Last week’s fourth season premiere of The Walking Dead (9 p.m. Sundays, AMC) was the first offering from new showrunner Scott Gimple. He and others involved in the series have expressed a desire to incorporate more character development, leaving some fans worried that dull human storylines could get in the way of epic zombie scenes (who could forget the painfully slow second season?). Judging by the first episode, however, this is not the case. Walkers are scarier than ever, in various heinous stages of decomposition, flocking to the prison, falling from the sky.
On the living side of things, the introduction of new characters and check-ins on the core group balance the gore. Dialogue has never been Dead’s strong suit, often coming off as unnatural or obvious. This kink needs to be worked out sooner rather than later if the season’s focus is going to be individual character development. Writers, remember the golden rule of storytelling: Show, don’t tell! Nevertheless, the theme of whether surviving people can retain their humanity rang loud and clear.
But we have more immediate problems to worry about — the teased “new threat” endangering the expanding group. We saw Farmer Rick observe a sickly pig (which later died) at the prison’s new garden as well as a curious zombie that had bled from its eyes (presumably before it turned). Then, of course, there’s Patrick, who is poised to wreak havoc on the prison in this week’s episode.
Judging by the various close-up shots on barrels, Rick splashing his face and Patrick in the shower, it’s clear something ain’t right in the water. Maybe literally? Is a waterborne disease sweeping the prison (and beyond)? Or could the yet-unseen Governor, who Michonne is hunting down, be calculating all of this? Whatever the source, it’s always interesting to watch the characters battle non-walker danger during the zombie apocalypse.
Modern Family (9 p.m., ABC) – Jay snags a reservation at a hip new restaurant for a grownups-only dinner — for which Phil buys a trendy slim-fitted suit — but each household encounters some kind of drama, making everyone late.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (10 p.m., FXX) – A flu epidemic terrorizes Philly right as The Gang prepares for an a capella singing competition. In order to protect their voices — and their chance at the grand prize, to open for Boys II Men in concert — they quarantine themselves inside Paddy’s. Alternate episode title: “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Charlie Day.”
American Horror Story: Coven (10 p.m., FX) – So…LaLaurie and Laveau are still alive? Fiona is dying to get in on that secret. Elsewhere, Zoe and Madison use spells in an attempt to rebuild Kyle and bring him back to life. Franken-fratboy?
South Park (10 p.m., Comedy Central) – When Goth girl Henrietta is sent to a camp for troubled children and returns transformed, the other Goths must turn to mortal enemies the, Vamp Kids, for help.
THURSDAY OCT. 17
Project Runway (Season Finale, 9 p.m., Lifetime) – Alexandria, Brandon, Dom and Justin show their collections at Fashion Week and a winner is selected. Kerry Washington guest-judges.
FRIDAY OCT. 18
Comedy Bang! Bang! (10 p.m., IFC) -– Scott and Reggie are back from hiatus with Rainn Wilson and Andy Daly.
The Birthday Boys (Series Premiere, 10:30 p.m., IFC) – The eponymous Los Angeles-based comedy group presents this new sketch com with help from executive producers Ben Stiller and Bob Odenkirk. Fresh off Breaking Bad, Odenkirk also co-stars, -writes and -directs with the Boys.
SUNDAY OCT. 20
Boardwalk Empire (9 p.m., HBO) – Eli visits Willie only to find what his son has really been up to at school. With Chalky distracted by Daughter Maitland, Narcisse extends his reach over Atlantic City. In Chicago, a grieving Al Capone calls for a war to avenge his brother’s death. Also: a look at Margaret’s mysterious “office job” on Wall Street.
Queer Eye Reunion: 10 Years Later (9 p.m., Bravo) – Catching up with the Fab Five for the first time since 2007’s Queer Eye for the Straight Guy finale.
MONDAY OCT. 21
Life According to Sam (9 p.m., HBO) – HBO’s fall documentary lineup features an interesting mix of stories. This week’s film follows Sam Berns, a Massachusetts teen living with progressive aging disorder progeria, as he and his doctor parents search for a cure.
Call Girls (10 p.m., Logo) – Logo also continues its weekly doc series (appropriately titled “WHAT?!”) with this look inside the lives of phone sex operators.
CONTACT JAC KERN: firstname.lastname@example.org or @jackern