The Day May Come When You Won’t Be Quality TV—The Walking Dead and Viewer Engagement


  • Oliver Kroener Independent Scholar



Quality TV, Viewer Engagement, The Walking Dead, Aesthetics, Narration


The Walking Dead (AMC, 2010-) suffered its steepest episode-to-episode decline in viewership following its season seven premiere in October 2016. This article argues that The Walking Dead’s decline in viewership is partially due to the show’s failure to adhere to viewer expectations of quality TV. Referring to previous studies on quality TV (Cardwell 2007, Mittell 2006), this article defines some of the key textual signifiers of this meta-genre (aesthetics, narration, complex characters) and discusses them in relation to viewer engagement. After establishing that viewers turn to quality TV for a “cognitively and affectively challenging entertainment experience” (Schlütz 2016a), the article investigates to what extent The Walking Dead meets viewer expectations of quality TV. Through examining the online discourse on The Walking Dead in relation to a close-textual analysis of the programme, this article finds that later episodes of The Walking Dead have caused frustration among many viewers since they do provide them with the types of cognitive and affective engagement they expect from quality TV.


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TV series cited

Breaking Bad (2008-2013)

Deadwood (2004-2006)

Fleabag (2016-2019)

Game of Thrones (2011-2019)

Hill Street Blues (1981-1987)

Killing Eve (2018-)

The Leftovers (2014-2017)

Lost (2004-2010)

Mad Men (2007-2015)

The Sopranos (1999-2007)

St. Elsewhere (1982-1988)

Twin Peaks: The Return (2017)

The Walking Dead (2010-)

Watchmen (2019)

Westworld (2016-)

The Wire (2002-2008)

Films cited

The Green Mile (1999)

The Mist (2007)

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)




How to Cite

Kroener, O. (2021). The Day May Come When You Won’t Be Quality TV—The Walking Dead and Viewer Engagement. Series - International Journal of TV Serial Narratives, 7(1).



Narratives / Aesthetics / Criticism