Here's a question for The Walking Dead fans: how many seasons do you think the show will air? A few more years, tops? AMC's biggest shows don't normally last all that long: Breaking Bad is wrapping its fifth and final season this summer, and season 7 will be the last we'll see of Mad Men.

Well, if AMC Networks CEO Josh Sapan has his way, we'll be watching The Walking Dead for at least nine more years. He's publicly stated that he hopes the show will still be around in 2022, and that the show, much like the comic series and the shambling undead walkers it depicts, will simply live on forever.

That's ... quite the commitment. Is it encouraging to hear that the network has zero plans to provide an overall conclusion to the Walking Dead storylines -- or does it make you wonder if the show is destined to jump the shark?

Here's what Sapan said at the Barclays Global Technology, Media, and Telecommunications Conference on Wednesday:

We hope that zombies live forever and we've just begun to find out what the post-apocalyptic world is like, so that we'll be sitting here at the Barclays conference in 2022 discussing the fact that Walking Dead is not over.

I guess it's not surprising that AMC is happy to ride out the zombie money train as long as they have the ratings. Assuming they continue to loosely follow the comic series, they'll have plenty to work from, since Robert Kirkman's books are at over 100 issues with no finish line in sight. Kirkman has said that he plans to keep writing the comic pretty much forever:

I think the book will go past 300 issues at this point. Charlie and I absolutely love what we’re doing and it is exactly the thing I have wanted to do ever since I wanted to do comics. I’m having the time of my life. The book is going to go on for a long time and no one is safe ... not even Rick.

Wait, not even Rick?

I do have plans for him and I know where his story is going, but I promise that Rick will not survive the entire run of the book.

Damn. (PS: Don't click through to read the above linked article if you haven't read up to and including issue #100, because SPOILERS.)

Okay, so clearly there's going to be enough upsetting source material for the show to last for a long, long time. Cast and crew probably wouldn't hold AMC back from dragging it out forever, either. While most big series have one specific person carrying the overall creative vision (Matt Weiner for Mad Men, Vince Gilligan for Breaking Bad), The Walking Dead will get its fourth showrunner next season. They're not afraid to kill people off, either, so I'm guessing salary demands won't be as much of an issue. Although I certainly hope they're paying Norman Reedus WHATEVER THE HELL HE WANTS.

Still, it seems pretty unrealistic that the series will still be around in a decade or more. Or more to the point, that it could still be around and not totally suck by then.

Plus, I feel like there needs to be an idea of an end game for the show. The ongoing comics are one thing, but do we want to watch a show about people suffering the zombie apocalypse year in and year out, without any sort of hope for a brighter future? Or answers for why it all happened in the first place?

When Glenn Mazzara originally took over as showrunner for The Walking Dead, he said he had a set story to tell, one with an ending. At one time, he thought the show might last for seven seasons. Of course, as we all know, Mazzara's now out, thanks to "creative differences" with AMC:

When people involved with the show are looking at the long-term plan, you know, they want something different. And what those differences are, you’d have to ask AMC.

Personally, I hope the network (or Kirkman) decides to relinquish a little creative control at some point, and start thinking about the possibility of a predetermined final season. Otherwise, what's likely to happen is that ratings will dwindle, an end will be hastily scraped together -- and the show will conclude with a lame undead whimper rather than a bang.

What do you think about the idea of The Walking Dead becoming such a long-running show?


Image via AMC