Bugs in the system
UK Broadcast Amazon, finished US Broadcast CBS, finished Episodes Reviewed 1.01-1.13
American politics has become increasingly polarised of late, with Bernie Bros and the Alt Right hurling accusations of fascism or communism across the political divide, usually with CAPS LOCK ON AND MULTIPLE EXCLAMS!!! A full explanation for this would probably encompass the impact of globalisation, the growth of social media and changing demographics. But BrainDead has a simpler answer: alien bugs are eating people’s brains.
Scott Pilgrim’s Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays Laurel Healy, a liberal documentarian who goes to work for her brother Luke, a Democratic Senator. Soon she discovers that insects from a meteor are taking over Capitol Hill – marching, like lines of ants, into people’s ears as they sleep, and scheming to keep humanity divided.
It’s an irresistible premise, and one which creators Michelle and Robert King use to mix a winningly strange brew: part political satire, part Invasion Of The Body Snatchers and part gory horror-comedy, with elements of sweet romance and goofy slapstick stirred in too.
Winstead is charming in the central role, but the show is stolen by Tony Shalhoub as Senator Red Wheatus, a gimlet-eyed, bugcontrolled Republican with a penchant for Trumpian one-liners like, “I could go out on Fifth Avenue with a flamethrower and they’d still kiss my feet!”
The establishing episodes are hugely entertaining, though the season’s later stages do find the series rather treading water; after one too many committees and hearings, you may find yourself wishing they’d focus on the central issue. It also must be said that as a political satire, BrainDead can’t match the rapier wit of, say, Veep. But then, does Veep have exploding heads? No.
The show’s most memorable innovation comes in an unexpected quarter: the “previously on” montages, which recap the preceding episode through the medium of an original song! It’s a quirky little touch emblematic of a show which may not rock your world – or change the way you vote – but which remains immensely likeable. Ian Berriman