Tube Talk: Scary and scarier: Attack ads and The Walking Dead

Zombies on parade in The Walking Dead. Photo provided

By Paula Hendrickson
Contributing Writer

This is the time of year when being scared can be fun. Haunted houses, horror flicks and spooky costumes are all part of the Halloween atmosphere. But some of the scariest—and in my view, saddest—things on TV lately are the endless stream of nonsensical political attack ads.

Do politicians or their campaign managers really think attacking the competition with grossly exaggerated spins on their past comments or actions (usually taken entirely out of context) is really going to generate voter support? If that’s the case, you’re sorely out of touch with the voting public.

To any political animals who might happen to be reading this, I’ll let you in on a little secret: Voters want to know about candidates’ stands on real issues. We don’t want to see ads bashing the opposition. Surely there’s a better way to spend campaign funds—maybe they could pay unemployed voters to hand-deliver printed fliers or drive around with campaign signs clinging to their cars like those bus wrap ads.

Since the United States Supreme Court changed the laws regulating who can finance political ads, corporations and newly-formed groups have joined the fray, further polluting the already stench-ridden world of political advertising.

Rick in trashed hospital hallway seeing locked doors saying "Don't Open, Dead Inside." Photo provided

All attack ads really accomplish is showing that the politician or group behind the ad is desperately attempting to deflect voters’ attention from actual issues. Some politicians will argue that they’re merely fighting back against attacks on them. That’s just a nicer way of saying the original attacker succeeded in pulling your campaign down to their level. Voters—especially independent voters like me—would undoubtedly be more impressed by politicians who remain above the fray and stay focused on their platform and policies.

A handful of campaigns have stood out to me because the ads don’t even name the opposition. They talk about the candidate and what they think they can do if elected. Novel approach, huh? Maybe more politicians should try it.

As scary as political attack ads are, other things can be scary good fun. That’s what you’ll find if you watch AMC’s newest original series, The Walking Dead, which is based on Robert Kirkman’s popular series of comic books. Appropriately enough, The Walking Dead premieres at 9 p.m. on Halloween.

The Walking Dead is kind of like Night of the Living Dead meets Jericho, with a tiny bit of Lost thrown in for good measure. Two-and-a-half hours in, and I still don’t know why the world is overrun with zombies, but that missing information helps us identify with the show’s hero, Sheriff Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), who awakes from a coma to find his hometown looking like a post-apocalyptic zombieland, with no family, friends or neighbors in sight.

Still in shock, Grimes encounters zombies and potential allies as he begins his heroic journey to find his wife Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) and son Carl (Chandler Riggs). As his new reality begins to set in, so do his survival instincts. To me, it’s a toss-up as to what the scariest part of the premiere is: the horrors Grimes faces upon waking up, or later when he’s cornered by a mob of zombies.

The Walking Dead is not for kids, mostly because of some graphic, gore-filled scenes. But the very human storyline and great acting are what will keep you tuning in long after Halloween.

Paula Hendrickson is a regular contributor to Emmy magazine and Variety, and has been published in numerous national publications, including American Bungalow, Television Week and TVGuide. Send in your suggestions to

From the Oct. 27-Nov. 2, 2010 issue

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