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CBS's Political Zombie Drama 'BrainDead' Reviewed, Briefly

By Dustin Rowles | TV | June 16, 2016 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | June 16, 2016 |

CBS’s new horror-drama-comedy BrainDead — from Robert and Michelle King, the showrunners behind The Good Wife — is meant to satirize Washington politics. Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays Laurel Healy, a documentary filmmaker turned legislative aid to her brother, Luke Healy (Danny Pino), an ambitious Senator who is also banging his assistant behind his wife’s back.

The pilot episode suggests that the series will be a fairly straightforward show that cynically examines the behind-the-scenes maneuvers that get politicians elected and allow them to stay in office. There is, however, a twist: A meteor full of alien bugs has landed on Earth, and those alien bugs are inhabiting and taking over the minds of Washington politicians.

It’s a metaphor, you see? Because politicians are braindead. Ha! The alien-possessed humans also offer a few moments of comedy, and it gives the show a series-long opportunity to explore the alien invasion, the fall-out, the conspiracies, and the political cover-up. Tony Shalhoub is also onboard as one of the zombie-like Senators, while Aaron Tveit plays his chief of staff and the potential love interest to Winstead’s Healy.

I don’t want to judge the entire series based on the premiere, but the pilot is not the kind of episode that immediately grabs viewers. BrainDead feels more like the kind of drama that we watch for a few episodes, based on the talent involved in the hopes that it eventually gets better, more interesting, and more biting, because the satire here feels very 2014. It’s difficult to skewer D.C. politics in the wake of Donald Trump (although, Veep continues to effectively do so), and BrainDead feels decidedly bland compared to real-world politics.

Winstead — and to a lesser degree, Shalhoub and Tveit — are enough to ensure that I’ll watch a few more episodes to see if it improves, but BrainDead, so far, doesn’t pass for much more than light summer fare with the potential to be modestly entertaining.

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.