Reality most definitely bites.
Every time I watch Dead Set (which has become an annual ritual since it premiered in 2008 in the UK), I can’t help but notice how much the show nails the reality show craze, all the way down to the stereotypes picked to be on said shows, especially Big Brother. Showmance? Check. Fame-whores? Check. Drama hungry audience? Double check, except the audience this time around is literally hungry to get a piece of the second-rate stars of their favorite show.
It’s Eviction Night on Big Brother (UK) and one of the three nominees up for eviction (Pippa, Marky, and Grayson) are about to leave and face the crowd. Pippa is the unlucky (lucky?) person to leave the house, but her Eviction Night has a damper put on it when a zombie outbreak hits, feeding on most of the crowd and turning the others into recruits of the undead. Davina McCall didn’t even get to close out the show properly before getting her throat ripped out. Well, that’s live TV for you.
When the outbreak hits, the remaining housemates (Veronica, Marky, Grayson, Angel, and Joplin) don’t have a clue that the dozens of fans who were just cheering them on are now clamoring to literally rip their guts out, heedless to the chaos that is taking place right behind the entrance to their idealistic bubble of idiotic solitude. They are very popular now, indeed.
The zombie attack was one of the best I have ever seen in a zombie property. There is no room to take a breath and consider all the carnage that’s done. New viewers still don’t know the extent of their surroundings, but with the Big Brother UK house being set in the middle of nowhere, the situation is more critical than you may think.
The first hour ends with Patrick, the neanderthal producer, being chased into a production room by a zombified Davina McCall! Unfortunately for him (but fortunately for us), Patrick finds the last person he wants to see alive there: newly evicted Pippa. Meanwhile, Kelly takes out her zombified fling with some scissors and makes her way into the actual Big Brother house, which now includes Veronica, Angel, Marky, Grayson, and Space. Marky, being a complete idiot, toys with Kelly and her warnings of danger by opening the door to the production booth, inadvertently letting in a zombie, who immediately takes a bite out of one of the houseguests before Kelly bashes its head in.
‘You got to get them in the head…” Kelly proclaims, giving us the final line of the night, which can be seen as a multi-leveled metaphor in more ways than one. I will explain at the end of the week.
In the USA, Big Brother is not the phenomenon it is (‘was’ considering the UK aired its final season of the show this past summer) in the UK, where Eviction Night is a huge party and people show up to either cheer or jeer the latest evictee. Big Brother UK, unlike the US incarnation, showcases fame-whoring at it’s finest with people doing the most insane stunts to get on the show, forgetting that the audition process was over once they made it in the house. Big Brother USA can never match the popularity of its UK counterpart, which is why the concept of Dead Set makes sense in the UK; the craziness there is at it’s peak and the true prize is fame, not money.
Charlie Brooker (Screenwipe) knew what he was doing and who he was gunning for when he wrote this series, and he took his targets out in one shot. Marky and Veronica’s ‘showmance’ was sickly apparent with both participants in the relationship wearing pink. Then you have the stereotypical minority ‘showmance/friendship’ where Grayson (a gay man) pairs up with a cranky female, in this case a black woman named Angel, to complain ad nauseum about the other housemates. The contestants are basically vapid and slightly irritating, but in this case, that’s the point. The actors give them some sort of depth to the point where you know who you want to die and who you want to live or who you want to see undead. And this is just the first episode.
When producers cast these shows, especially something like Big Brother or Survivor, they aim to create controversy. So they select the people with the loosest screws and who are the most delusional, put them in a room and press “Blend.” Presto! Instant insanity. With Dead Set, you have Kelly, who unfortunately has to not only be the most sane one in the entire group, but lead this the herd and get them understand their fifteen minutes of fame are up. Personally, with those options, I would’ve just made a run for it. Wouldn’t you?
Plus, can I just say Zombie Davina McCall? Seriously, she takes that role and runs with it. Literally. Could we even get Julie Chen to do something like this? No. I seriously can’t picture that ever happening. Even if it did happen, Chenbot attempting to play a zombie is just horrifying in itself. Ghastly, even.
Dead Set works on so many levels that I can’t reveal just how much without spoiling the rest of the week for you. I promise you will not be disappointed.