Fear The Walking Dead
⋆⋆⋆ out of four stars
When: 8 p.m. Sundays, AMC

 

You just can’t kill a good thing. “Fear the Walking Dead,” the inevitable spinoff from one of cable’s biggest hits, should prove there’s enough room for more zombies at the dinner table, even if their preferred hors d’oeuvres are human cheekbones.

The series, which premieres Sunday with only slightly less fanfare than the pope’s first visit to the United States, is set around the same time the mothership launched — when Rick was in a peaceful coma — with “the infection” just starting to spread across Los Angeles.

The rewind gives viewers a chance to witness the apocalypse from the very start, when unsuspecting victims were more likely to try to aid the undead than stab them.

Among the most passive responders: Cliff Curtis’ hip English teacher (he wears jeans to work!) and his new wife (Kim Dickens), an even hipper guidance counselor (she covers for a loner student!). Both are struggling to build relationships with members of their blended family. Those differences quickly dissolve as they slowly discover that the reason friends and neighbors are starting to act weird has nothing to do with the flu. Nothing forces bonding quite like a flesh-eating creature knocking on your front door.

“Dead” fans used to a high body count may find the pace in early episodes too slow for their bloodthirsty tastes. But those in it for characters rather than carnage will find themselves rooting for the plucky new protagonists, particularly Nick, a good-hearted, drug-addicted teen played by Frank Dillane, who perfectly channels Joaquin Phoenix’s whacked-out appearance on “Letterman.” Keep an eye on this dude.

One major flaw: In the first two episodes, social and traditional media appear to be borderline ignorant of the obvious epidemic. Only two logical explanations: Lazy writing, or the zombies started their onslaught by hitting the Los Angeles Times.