THE SERIES "Fear the Walking Dead"

WHEN | WHERE Premieres Aug. 23 at 9 p.m. on AMC.

WHAT IT'S ABOUT A fly buzzes past the ear of sleeping Nick Clark (Frank Dillane, who played young Voldemort in "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince"). He wakes up -- from a drug induced-stupor. He may be a junkie passed out in a flophouse somewhere in Los Angeles, but Nick still knows something bad just happened that woke him up. Meanwhile, his mom, Madison Clark (Kim Dickens), and stepfather, Travis Manawa (Cliff Curtis) -- both teachers at a local high school -- don't know where their troubled kid is, and as usual are worried. Nick's sister, Alycia (Alycia Debnam-Carey), has her own concerns.

And that's the setting for this prequel to "The Walking Dead," which unfolds at the outset of the zombie outbreak.

MY SAY To paraphrase the poet, should the world end in fire or in ice? Personally, I'd prefer ice. You can always put on a coat. But from a prime-time horror series perspective, fire (metaphorically speaking) is much to be preferred: Lots of action, explosions, mayhem and if we're talking about a zombie apocalypse, dead reanimated bodies, too.

"The Walking Dead," based on Robert Kirkman's hugely popular graphic novel series, avoided the slow part of the gathering armageddon by putting our hero, Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), into a coma. When he awoke ....

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Well, let's just say he awoke to star in one of the most popular shows on television.

As a prequel, "Fear the Walking Dead" picks up the part of the story while Rick was asleep. And (as feared) the beats are often sleepy and predictable.

Something is terribly wrong... Kids are missing school... People have fevers... The musical soundtrack screeches and squalls...

Even the cops are stockpiling water (that can't be good, although California is in a drought).

At least the occasional body reanimates to keep things moving along.

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There is plenty of character exposition as well, which is about as exciting as it sounds.

Just to spell this out, "Fear the Walking Dead" is slow and a little bit dull. This is an icy start as opposed to a fiery one.

There's even worse news until I get to the potentially good news: The leads behave in confounding ways. Without wading into spoiler territory here, let me just say that there are instances when a call to the authorities would be warranted and logical. That call is never made. No reason given.

Now the good. "Fear's" opening act is a strong one. There's a nice overall build, too, particularly during the second episode. (The first two were offered for review.) This certainly seems like a series that is headed to interesting places -- places "The Walking Dead" could never deeply explore because (obviously) our embattled survivors were running too hard to explore them.

For example, will the pathological or epidemiological story be developed? (That particular story was famously begun, and dropped, at the end of the first season of "TWD"). Will we learn more about the walkers? And because both series unfold in the same universe, will the timelines or story lines between them ever converge? That could certainly offer rich story possibilities.

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 Could or should. We'll see if "Fear the Walking Dead" actually does.

GRADE B-