HBO allegedly turned down The Walking Dead because it was too violent

Hard as it is to believe, HBO reportedly passed on a chance to air The Walking Dead because they thought it was too gory. A year after the zombie show premiered on AMC, HBO debuted Game of Thrones.
Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan - The Walking Dead _ Season 10, Episode 5 - Photo Credit: Jace Downs/AMC
Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan - The Walking Dead _ Season 10, Episode 5 - Photo Credit: Jace Downs/AMC /

The Walking Dead was one of the biggest shows of the 2010s. Can humanity survive in an inhumane world? Is man the real monster? Will Rick Grimes ever pronounce the name "Carl" like a normal person? Viewers thrilled to this zombie drama for years before starting to drop off in the later years. But the early zombie mania will not soon be forgotten.

Together with Mad Men and Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead put AMC on the map as a cable network to reckon with. Networks like NBC and HBO, both of which passed on The Walking Dead before AMC picked it up, may have kicked themselves.

What's interesting is the reason why they passed. According to an interview Walking Dead makeup czar Greg Nicotero gave to The Huffington Post back in 2012, it fell to producer Gale Anne Hurd to shop the show around to various networks. The Walking Dead comics by Robert Kirkman were already popular, and Hurd was determined to stay true to his vision. As The Huffington Post puts it, "when NBC and HBO both said that they'd be willing to commit to aThe Walking Dead television series if the production team significantly toned down the graphic novels' violence and gore, Gale said, 'No, thank you.'"

It's easy to imagine why NBC, as a broadcast, network, would want Kirkman and co to turn down the gore; NBC would have had to obey strict rules about what it could or could not show. HBO, on the other hand, had already established itself as a network willing to feature sex, violence and profanity, as shown off in series like The Sopranos, Deadwood and Rome. The year after The Walking Dead premieres on AMC in 2010, HBO would air the first season of Game of Thrones, which kicked off with an adult pushing a child out a window and ended with the main character getting his head chopped off. And in between there was this:

So why would HBO, a network not known for being squeamish, turn down The Walking Dead unless the producers cut back on the gore?

Well, while The Sopranos and that first season of Game of Thrones were certainly violent, they weren't as outright gory as the first couple seasons of The Walking Dead were. Maybe HBO was put off specifically by blood and guts. Or maybe there's more to the story than The Huffington Post summarized in that quick line.

Whatever HBO's reasons, they may have come to regret passing on the opportunity to bring The Walking Dead to the world. Can you imagine if HBO was airing The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones at the same time? They would have sucked up all the oxygen on the internet. Then again, because The Walking Dead was AMC's baby, the network went very hard promoting it in way that HBO might not have. Both series continue to this day in the form of spinoffs, so it worked out well for everyone.

Next. The Walking Dead: 8 theories on what caused the zombie outbreak. The Walking Dead: 8 theories on what caused the zombie outbreak. dark

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h/t Collider