert Kirkman as well as artist Charlie Adlard expressed that they were pleased with how faithful the show is to the comic and remark on the similarities between the actors and the comic's original character drawings. Several scenes from "Days Gone Bye" were screened July 23, 2010 as part of the 2010 San Diego Comic-Con International. Hurd asserted that "[they] really are doing six one-hour movie", and Darabont insisted that the series would closely reflect the development in the comics. "The path is a very strong template. But we're going to take every interesting detour we feel like taking. As long as were staying on the path of what Robert has done, I don't see any reason not to. If they have patience we'll eventually catch up to what Robert is doing."
The Walking Dead debuted during the same week in 120 countries. "Days Gone Bye" premiered in Hong Kong on TVB Pearl on August 30, 2011, while it expanded in international markets during the first week of November. Two weeks prior to its official premiere in the United States, the contents of the episode leaked online. As part of an expansive campaign to advertise and heighten anticipation for the premiere, international broadcasting affiliates of AMC and Fox coordinated a worldwide zombie invasion event proceeding days prior to premiere of the episode in the United States. The event occurred in twenty six cities worldwide, and were hosted in select locations including the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City, Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., Palace of Westminster in London, Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul, Acropolis of Athens in Athens, and the Museo del Prado in Madrid. The campaign events commenced in Hong Kong and Taipei, and culminated in Los Angeles.
The Walking Dead was included on the cover of the December 2010 edition of Entertainment Weekly, which featured Rick Grimes pointing a gun at a horde of walkers. According to the journalist of the magazine, it "examines the past, present, and future" of the television franchise; "from the comic book's humble beginnings, to unlikely path to the small screen, to even more unlikely path as a bona fide hit." Kirkman was ecstatic upon hearing of the news. "I've got to say—not to kiss your magazine's a– or anything—but when they called me and said Frank [Darabont] wanted to do the show, I was like, 'Yeah, I'll believe it when I see it.' And then when AMC was like, 'We're picking up the show,' I was like, 'Yeah, alright, whatever.' When they actually started shooting the pilot I was like, 'Well, this is kind of real, this is neat.' But when they called me and said, 'Your show's on the cover of Entertainment Weekly,' I think that was the first time I was like, 'Oh my god, I can't believe this is happening to me!'"
|Title||Directed by||Written by||Original air date||U.S. viewers
|1||1||"Days Gone Bye"||Frank Darabont||Teleplay by : Frank Darabont||October 31, 2010||5.35|
|Sheriff's deputy Rick Grimes wakes from a gunshot-inflicted coma to discover the world overrun with walkers. He goes back to his house to find his wife and son but meets survivor Morgan Jones and his son Duane - Rick decides to head to Atlanta to find his wife Lori and son Carl, unaware they are safe with other survivors led by his former partner Shane. He encounters hordes of walkers and becomes trapped inside a tank.|
|2||2||"Guts"||Michelle MacLaren||Frank Darabont||November 7, 2010||4.71|
|Rick is ambushed by a walker horde but is rescued by scavenger survivor Glenn when he becomes trapped inside a tank. They meet up with the rest of the survivors where they have to leave Merle handcuffed to the roof to stop him attracting walkers. They are forced to leave Rick's gun bag behind as well as abandon the unhinged Merle as walkers surround them, but manage to escape the city.|
|3||3||"Tell It to the Frogs"||Gwyneth Horder-Payton||Story by : Charles H. Eglee & Jack LoGiudice
Teleplay by : Charles H. Eglee & Jack LoGiudice and Frank Darabont
|November 14, 2010||5.07|
|Glenn takes Rick to the survivors' camp, where he finds Lori, Carl, and Shane. Rick leads a group, including Glenn, T-Dog, and Merle's younger brother, Daryl back to Atlanta to recover his weapons, finding that Merle managed to free himself by sawing off his hand.|
|4||4||"Vatos"||Johan Renck||Robert Kirkman||November 21, 2010||4.75|
|Rick's group briefly scuffles with a group of Latino survivors protecting the residents of a nursing home in Atlanta, who want Rick's weapons, but Rick is able to defuse the situation peacefully. They return to camp too late to stop a walker horde from attacking, killing Andrea's sister Amy, and Carol's husband Ed.|
|5||5||"Wildfire"||Ernest Dickerson||Glen Mazzara||November 28, 2010||5.56|
|As the survivors bury their dead, some split off on their own. Rick, against Shane's judgement, leads the rest to the CDC facility in Atlanta, which initially appears abandoned and locked-down, but Rick spots signs of life and demands entry.|
|6||6||"TS-19"||Guy Ferland||Adam Fierro and Frank Darabont||December 5, 2010||5.97|
|Dr. Jenner of the CDC welcomes the survivors, allowing them to enjoy the amenities of the powered building while explaining what he knows about walkers. When the survivors discover that the building will self-detonate once it runs out of backup power, Dr. Jenner initially prevents them from leaving. Rick convinces Jenner to let them go, and Jenner whispers something to Rick. They escape just before the building explodes, and the group departs the city.|
The first season of The Walking Dead received mostly positive reviews from critics. On Metacritic, the season holds a score of 82 out of 100, indicating "universal acclaim", based on 25 critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the season holds an 89% with an average rating of 7.49 out of 10, based on 24 reviews, and an average episode score of 87%. The site's critical consensus reads: "Blood-spattered, emotionally resonant, and white-knuckle intense, The Walking Dead puts an intelligent spin on the overcrowded zombie subgenre." Following the pilot episode's debut, TV Guide's Matt Roush called the show "a stark and harrowing survival parable ... visually stunning ... and daring in its artful use of silence." Following the second episode, Simon Abrams from Slant Magazine awarded the show three and a half stars out of a possible four; "To say that Darabont has kicked his series off with a bang would be a serious understatement ... [he] has fashioned a fully realized alternate reality and it's a thrilling thing to experience."
