The ongoing conflict between satellite provider Dish Network and the basic cable giant AMC Networks has been dragging on for weeks now and, as is common in such disputes, it’s the consumers who are getting stomped on. Imagine not having been able to enjoy television’s best drama – AMC’s “Breaking Bad” -- these last few weeks. There ought to be a law …
If I’m a little more sensitive to this issue at present than I might usually be, it’s because my programming provider, Cablevision, is currently in a tussle with Tribune Broadcasting, and until executives on both sides of the argument figure out a way to settle their differences I’m being deprived of my local Fox and CW affiliates, not to mention one of my retro television favorites, Antenna TV. I can deal with this problem now, during the dog days of August when there is little to watch, but I’ll be really pissed if everything isn’t put back together by the official start of the 2012-13 television season.
I’d be even more worked up if Cablevision was in an extended stand-off with AMC Networks, rather than Tribune, because if I had to I could live without The CW’s “The Vampire Diaries” and Fox’s “The X Factor,” at least for a little while, but the thought of not being able to watch AMC’s “The Walking Dead” when its third season begins October 14 is too terrible to contemplate. That’s the situation Dish subscribers may find themselves in -- and that’s what brings me to the viral video created by the clever folks at thinkmodo that caught my attention this week. It’s titled “Zombie Experiment NYC,” and it asks the question, could zombies live among us (said zombies being those potentially displaced by Dish)?
Like the creatures it features, the video stumbles for a few seconds before it gets moving. An opening graphic informs us that a few New Yorkers have been transformed into zombies in order to execute this “experiment.” We then see monster make up being applied to several people. Why bother to state and show the obvious, and why distract from the initial impact of rotting zombies mixing it up with the people of New York by showing how actors were made to look like ghouls? Why not jump right into the deep end and pretend the zombies in action are the “real” deal? (This complaint aside, the brief intro doesn’t seem to have compromised the video’s impact, so it appears that the thinkmodo think tank knew exactly what it was doing when the decision was made to structure the video in this way.)
One look at the makeup artistry on vivid display, as in the startling shot of a zombie preparing to eat a hot dog even as the lower part of its face is falling away, and it’s clear that “Zombie Experiment NYC” was as lovingly executed as an episode of “The Walking Dead.” Wisely it is way more upbeat than the show, which for all of its accolades is likely the most depressing scripted television series ever made. “Zombie” is often as stimulating and amusing as “Dead” is downbeat and frightening. We see zombie first responders, zombie businessmen, zombie shoppers, zombie traffic cops and zombie utility workers, among others, going about their business and interacting with New Yorkers, a few of whom are taken aback, but most of whom are either very amused or not at all impressed, just as one might expect.
“Zombie Experiment NYC” was released earlier in August, but its online popularity is still growing, and it’s easy to see why. This video is as smartly subtle as an ostensibly confrontational video can be. At first view it might appear to be a Funny or Die clip about zombies in the big city. There’s nothing argumentative, manipulative or demonstrative about it. It engages, seemingly without a specific message and intent on entertaining only, until the very end, when we suddenly see a zombie shuffling along a sidewalk, dragging a Dish satellite saucer behind it. Then these words fill the screen: “Zombies Don’t Belong Here. Put Them Back on TV.” They are followed by an address to the Web site, putzombiesback.com. As it happens, the site is far more overt and dramatic than the video. It offers the visitor assistance in finding alternate service providers that carry AMC, and it includes a contest (with significant prizes including exposure on AMC-owned social media channels) that encourages people to submit 30- or 90-second videos revealing what they would do if they were Dish subscribers who lost AMC and could no longer watch one or more of their favorite programs – especially “The Walking Dead.”
There is nothing amusing about corporate disputes that leave consumers in the lurch, but at least in this case one of the participants has made an effort to address the situation in a humorous and engaging manner. As an extra bonus, “Zombie Experiment NYC” would double as a fine promotional video for “The Walking Dead” even without a connection to the Dish-AMC problem.