Whether The Good Wife leaves the air next May or stays at least one more year remains a mystery, as CBS has not decided on its fate yet (or so they say). In my opinion, they should wrap it up before it gets too embarrasing. A show that once was so brilliant can’t keep on offering such meh episodes (and such bad ratings). It’s just not acceptable. Creators Robert & Michelle King are already looking ahead while working on their next projects: there’s the ambitious Vatican City for Amazon, about the first female Papal spokesperson, which sounds exciting and new, and there’s Braindead, ordered to series for a summer run, described as a horror dramedy, which sounds a bit weird, especially on CBS but summer is this time of the year when the network allows itself to be real dumb and plain boring, as Under The Dome & Zoo proved to be (Extant was “just” boring and nothing else much). Braindead isn’t dumb and boring on the page. But is it any good? After scratching my head til it bleeds a little, here’s what I can say about the King’s next move.
Braindead is as funny as the Kings can be in The Good Wife sometimes, and it certainly doesn’t take itself too seriously, which is a good thing since we already have that kind of “why so serious?” zombie show. It’s called The Walking Dead and everybody saw at least a glimpse of it. There are even a few fans out there, I’ve been told. The tone of the show is much more looking towards Ash Vs. Evil Dead but it wouldn’t be fair to compare it to anything else on TV right now. Braindead is its own thing, familiar in a way but different. Highly entertaining but with substance – and not only raw meat. Laurel, our heroin, has a good sense of humor and it makes her instantly engaging. It certainly is a meaty role for Mary-Elizabeth Winstead, who deserves it. Laurel is not as cold as Alicia Florrick can look at first sight. She’s fresh, cheerful, a bit of a nerd. She’s described by the writers as “eclectic and lively“. Not sure what they mean, but yeah she’s all of that and probably much more as we get to know her.
The characters that surround her are for the most part politicians, whether they’re from her family or working against her family, and they already show their real faces behind the mask. That’s where it’s a good thing the show is written by the Kings and not some random writer. They know what they’re talking about. They know political strategies. They proved it on The Good Wife multiple times. It’s not a zombie show that happens to be set at Washington DC. It’s both a zombie and a political show, and both aspects are treated with the same care. You got the thrills and the violence of The Walking Dead, or let’s say The Strain; and also the excitement of a smart TV show like The Good Wife that doesn’t take you for a dummy. Juggling with both is much more difficult than it seems and they do it very smoothly. I’d like to add The Good Wife fans won’t be lost: they’ll have a good amount of walk and talk scenes, dialogues on the phones and the pilot starts the same way as a lot of the legal series’ episodes do, by showing an internet video, here it’s car crash in Russia directly followed by the fall of a meteorite.
When it comes to raising the stakes and giving us a good idea of what the show will look like on a weekly basis, the Kings kind of fail. They made a choice: not showing all their cards in the pilot. They don’t use flashbacks or flashfowards or any other writing tricks. I respect that. Totally. That’s the way most of cable shows work. And they treated Braindead as such. For a network, even during summertime, it’s dangerous but courageous. Hope they’ll be rewarded for it. And I also hope they have a plan but you can’t seriously throw yourself into that kind of story without a plan!
Something really good can come out of that pilot script and that idea of a television show, but Braindead isn’t there yet. For now, it’s total exposure. Getting to know the characters, understanding the political situation -which is never that easy- and attending the first few days of the epidemy. Will it become a survival show at some point? We don’t know, but we sure hope so. There’s exciting stuff ahead and there’s exciting stuff right now. We just have to accept Braindead isn’t a flashy show that makes your head spinning from the get go and leaves you breathless after an hour. It’s a more traditional writing but a very good one thrown into a mix of genres that makes it everything but traditional. It won’t make your brain hurts… yet.
NEXT REVIEW: AMERICAN GOTHIC (CBS)