In response to the season finale, James Poniewozik of TIME magazine gave the first season of The Walking Dead a glowing review stating, "the show has an urgency and bravery that make it something special". Josh Jackson of Paste magazine also praised the season by writing, "the characters are worth caring about" despite "occasional stilted monologues, quick tempers and unfortunate stereotypes". Some reviews were mixed, including one from Kofi Outlaw of Screen Rant who concluded, "The Walking Dead still hasn't really defined itself as anything more than a vague survival story about the human condition" but added, "you can be sure I'm one of those Dead-heads already chomping at the bit for season 2". Sean McKenna of TV Fanatic also offered mixed criticism saying the first season "had its ups and downs" noting that the second season should focus on "a more specific story arc and strengthening of the character development". Logan Hill of New York magazine was more critical, claiming the episodes contained "atrocious dialogue" and "a lot of plot machinery that has been contrived to create action suspense but ... hasn't really moved the story itself anywhere in particular", though he admits the fifth episode showed "flashes of promise".
The first season of The Walking Dead was named one of the Top 10 Television Programs in 2010 by the American Film Institute. The season was also nominated for Outstanding New Program at the 27th TCA Awards and Best New Series at the 63rd Writers Guild of America Awards. It was also nominated for Best Television Series – Drama at the 68th Golden Globe Awards and Best Drama Series at the 1st Critics' Choice Television Awards. For the 37th Saturn Awards, the season received six nominations, winning Best Television Presentation. The nominations were for Best Actor on Television (Andrew Lincoln), Best Actress on Television (Sarah Wayne Callies), Best Supporting Actor on Television (Steven Yeun), Best Supporting Actress on Television (Laurie Holden), and Best Guest Starring Role on Television (Noah Emmerich).
The pilot episode, "Days Gone Bye", received three Primetime Emmy Award nominations for the 63rd Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards, winning Outstanding Prosthetic Makeup for a Series, Miniseries, Movie, or Special, and received nominations for Outstanding Sound Editing for a Series and Outstanding Special Visual Effects. Frank Darabont was nominated for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Dramatic Series for his work on "Days Gone Bye".
The pilot received 5.3 million viewers, making it the most-watched series premiere episode of any AMC television series. The first-season finale received 6 million viewers, a season high; with 4 million viewers in the 18-49 demographic, making it the most watched basic cable series for the demographic. The first season had an average of 5.24 million viewers and a rating of 2.7 in the 18-49 demographic. In the United Kingdom, it premiered one week after it did in the United States, on November 5, 2010 on digital channel, FX. The premiere had 579,000 viewers, almost double for any other show on FX that week. The viewership dipped during the season then rose to 522,000 viewers for the final episode. The terrestrial premiere on Channel 5 on April 10, 2011, averaged 1.46 million viewers. Based on its ratings, the series was renewed for a second season on November 8, 2010.
|1||"Days Gone Bye"||October 31, 2010||2.7/7||5.35|
|2||"Guts"||November 7, 2010||2.5/7||4.71|
|3||"Tell It to the Frogs"||November 14, 2010||2.5/7||5.07|
|4||"Vatos"||November 21, 2010||2.4/6||4.75|
|5||"Wildfire"||November 28, 2010||2.8/7||5.56|
|6||"TS-19"||December 5, 2010||3.0/8||5.97|
The first season was released on DVD and Blu-ray in region 1 on March 8, 2011 and in region 2 on May 16, 2011. Special features on the sets include six featurettes—"The Making of The Walking Dead", "Inside The Walking Dead: Episode 1–6", "A Sneak Peek with Robert Kirkman", "Behind the Scenes Zombie Make-Up Tips", "Convention Panel with Producers" and "The Walking Dead Trailer". Also included are other behind the scenes featurettes—"Zombie School", "Bicycle Girl", "On Set with Robert Kirkman", "Hanging with Steven Yeun", "Inside Dale's RV" and "On Set with Andrew Lincoln".
A three-disc special edition of the first season was released on DVD and Blu-ray on October 4, 2011. The sets include all the previous special features, plus brand new extras. The new extras include audio commentary on all six episodes, the black and white version of the pilot, and six new featurettes—"We Are The Walking Dead", "Bring Out the Dead: KNB and the Art of Making Zombies", "Digital Decay: The VFX of The Walking Dead", "No More Room in Hell: The Walking Dead Phenomenon", "Adapting the Dead" and "Killer Conversations: Frank Darabont & Greg Nicotero". In addition to the DVD and Blu-ray release, a limited edition Blu-ray collector's tin contains an exclusive wearable zombie mask from the National Entertainment Collectibles Association designed by the series own make-up artist, Greg Nicotero.