AMC’s Fear The Walking Dead has found itself the target of a lawsuit regarding its season 2 story arc. The network and their apocalyptic franchise are no strangers to lawsuits, with original The Walking Dead developer and former showrunner, Frank Darabont, filing and pursuing a $280 million profit participation action over the last five years. Though the flagship show has recently seen a rapid decline in the ratings, with the companion series never quite achieving the same lofty heights, there is no denying that the franchise remains a juggernaut, especially as far as AMC are concerned, recently renewing the zombie drama for season 9.
Whether or not Fear The Walking Dead will receiving a fifth season remains the subject of much speculation, but fans remain hopeful – especially with the show going from strength to strength critically. Its score on Rotten Tomatoes just recently hit an all-time high of 86% for season 4 and its episode average remaining steady on 85%, far surpassing that of its parent show. Equally, fans were even more pleased as the show connected more overtly to the world of Rick Grimes and his band of survivors, with the fan-favorite character of Morgan (Lennie James) switching ships, thus bringing the timeline of both shows more or less in-sync with each other.
Rather than season 4, however, the basis of the suit reaches all the way back to season 2, when Madison Clark (Kim Dickens) and her family were forced to leave Los Angeles as the military bombed the city in order to try and contain the zombie outbreak. Setting sail aboard The Abigail, the show took the format into uncharted territory as it took the action onto the high seas. It was an original spin on the increasingly familiar Walking Dead formula. According to the THR, however, it might not be as original as it seemed, with author Mel Smith alleging that the show stole the concept from his own zombie comic, Dead Ahead. The synopsis of which reads:
“What had started as a fun little fishing trip soon turns into a nightmare of damnation, trapped on a floating prison. The continents have been hit by a zombie outbreak that spread fast, turning humanity into living corpses, leaving those at sea alive to fend for themselves. With provisions running low, hope comes on the horizon in the form of a luxury liner. All they needed to survive would be on the ship, but who among the fishermen will dare to board the liner and discover what’s become of its passengers and crew?”
Though Fear The Walking Dead didn’t feature hope in the form of a luxury liner, there are definite similarities. Similar ideas coming into fruition at the same time, even in similar formats, is not an uncommon occurence in the entertainment industry, though. The moment there is even a whisper of a show or movie being made, at least half a dozen almost identical concepts come out of the woodwork of various studios. Even before The Walking Dead brought the zombie apocalypse back into mainstream fashion, the core concept is one that has been explored on screens big and small for decades. That is why, lawyers will really have to dig into the specifics if any copyright infringement is going to be proven.
One definitive connection that will no doubt be explored, though, is that of David Alpert. According to the complaint filed by Smith, Alpert was Smith’s agent at the time of Dead Ahead‘s publication. What makes it especially interesting is the fact that Alpert also served as the business manager and business partner of Robert Kirkman, the creator of the comic book series that The Walking Dead is adapted from. Alpert is also an executive producer on Fear The Walking Dead and will not only be a co-defendant in the case but also face an added claim that he breached fiduciary duty. AMC themselves have deemed it too early to comment on the case. Whether or not the lawsuit will have an effect on the show’s renewal chances remains to be determined.
Fear The Walking Dead season 4 returns on Sunday, August 12 on AMC.
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