Just as The Walking Dead season 11 episode 8 wrapped up the first part of the show's final run this week, US cable network AMC has given the go-ahead to a new anthology show set in this universe of infinite zombies and character deaths. Tales of the Walking Dead will stream on AMC+ in the US, as well as air on AMC, and it's coming in summer 2022 (so the middle of next year).
The show will comprise of six one-hour episodes that tell entirely standalone stories – a mix of old and new characters will feature in the show. It's the fourth spin-off of the main series since it debuted in 2010, preceded by Fear the Walking Dead and The Walking Dead: World Beyond – and it'll arrive before another spin-off, focused on Carol and Daryl from the main series, comes along after season 11 ends.
Long-time producer in The Walking Dead universe, Channing Powell, will lead the writing of this new series. Interestingly, AMC invoked Netflix's popular anthology show Black Mirror in describing the project.
"We see so much potential for a wide range of rich and compelling storytelling in this world, and the episodic anthology format of Tales of the Walking Dead will give us the flexibility to entertain existing fans and also offer an entry point for new viewers, especially on streaming platforms," says AMC's Dan McDermott.
"We have seen the appeal of this format in television classics like The Twilight Zone and, more recently, Black Mirror, and are excited to engage with fans in this new way, against the backdrop of this very unique and engrossing world.”
It's unclear how the show will release internationally – The Walking Dead releases on Disney Plus in the UK, and on Foxtel in Australia. Both spin-offs, Fear The Walking Dead and The Walking Dead: World Beyond, are available on Prime Video in the UK.
Analysis: The Walking Dead needs fresh blood
Anthology formats are a good fit for streaming services, as AMC points out. In recent years, we've enjoyed the likes of Black Mirror and the just-as-good British series Inside No. 9 in this genre. Streamers are doubling down, too, with Disney Plus launching both Marvel's What If...? and Star Wars: Visions this year.
The show American Horror Stories has given the episodic standalone treatment to FX's popular horror series, too, while Amazon's Solos launched earlier this year. We've also seen services dabble with season-long anthologies, like HBO Max's Love Life.
Their appeal in the modern age is obvious: streaming TV has become gummed up with time-wasting, hour-long ongoing series that can take forever to deliver a story. That's become the template for so many dramas – and waiting two hours to find out if you actually like a series or not before you continue isn't ideal, especially where there's always too much stuff to watch.
For The Walking Dead, too, which has received plenty of criticism over the years for declining in quality at various points, and which already has two spin-offs set in the same universe, a fresh approach was needed. An anthology enables the writers to think about the raw mechanics of storytelling in a specific way. Sometimes a plot in an episode of the main show can take a whole season to resolve. Here, the story needs to be over inside an hour.
“This series, more than any other in the Walking Dead Universe, runs on new voices, perspectives, and ideas – bringing to life stories unlike any we’ve told before,” says franchise overseer Scott Gimple. Let's hope he's right.