Thursday, March 12, 2009

BLOODY GOOD REALITY TV



There are so many good pairings in this world. Chocolate and Peanut Butter springs immediately to mind, as do one of my favorite musical duos 'The Bird and the Bee'. So it's always really exciting to see two great things come together, making the whole greater than the sum of its parts. This was such the case in my recent viewing of the UK miniseries Dead Set. If you haven't seen or heard of it, you're definitely not alone - the craze hasn't quite crossed the pond yet. So what the hell is it? It's a magical fusion of Big Brother and ZOMBIES. I'm totally serious.

Just to get this out of the way - yes, I am a fan of Big Brother. I've never seen the UK version, but I watched the US incarnation during Big Brother 8. During those 10 weeks I saw some of the most demented, socially retarded fame-whores ever...in one of the most bizarre social experiments/competitions I could even imagine. It's a trainwreck, and I'm not denying it. But I liked it. And zombies? Who doesn't like zombies?



Here's the premise: Britain (and possibly the rest of the globe) is ravaged by a mystery outbreak that turns everyone who dies at its hands into the undead. This is all happening unbeknownst to the most recent group of "House Guests" who are preparing for a live "Eviction" telecast in the lockdown of the Big Brother house. Outside, the fans and most of the crew are quickly zombified and on the prowl for flesh. Our heroine is a production assistant named Kelly, who looks like Kelly Clarkson - except thinner, smarter and British. She attempts to take refuge inside with the House Guests, who initially think this is all part of the show.

That's the setup. I'm not going to go much more into plot, because a) the devil truly is in the details, and b) I just told you everything you need to know. Even the character names are more or less inconsequential. So what's the big deal? Well, there are a 3 things that stood out for me.


#1 - It's Actually Big Brother

They could have easily portrayed Dead Set in a TV show that's only "like" Big Brother, to cut costs. They could have given the show-within-a-show a ludicrous title like We're Watching You or something else nauseating. But they didn't! They actually made it Big Brother, which is amazing. Apparently towards the beginning there are real former UK BB contestants who are there for a "reunion". But best of all, the host of the actual series (Davina) plays a pretty big role in Dead Set. Kudos for realism, Channel 4!


#2 - Brits Just Don't Give a Fuck

Still interested? Now a warning. ("Now a warning?") This is one of the goriest, bloodiest, gutsiest, most horrific programs I have maybe ever seen. And in case you've forgotten - THIS WAS AIRED ON TELEVISION. The zombies don't just wander around yelling, they want to eat brains and intestines...and they want to eat them now. When they fail, it's usually because someone is bludgeoning them to re-death IN THE HEAD - REPEATEDLY - until they die again. And you'll see it happen right before your very eyes. I'm talking skull bits and all, people.



#3 - America Loves Zombies, Too

8 minutes into Dead Set, all I could think about was how much I wanted this concept to be re-made for US audiences. Obviously it could never be aired on network TV here, but it would find a perfect, nurturing home at Showtime. After all, they own the rights to Big Brother stateside already. Personally I would cut the length from 3 hours to 2 - and remove some of the "B" plots that drag a tad - but by doing so, this could be an excellent miniseries. Plus, I would do almost anything to see Undead Julie Chen. "But first...I must devour your small intestine!"



In the end, Dead Set definitely gets my seal of approval. One of my favorite parts was watching the House Guests react to Kelly bursting into the "house", bloody, yelling about zombies. Naturally they don't believe her. Why would they? Why should they? It would take a lot for the brain to process that kind of situation...and that's for regular folks. Of course it would take a bit longer for the soft-headed reality TV set to come to grips.


Come on, Showtime/CBS! Big Brother hasn't exactly been killing in the ratings the last few go-rounds, and you need something to breathe new life (pardon the pun) into the reality series. When in doubt...zombies!

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