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Cliff Curtis as Travis and Kim Dickens as Madison | Photo Credit: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC
Alycia Debnam Carey as Alicia and Frank Dillane as Nick | Photo Credit: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC
Alycia Debnam Carey as Alicia and Frank Dillane as Nick | Photo Credit: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC

If you’re like me, you need something to hold you over until the sixth season of “The Walking Dead” starts in October. Fortunately, you can feed your apocalyptic appetite with Fear The Walking Dead, a companion series set to debut Aug. 23 at 9/8c on AMC.

First of all, this is NOT a sequel to the series, or even a true prequel, for that matter, so don’t expect to find out what happened before sheriff’s deputy Rick Grimes woke up in that hospital back in the first season of “The Walking Dead.” What you will get, however, is a look at the early stages of a zombie apocalypse following a group of characters as they come to terms with the impending collapse of civilization as we know it.

“Fear the Walking Dead” is set in Los Angeles, about as far – and opposite in just about every way you can think of – from Georgia (setting of “The Walking Dead”) as you can get in the continental United States.

The cast of characters includes a divorced high school English teacher named Travis Manawa (Cliff Curtis), his fiance Madison (Kim Dickens), who is the high school guidance counselor, and her two children, and Curtis’ ex-wife Lisa (Elizabeth Rodriguez). Madison’s son, Nick (Frank Dillane, who played 16-year-old Tom Riddle in “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince”), is also battling a drug problem, so expect various subplots outside of the pending zombie takeover narrative.

Alycia Debnam Carey as Alicia, Frank Dillane as Nick, Kim Dickens as Madison, Cliff Curtis as Travis, Elizabeth Rodriguez as Liza, Lorenzo James Henrie as Chris, Ruben Blades as Daniel Salazar, Patricia Reyes Spíndola as Griselda Salazar and Mercedes Mason as Ofelia | Photo Credit: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC
Alycia Debnam Carey as Alicia, Frank Dillane as Nick, Kim Dickens as Madison, Cliff Curtis as Travis, Elizabeth Rodriguez as Liza, Lorenzo James Henrie as Chris, Ruben Blades as Daniel Salazar, Patricia Reyes Spíndola as Griselda Salazar and Mercedes Mason as Ofelia | Photo Credit: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC

The series isn’t based on any of the Robert Kirkman comic books, so it really doesn’t matter if you’re not caught up on “The Walking Dead” before you jump on this bandwagon. According to Kirkman, there are no plans for crossover episodes. However, he did say that certain elements of “The Walking Dead” will show up in the spin-off series in what he refers to as an “overall tapestry” between the two shows.

Kirkman and co-creator Dave Erickson have confirmed that they do plan to have the “Fear the Walking Dead” timeline catch up with “The Walking Dead” at some point “in the future,” so you might want to go back and re-watch the first season of TWD as FTWD proceeds, to see if you can connect the dots.

Since “Fear the Walking Dead” starts at the onset of the zombie invasion, the focus is going to be on trying to stop the zombie apocalypse from spreading rather than finding safe places to stay alive since humans are going to outnumber the walking dead. Case in point, in the trailer below, we hear Travis mutter something about “riding it out” … so it should be interesting to see how long it takes them to figure that one out.

This perspective of the zombie apocalypse allows for more character development along with the exploration of different cultures in the area. For example, we’ll learn that Ofelia, one of the main characters, is very protective of her immigrant parents who came to L.A. for a fresh start.

There are a couple of notable differences between the two shows. Compared to the characters of “The Walking Dead,” those in “Fear the Walking Dead” are completely unsuspecting of what is slowly coming their way, providing a different kind of scare and thrill for avid “Walking Dead” fans.

This series takes place in a more urban setting on the streets of Los Angeles versus the suburban sprawl of the south. And finally, the zombies won’t be the rotting flesh variety we have seen previously in “The Walking Dead.” Because we are not months into the zombie apocalypse like we are when Rick wakes up in the hospital, these zombies will be “fresh.” Some of the zombies will be characters we’ll get to know and like as actual human beings before they “turn,” possibly allowing for a more sympathetic view of zombies.

Kim Dickens as Madison, Cliff Curtis as Travis, Alycia Debnam Carey as Alicia and Frank Dillane as Nick | Photo Credit: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC
Kim Dickens as Madison, Cliff Curtis as Travis, Alycia Debnam Carey as Alicia and Frank Dillane as Nick | Photo Credit: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC

With only six episodes scheduled, I expect the first season to be mostly setup for the extended second season in 2016, which will consist of 15 episodes total. Catch the premiere of “Fear the Walking Dead” on Sunday, August 23, 2015 at 9 p.m. EST on AMC and through Comcast, DirecTV or Dish.

I definitely think this companion series is going to be worth watching because of what I like to call the “this could really happen … maybe?” factor. Common in Stephen King and Ray Bradbury stories where we see a present day human reaction to an extraordinary event – like the opening stages of a zombie apocalypse – it leaves open the remote thought that the fiction unfolding right in front of our eyes isn’t so far from reality anymore.

So what do you think? Will you be watching “Fear the Walking Dead”? Sound off in the comments below.

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