AMC is in the early stages of a programming shift…even if they don’t realize that it is happening right now.

The network has successfully made the transition from a classic movie hub to a channel with an expanding arsenal of original programming, including past favorites like Mad Men and Breaking Bad.

Now, AMC is riding high off the success of its long-term flagship show The Walking Dead, which has pulled in major cash with millions of dedicated viewers tuning in each week. The show’s success has led to the spin-off series Fear the Walking Dead.

Much of AMC’s marketing efforts have been poured into the Dead franchise, including the Talking Dead after-show to discuss both series, episode screenings at major movie theaters, and a plethora games, paraphernalia, and magazine covers featuring The Walking Dead stars.

In the midst of this promotional push, their best show has been severely under-marketed and is largely underrated despite having intricate fight scenes, compelling mythology, characters who rock ensembles made of cosplay gold, solid storylines, striking imagery, and a wildly talented cast. Into the Badlands is undoubtedly the best series on AMC and a must-watch show in 2018.

Into the Badlands made its debut in 2015 during the 6th season of The Walking Dead and provided an alternative, post-apocalyptic world with a feudal society run by several barons who control land and monopolize certain goods.

The social hierarchy of barons, cogs, clippers, regents, and dolls has made for interesting commentary about social classes, economic status, censorship, and moral ambiguity as tensions boil over among Badlands residents. There’s plenty of action and bloodshed coupled with moments of levity, introspection, heartbreak, and triumph.

Each character has a complex, layered journey and all of their stories collide in unexpected ways. Into the Badlands has build up a loyal fanbase and the diverse cast and writers are constantly interactive with viewers.

But, despite being 2.5 seasons into this saga, AMC puts little to no effort into promoting this show. AMC’s main social media pages don’t feature many tweets about the show and it is not included in their current Twitter header graphic.

There are limited commercials about the series, even when it is actively on-air. As a result, there is not growth in ratings and many potential fantasy/martial arts fans are missing out on a show that is starting to gain great traction.

Lead actor Daniel Wu recently engaged Twitter fans in a conversation about the show. He tweeted his frustration about the show’s lack of Emmy nominations, particularly in the action design category.

It opened up a debate about how the show could receive better promotion to get the recognition it deserves. Many fans pointed out that they rarely see promotional materials and the cast is rarely seen on the TV/radio circuit.

A lack of merchandise, something fans have wanted since the show’s inception, was also brought up. Wu responded to one tweet highlighting these points and said simply said they have not been asked to be on any shows and there is no merchandise yet.

As a fan, I agree with all of these points. Some websites like Syfy Fangrrls and (of course) Hypable have done extensive coverage and interviews with the cast, but why hasn’t AMC put forth the effort to secure an Into the Badlands panel at major cons like SDCC and NYCC?

Where is the social media push? The leading actors are very interactive on their personal Twitter/Instagram pages and they often take over the show’s official Instagram page to give insight on behind the scenes.

So, they are obviously into fan interaction and genuinely care about this series. And, as pointed out by a Badlands fan, a show with so much complexity would make for an excellent official podcast or a Talking Dead-esque after show. Bring in solid hosts (and PLEASE include people of color), the cast, and creatives and Badlands fans would love it.

This show has a solid foundation and loyal fans and it is waiting for AMC to capitalize on its potential. And, if the network is smart, it should start eyeballing Badlands as the next flagship program.

The Dead franchise has had a good run, but it is coming to an end. The Walking Dead is rumored to lose its leader Rick Grimes as well as Maggie Rhee, a prominent character on the TV show and in the comics, due to both actors choosing to leave the series.

Ratings are still much higher than the average cable show, but they are steadily decreasing as fans become disillusioned about the general direction, writing, and pacing of the show. Now, Rick’s exit will likely deliver a major blow to the series by causing more fans to leave.

At this point, bringing in new fans is nearly impossible because most people aren’t going to suddenly jump into a show in its 9th season. Because it is a cash cow, the network will likely squeeze a couple of post-Rick seasons out.

But, most of the remaining characters lack the gravitas and proper development to sustain this show as the leader. The most suitable leader is Michonne and with actress Danai Gurira’s rising success in the Marvel universe, it is unlikely that she will stick around for long.

Daryl Dixon lovers and ride-until-it-dies fans will still tune in, but will they really be able to keep this show afloat?

But if The Walking Dead sinks, then Fear the Walking Dead should take over the reins, right? Nah. The series hasn’t quite lived up to expectations in terms of ratings, even after bringing The Walking Dead’s Morgan Jones into the mix for a crossover.

The show has a loyal viewership and even began to surprise TV critics in the third and fourth season as it began to find its rhythm. But, the writers made a controversial decision to kill off its leading lady Madison Clark.

She was likely killed off to give the show a “fresh start” (after only 4 seasons) but the viewership probably won’t increase enough to be a flagship show. Fear the Walking Dead has mostly served as a placeholder for The Walking Dead during its off season.

And, even the most die-hard zombie fans will become fatigued with this overall universe, no matter how many spin-offs they attempt in the future. So, AMC should start using this time to prop up Into the Badlands and start thinking about their next wave of original programming.

The network has expanded into new dramas with McMafia, The Terror, and Dietland, but Into the Badlands has a unique premise and the ability to attract a myriad of viewers.

There could be an underlying reason why Into the Badlands is not being groomed to be the primary show. Perhaps the creators have a certain number of seasons in mind, similar to how Stranger Things arc will end after 4 seasons.

But if this isn’t the case, the sheer amount of characters and expanding mythology is enough to bring several more seasons of action and drama to fans. AMC can still take care of their current bread and butter, but their future resides in the Badlands.

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