Last September, when AMC revealed The Walking Dead would be getting its own little sister show in 2015, they dubbed it a "companion series." The outside world immediately dubbed it a "spin-off,” since that's a more common TV term. But it's not accurate.
Robert Kirkman — who writes the original comic books, executive produces the "mothership" show and is working to write the new series — endeavoured to explain the difference during the recent Amazing Arizona Comic Con. "I’m not scared of that word [spin-off], but it’s technically not a spin-off, because we’re not spinning off any of the characters,” he said (via Comicbook.com). “That’s what that term means.”
For example, Breaking Bad has a legit spin-off airing later this year called Better Call Saul. Saul Goodman started as a supporting character on the AMC show and now he's branching out. That's not what's happening with Walking Dead.
As Robert continued, “So I can say that it will be another group of characters, surviving in another part of the world. And it’s not going to use any of the core cast from our show. The show will continue uninterrupted, as if the other show doesn’t exist. But the other show will kind of be its own entity.”
Since he was in Arizona at the time, he joked that the spin-off may or may not take place in that state. We know it won’t take place in Georgia, which is where the current show is set and filmed. That’s one of the only solid details on the show so far, though, since even the timeline isn’t set in stone.
Robert was probably trying to clarify that this isn't a real spin-off because fans keep suggesting TWD characters for the 2015 show, or hoping for overlap. You never know — TWD is doing so well for AMC that they may go ahead and greenlight a real spin-off for, say, the Dixon brothers or Rick and Shane: The Early Years, but this "companion series" isn't the place for delving into our beloved characters' histories.
The new show will still cover the zombie apocalypse, but it may not even have Walking Dead in the title. Many real spin-offs don’t (Frasier from Cheers, The Jeffersons from All in the Family, etc.), so the companion series may want fresh branding. Or maybe it’ll want to piggyback on the title, and do something like The Walking Dead: Day One or The Walking Dead: North Pole, or whatever. Maybe they should start with a Sharknado-ish title and go from there.
The AMC brass recently said the spin-off is still only in the incubation stages as they try to zero in on what they want it to be about. It's still supposed to show up next year, so we'd be surprised if the next few months didn't bring more concrete details.
The Walking Dead Season 4 returns with Episode 9 on Sunday, February 9 at 9 p.m. ET on AMC.