By Dave B.
What do you get when you combine the reality TV show Big Brother with the zombie apocalypse? Answer: Dead Set (2008, currently on Netflix), a five-part miniseries that happens to be the best zombie-related TV show that I’ve ever seen. Set in the United Kingdom on Big Brother’s eviction night, where huge crowds have come to greet the housemate who has most recently booted from the show, our heroine Kelly, is in the process of again cheating on her boyfriend of four years, Riq, when the zombie apocalypse break out. She eventually finds relative safety in the enclosed, but monitored “house” where the Big Brother contestants have been staying for months in complete isolation from the outside world. Meanwhile Riq, who is miles away from the studio, sets out on a journey through a decimated England to find and rescue his beloved Kelly.
The most surprising element of Dead Set is that it has well-crafted thrills. Although it does contain some scares of the “jump out at you unexpectedly” variety, it mostly relies upon building a sense of dread and inevitable doom in every scene. Watching a character work up the courage to crack open a door or round a corner with only barely adequate, improvised weaponry feels real, and makes it easy for viewers to imagine themselves in that position. There aren’t any superheroes. There are just weak and flawed people trying to survive for another minute in a situation that they can barely wrap their minds around. The acting is generally good, but short of great. Dead Set’s overall sense of foreboding is leavened by some surprisingly funny moments, but this show isn’t a comedy. It’s social commentary and layered messaging at its finest, which is what zombie entertainment is supposed to be.
Depending upon your personal inclination, you can derive a lot of different messages from Dead Set. It’s opinions on reality television viewers and mass media in general are pretty clear. But the show also has a lot to say about love, group dynamics, decision-making, and a plethora of other topics. That’s a lot to fit into five episodes, with a total runtime of less than 2.5 hours (about 23 minutes per episode, except for the first one which is 45 minutes). In fact, that’s my major problem with the miniseries. It’s far too short. It has significant character development and the ending doesn’t feel rushed at all, but I wanted to see that universe for a bit longer.
I really enjoyed watching Dead Set. It’s a nice change of pace from the unrelenting melodrama and action hero tendencies of The Walking Dead. It also doesn’t waste any time (also unlike The Walking Dead) because it couldn’t. If you’re a fan of horror, zombies, apocalypses, and/or British TV, I highly recommend that you check out this show.
I have no clue what I'm doing, but I'll keep doing whatever it is to the best of my ability.