One big surprise for viewers who thought they knew the zombie-film genre: an across-the-board humanity resonating in the "Walking Dead" saga.
"There are sequences where zombies are actually humanized," notes Joel Stillerman, AMC's head of original programming. "The series has an empathetic point of view that isn't just about the survivors but about the zombies, too.
"Transcending gore for gore's sake was very important to us," he says.
Adds AMC president Charlie Collier, "It's a character drama about survival, where the characters are faced with decisions of 'What would you do, given this adversity? Who would you be? Would you stay or go? Lead or follow?' These are universal themes."