Bugs in the sys­tem

SFX - - Viewscreen -

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

Lau­rel: hardy.

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