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'Fear the Walking Dead': What its ratings triumph means for cable TV

'Fear' is a new AMC TV show set in the same world as the hit TV program 'The Walking Dead.'

Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP
'Fear the Walking Dead' stars Kim Dickens (l.) and Cliff Curtis (r.).

“Fear the Walking Dead,” the new spin-off set in the world of AMC’s hit zombie drama “The Walking Dead,” performed incredibly well in the ratings for its premiere episode.

The debut episode of “Fear” reportedly scored the highest ratings for a cable series premiere in TV history. “Fear” beat the previous record held by another AMC series, the “Breaking Bad” spin-off “Better Call Saul.” 

“Fear” is set in the same fictional world as the smash hit series “The Walking Dead” and focuses on people living in Los Angeles as zombies begin to overtake the world.

“Walking” premiered in 2010 and is based on the comic book series of the same name. 

The first episode of “Fear” received a mixed reception from critics.

“Saul” and “Fear” are some of the first spin-off series to come to the critically well-regarded networks of HBO, AMC, Showtime, and other cable networks. While anything’s possible in the future, the most well-reviewed shows by these networks – HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” “The Sopranos,” and “The Wire,” Showtime’s “Homeland,” AMC's "Mad Men" – are either still going or finished without a spin-off.

For the most part, broadcast networks are reviving old favorites rather than creating new stories based in the same world. Fox is bringing back “The X-Files" and “Prison Break,” while “Heroes” is coming back with many of the same characters as the original TV series, as well as some new ones.

Most of the best-regarded scripted TV spin-offs happened in decades past. NBC’s “Frasier" and CBS’s “Maude” and “The Jeffersons,” to name a few, have all been off the air for years. On broadcast networks, most of the spin-offs now are coming from franchises like CBS’s “NCIS” and NBC’s “Law & Order.” 

If “Saul” and “Fear” do well, could more cable networks (or streaming services) try their luck with spin-offs? Hollywood has never been afraid of imitating a hit. Viewers could be seeing more stories set in their favorite fictional TV worlds.

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