There’s a TV show about reality TV stars in the UK battling to survive a zombie apocalypse – and it’s called Dead Set. It aired on Channel 4 in 2008. Seven years later BBC3 have yanked the premise out of the recycle bin, presumably because zombies are all the rage these days. Here’s what internet experts thought of the first episode.
We should be clear here – the shows are in no way related other than having identical premises and one of them is ‘real’. In that way they share the same bond as TOWIE and Embarrassing Bodies.
I Survived a Zombie Apocalypse (let’s just call it ISAZA) claims to be a real show – the contestants are real people – set in a fictional post-zompocapliptic Britain. It opens, like all good zombie entertainment, with a news footage montage chronicling the fall of civilizations after some plot device infects the population. ISAZA claims that “5G Smartphones mutated human DNA” – a lame idea if you’re looking for serious entertainment, but genius if you’re on-board with the fact that this whole show is a piss-take.
Greg James cameos as the reality show’s ‘presenter’, though it’s not clear who the audience is. The obligatory pre-amble comprehensively documented the destruction of the United Kingdom, but doesn’t say if the rest of the world is fine and therefore watching us for their entertainment.
All you really need to know is that Britain is over-run by zombies, and this group of Big Brother wannabes have to survive until the army extracts them. How hard can it be?
These British zombies are more reserved than their loud American cousins in The Walking Dead. Like James May, they don’t like to run on TV – instead ambling slowly and seemingly reluctantly towards their victims. Funny as this sounds, it actually takes a lot of sting from the show’s tail – especially when juxtaposed against the rather jovial attitudes of the shows contestants. It’s understandable because they are not actors. But when combined with farily un-threatening zombies the whole thing feels a bit flat. There’s never the sense of Danger, and you’re not sure what to make of what you’re watching.
Case in point: “I’d definitely throw myself in front of a zombie – if it was for a fit bird” – Aston (a contestant)
To make up for this the show concocts an unusual rule for a zombie flick: if the zombies even touch you – you’re dead. Wow! So they’re super infectious? Well, yes, but this essentially turns the show into the worlds biggest game of tig.
Not to mention that they abandon that rule less than half-way into the episode, as we see a plan where two contestants not only drag a zombie corpse into a building, but they reach inside it to grab some entrails. Shouldn’t they be…you know – infected?
The action is interspersed with PSA broadcasts from the British government that feelinspired by the likes of Starship Troopers propaganda. They provide exposition and levity in equal measure. These PSAs urge civilians to make their way to extraction points at shopping centres, prisons, and of course off-shore oil rigs.
BBC3 is a far cry from HBO or AMC, but visually the show just about holds its own. A couple of the zombie close-ups look awkwardly cheap, but the rest of the show more than makes up for it. But with a confusing mix of ‘CCTV’ and shaky cam footage, the producers fail to identify their work as either sit-com or mockumentary.
The sequence where the characters first awkwardly meet each other is perfectly executed; you’ll forget you’re not watching Big Brother – especially with Channel 5’s low budget meaning the sets of these shows don’t look too dissimilar these days.
This is a symptom of having semi-decent actors, and acting like a simple-minded British pleb being a very easy thing for most people on this island do do anyway.
We promised that this would be a review – so here’s the bit where we get all judgemental and give you a definitive verdict to ignore. As well as our usual scoring system, here’s a list a questions we think you might have.
- Will FAI be watching more of it? Maybe.
- Is it better than Dead set? Erm, no – not really. At least that show had the rapist from Hollyoaks.
- Should I watch it? If you’re a simple-minded Brit who still actually watches things on BBC3, then yes. This show is for you.