1 of 5 | Anthony Edwards and Poppy Liu star in an episode of "Tales of the Walking Dead." Photo courtesy of AMC
LOS ANGELES, Aug 1 (UPI) -- Tales of the Walking Dead, premiering Aug. 14 on AMC, starts with a strong episode that offers hope for the new series. However, subsequent entries commit the same sins that made many many viewers abandon the original Walking Dead.
Tales is an anthology of other stories in the zombie apocalypse. Each episode is a standalone tale, so you need no knowledge of the previous series.
The premiere, "Evie/Joe" stars Terry Crews as Joe, a man who's been living in his bunker for the first 400 days of the zombie outbreak. When he loses his dog in a zombie attack, Joe decides to make the trip to visit a woman he's been chatting with online.
Joe falls into Evie's (Olivia Munn) trap. The two strangers have to be careful around each other because everyone has ulterior motives in this world, but they also have to find ways to depend on each other on the road.
That tale captures the essence of zombie stories: that humanity is the more challenging force to survive. Some of the twists are entirely predictable, but it tells a story with a beginning, middle and end that involves compelling characters.
The episode also has a hopeful message about still finding beautiful moments in a hellish landscape.
The second episode, "Blair/Gina," shows how Tales can tell Walking Dead stories in different genres. It's bold, but also doesn't work, which suggests the series isn't really capable of breaking its own format.
Gina (Jillian Bell) works for Blair's (Parker Posey) insurance company, and both try to get out of town when the zombie outbreak begins. What's preventing them from leaving is a surprise, but it is a trick other horror comedies have pulled off more successfully.
With bold swings come inconsistency, so it's natural that some won't work. However, very cheap-looking CGI explosion shows the episodes' ambition exceed their capabilities, and a later episode shifts the balance further into near-miss territory.
In "Emmy/Dr. Everett," Everett (Anthony Edwards) is studying the zombies, which he calls homo mortis. Studying zombies proves irrelevant because the nature of the premise long ago established by George Romero is that all they do is come back to life and eat.
Maybe a scientist needs to believe in research, but he's not going to solve anything. Watching his methodology, even when confronted by a fellow survivor Emmy (Poppy Liu), just doesn't yield any interesting character drama or worthwhile additions to the mythology.
It's entirely possible that the other three episodes will be winners. However, given the main series' steady decline and spreading itself thin with spinoffs, it appears Tales also struggles to find any new angles.
Fred Topel, who attended film school at Ithaca College, is a UPI entertainment writer based in Los Angeles. He has been a professional film critic since 1999, a Rotten Tomatoes critic since 2001 and a member of the Television Critics Association since 2012. Read more of his work in Entertainment.