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Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Dead Set, E4

Did we like it?
This is an amazingly good piece of television, melding Big Brother with zombie horror in a stunning, fast, furious way.

What was good about it?
• The script by Charlie Brooker (The Guardian's misanthropic columnist) is remarkably versatile: there's drama, there's satire and there are lots and lots of ravenous zombies sinking their teeth into the innards of human beings. And Davina McCall.
• He who pays the piper is not, it seems, calling the tune: E4 allows Brooker to send up Big Brother with gleeful malice. The show's boss Patrick (Andy Nyman) has no pretentions of televising a social experiment; he's only interested in making a ratings-grabbing freakshow out of the contestants, all of whom he detests. His conscience only kicks in when he fears trouble from the regulators. "Lose 'spastic' or else Ofcom will be shitting blood for a week," he insists during the editing process.
• The panic-stricken camerawork, making the rampant zombies extra frightening.
• Davina McCall's shockingly good cameo appearance, going through the motions on the eviction show before having her throat ripped out and, thus zombified, devouring a tasty corpse.
• Jaime Winston really delivers as show runner Kelly who fights for her life, with giant scissors and a fire extinguisher, when the BB studios are inundated with their unwelcome guests. She's started to see the error of her ways in opting for a career in such shallow territory, so she deserves to live. Everyone else can perish as far as we're concerned.
• The collection of Big Brother housemates, reflecting the real things. Kevin Eldon is the mature, thinking/boring one Joplin, Kathleen McDermott is the stupid Pippa ("Do toes have bones in them?"), Chizzy Akudolu is the stroppy Angel, Warren Brown plays the dim but cute northern beefcake Mark, Beth Cordingly is petulant pouty thing Veronica, Adam Deacon is the hip drip Space and Raj Ghatak portrays the precious loud-mouthed/loud-dressed queen Grayson. Their closest real-life counterparts are Nasty Nick, Helen, Alex, Dale, Nikki, Spiral and Kamal.
• Self-important Patrick's complaint when the real world intrudes on the reality world. "Why do people riot? It's not the eighties. They've got distractions. They should stay in and watch telly."
• Brooker is never afraid of bad taste: the line "It smells of fingering in here" and the zombie in the wheelchair, for example.

What was bad about it?
• The sight of various bits of BB jetsam such as Ziggy and Makosi making a few quid from cameo appearances.
• The head crushing with a fire extinguisher will be giving us nightmares. Or ideas.

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