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The Two Networks That Turned Down The Walking Dead Before It Hit AMC

The Walking Dead is the kind of massive franchise that would make any distributor salivate. It's had one of the best runs in the history of cable, which is why it's hard to imagine that the little-zombie-show-that-could was such a gamble back in 2009, when the creative team was first shopping it. Back then, The Walking Dead was a niche black-and-white creator-owned comic from a publisher not named Marvel or DC (it's Image, by the way). It's no wonder the risk-averse Hollywood suits turned up their noses. But look what they missed out on. We just plowed through a season 10 finale that both illuminated the backstory of a fan-favorite villain, and took us right up to the final arc of the source material.

Season 11 will be the series' last, but it's ending on an impressive run. The Walking Dead has managed to maintain consistently high ratings for well over a decade at this point, and it's leaving behind a few spin-offs to give fans something to look forward to. Both Fear the Walking Dead and The Walking Dead: World Beyond help fill in the gaps of this intriguing world. There are also a handful of movies in the works that will bring back fan-favorite Rick Grimes in some capacity. Much like the walkers at the center of the show, this is one franchise that isn't dying any time soon. 

Picking up the show is probably one of the best decisions AMC ever made, and for the two networks that passed on The Walking Dead ... well, they're probably kicking themselves at this point. 

HBO and NBC both passed on The Walking Dead

To be fair, there was no way of knowing exactly how big a pop culture juggernaut The Walking Dead would become. The books, after all, fall well within the horror genre, and feature a ton of bloodshed and other disturbing plot elements, which could turn off general audiences. If you're a TV executive, wouldn't you rather dial up another Law & Order spinoff instead? Or greenlight that crack script for CSI: Peoria? Of course you would.

Similar to numerous shows before it, The Walking Dead required some convincing, and the producers of the show had to do a bit of searching to find just the right home for it. Executive producer and special effects makeup artist Greg Nicotero actually talked about shopping the show around in an interview with The Huffington Post: "Thank goodness we wound up at AMC. They totally get this show. Right from the beginning, they've been completely trusting and supportive of what we've been trying to do with this series." 

The article also revealed that the show had been pitched to both NBC and HBO. Apparently, both distributors wanted the series to "[tone] down the graphic novels' violence and gore." We understand NBC taking this stance as a basic cable channel, but HBO did Game of Thrones and Oz. Hard to believe someone over there is squeamish about a couple zombie buffets. 

HBO's loss is AMC's gain, as the network allowed the creatives to fully embrace the dark, twisted nature of the source material, and clearly, audiences have welcomed it wholeheartedly.