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“The Walking Dead,” Season 1, Episode 1: “Days Gone By”

AMC’s new horror series “The Walking Dead” fittingly premiered Halloween night and I’m going to go ahead and call it a runaway hit.

That that would actually happen has been widely doubted. A lot of people believed only horror fans and zombie nerds would be tuning in, but I beg to differ.

What will allow the same person who usually watches “Mad Men” in the same Sunday time slot to watch “The Walking Dead?” The fact that it’s not exactly scary. There were no jumpy moments, which was a very smart move. The reason most people dislike horror movies is because they don’t like being startled.

Another reason? There’s already a good story developing there. Sure the zombies are going to dominate the story, but what happens when people are in survival mode is when the real drama comes in. Not to mention the fact that the main character’s wife and police partner thinks he’s dead …

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Deputy Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) was wounded in a shootout and was in a coma for weeks. When he wakes up, he finds himself completely alone in the hospital. And before you call that a “28 Days Later,” ripoff don’t. It was purely a coincidence. The graphic novel that the show is based on (and where the hospital scene originated) and “28 Days Later” were developed around the same time and there’s no logical way one could’ve ripped off the other.

Anyway, Rick quickly learns something’s not right. Dead bodies are literally lining the streets and there’s not a live one in sight. He makes his way back to his house only to find it empty. It appears his wife and young son packed up some things and fled.

Soon Rick runs into some living. A man named Morgan (played wonderfully by Lennie James) and his son are suspicious of Rick but end up helping him. They let him in on what’s going on, but don’t include every detail. There was a plague. A great fever. The dead are walking. There’s no law enforcement. No government. It’s just your typical post-apocalyptic world. I’m guessing the details of the plague will be revealed in future episodes.

Rick spends a day with Morgan and his son before they all decide to go to Atlanta, which is supposed to be a safe zone. Morgan decides to not go along just yet. He wants to teach his boy to shoot a gun first. They decide to find each other again when everyone’s in Atlanta.

Morgan practices using a gun himself by shooting some zombies from the upstairs window. Then things get really sad when he spots his wife, who is now a zombie. He tries to shoot her but can’t. That’s a situation no one would ever deserve to be in.

On his way to Atlanta, Rick is using his police radio hoping someone will hear him. Someone does. Cut to a campsite with several people around. They try to answer Rick, but he can’t hear them. We soon find out that group of survivors includes Rick’s partner and his wife and son. They subtly let us know Rick should not be going to Atlanta.

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Before he makes it, he runs out of gas, stops and a farmhouse and decides to go the rest of the way by horse. When he gets to the city, he finds it was not a good idea. Its completely overrun by the walking dead. It doesn’t take long for him to be attacked. He manages to escape to the inside of an Army tank. The horse is not so lucky. I actually can’t believe they showed zombies killing and eating a horse. Bad AMC. BAD.

So like every other show on cable, it ends with a surprise. Tune in next week to see who saves his life.

Though not “jump” scary, there are plenty of intense edge-of-your-seat moments. And the gore. Wow. I never thought I’d see so much blood and death on a non-premium channel. Very impressed with the makeup work. The Emmy is on its way.

“The Walking Dead” doesn’t try to reinvent the zombie movies. It sticks to the exact formula we’ve seen since George Romero gave us “Night of the Living Dead.” And we don’t want in reinvented. That’s a formula we depend on and trust. What we require are new elements to the survival story and human relationships.

So, in my opinion, “The Walking Dead” is off to a fine start. What do you think? Let us know in our comments section.

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