I really want to like Frank Darabont’s directed adaption of the acclaimed comic book series The Walking Dead.

I really, really, really do.

My initial reaction to the first season was this is going to be the coolest program on TV. AMC gave producers a wide berth and the show received a great deal of press prior to its debut (all of which paid off with a zombie horde of 5.3 million). But after last night’s season premiere I’m concerned that the series is going to be nothing more than a self-indulgent gore-fest.

I know, I know, that’s what zombies movies are all about. The show is being true to Robert Kirkman’s vision. And I’m sure die-hard fans are enthralled (even as they barf up a liver).

I guess I was just hoping for something more. Something better. Something that took the zombie apocalypse idea seriously enough to flesh it out with strong character development and provocative plot lines. Gore is fine. I expect gore. But the stories are being defined by it, requiring the audience to suspend their belief not in the existence of zombies (that’s a given) but rather in the “reality” set by the genre itself. Rick Grimes can’t outrun a zombie in the woods? Really? Have you hiked in the woods? Try it with rigor mortis! Let’s disembowel a zombie to see who it ate. Really? There are plenty of plausible opportunities to gross people out, you really don’t need to go that far afield.

I would love to observe survivors of a hellish post-apocalyptic world. Social mores breakdown. Religious convictions tested. But once pass the gruesome reality that undead stagger among us, it is a matter of rebuilding. Though it would be nice to know how the zombie outbreak occurred (government experiment gone awry, despotic alien extermination of the human race, unholy retribution from primordial beings) but in the end, zombies are ultimately a transient threat. The zombies on The Walking Dead are slow-moving dullards in a state of decay (let’s not forget that we are in Atlanta amidst 100 degree weather) so their bodies will eventually be incapable of locomotion in a matter of months. Survivors just need to wait it out (preferably where there are no zombies)… but what fun is that?