With a snarl, bite and crunch, the zombies of IFC’s “Dead Set” have invaded Monday nights — and they’re not taking any prisoners. With tongue-in-cheek portrayals of stereotypical media personalities and delicious English brood, the miniseries proves it has the chops to survive an undead apocalypse.
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The show loosely follows Kelly (Jaime Winstone, “Made in Dagenham”), a worker on the set of a “Big Brother” replica. Simple, petite and a tad mousy, Kelly battles infidelity, a stressful job and now the task of uniting with the “Big Brother” cast against a cannibalistic population. But with a dark, graying setting, handy weapons and a Will Smith “I Am Legend” attitude, Kelly takes charge of the band of “Big Brother” buffoons who feign bravado in their pig-brained fictional world — while her abrasive mustachioed boss cowers in the bathroom behind a rabid and decaying paraplegic.
The zany plot of “Dead Set” actually starts off rather bland. Ultimately, it’s hard to follow. The program has trouble with cohesion as the different worlds — the zombies’, Kelly’s and the cast’s — fail to meet until halfway through the first episode. And the violence doesn’t commence until late in the night. The cameras tease and taunt with only second-long snaps of unidentifiable but presumably gruesome attacks and attempts at suspense through abrupt scene changes. When the blood does fly, the sound effects are the most repulsive … and odd. These zombies aren’t the silent type — maybe it’s just a product of their accents, but the undead lap at their victims like thirsty dogs, snorting and gurgling as flesh splinters beneath their teeth.
But when “Dead Set” is good, it’s good — mind-gnawingly, brain-munchingly good. If it’s not quoting the late greats (“Dawn of the Dead,” anyone?), it’s blasting a gory, action-packed frenzy to the vibrant and bouncy chimes of Mika’s “Grace Kelly.”
Not only does the show provide humor and song, it becomes a sympathetic ally, annihilating only the most annoying and deserving characters — a trend reality TV karma has yet to follow.
It’s the absurd yet embarrassingly real details that are most plausible. The background action provides a deeper look into the goings-on of favorite shows. Despite its scripted nature, “Dead Set” appears far more realistic than the melodramatic “reality” shows currently gracing television.
The program’s “Big Brother” house is decorated to perfection, and “Dead Set” manages to master all of the TV personalities, from the incessant crier, the shallow blonde and the “bro” to the eccentric old quack and the sparkly, flamboyant male-diva (complete with fish-net stockings and silver shorts). The show also touches on the deeper social effects by taking the oblivious isolation of the “Big Brother” house to a whole new level. Too bad the show’s world leaves no one left alive to keep watching.
Although it takes some time for the corpses to rise and the severed limbs to fly, “Dead Set” is gory fun and ultimate undead entertainment.