Created by Robert and Michelle King (the same team behind The Good Wife), BrainDead uses its sci-fi premise to poke fun at – or perhaps rationalise – some of the nonsensical things politicians do and say in real life.
In one of the funniest scenes on the show (and there are many), a senator tells his colleagues on Capitol Hill: “I’m not a scientist… So, I can’t tell you 100% whether global warming is real, but doggy woggy. There is doggy woggy. Why can’t I have a doggy woggy? What I mean is, there are those who believe global warming is a conspiracy put forth by the Chinese. You tell me.”
We LOL at the scene not only because it is ridiculous, but because it sounds familiar. In 2012, Trump tweeted this: “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”
Sure, let’s blame the space bugs. Why not?
As the premise of the series puts it, if these politicians were actually functioning with only half a brain (the bugs attack one side of the organ and then occupy the vacated space), then it would explain why their victims are the way they are.
This very idea – that the world may be led by powerful people with just half a brain – is reinforced by the fact that a show as entertaining and on point as BrainDead could not make the cut for a second season. TVline.com reported that the Kings’ plan was to take the story from Capitol Hill to Wall Street, then Silicon Valley and finally Hollywood. Oh well.
BrainDead begins with Laurel Healy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) returning to her hometown in Washington, DC where her family is a Democratic political dynasty. Unlike everyone else in her family, she wanted a career in filmmaking.
She’s in the midst of her next documentary, but is low on funds to complete it. So her father suggests that Laurel go to work for her brother, a Democratic senator, on the Hill for a year or at least until she gets her money.
While Laurel does have a natural affinity for politics, she doesn’t understand why the Government has pretty much stopped working. She also can’t figure out why some of the Hill staffers and members of Congress listen to The Cars’ You Might Think (I’m Crazy) on a loop and drink vegetable juice, like all the time. She soon learns the reason: Tiny bugs have made homes in their skulls. Oops.
Luckily, Laurel has allies: Gareth (Aaron Tveit), an attractive legislative director to Republican Senator Red Wheatus (Tony Shalhoub); Gustav (Johnny Ray Gill), a paranoid and eccentric chap who’s not a doctor but reads a lot; and Rochelle (Nikki M. James). a medical student who gets mixed up in all this when her father’s head explodes thanks to the invading bugs.
Oh, the show has a couple of scenes of exploding heads, which happens to some unfortunate human host now and then. Now, exploding heads are not funny, but it’s pretty hilarious here because it’s done in that Ash Vs Evil Dead vein.
It is the out-of-this-world humour that makes BrainDead a clever and fun show. Who knew politics could be so entertaining when done right? The show highlights actions that governments tend to deny – you know, like getting a patsy to take the fall for a scandal or violating basic human rights in the name of pursuing the truth. You know, things like that.
On a much lighter note, the show has come up with a creative way of presenting the “previously on” segment at the start of each episode – with entertaining recap songs composed and sung by Jonathan Coulton.
It also gives its characters enough room to grow while constantly moving the story forward. For example, we are just as interested in Laurel’s budding romance with Gareth as we are in finding out the aliens’ end game.
The cast is fantastic, especially Winstead, who is adept at handling all the different emotions her character experiences. The actress also gets a wonderful wardrobe here – mostly comprising black-and-white ensembles – allowing her to give Laurel even more presence.
Character-wise, the show belongs to Gustav, who provides the scientific explanations for the goings-on. He does this with so much energy and just the right touch of mania that we wait with bated breath to see what illogical reasoning he comes up with next – yet it still makes perfect sense.
In the end, what BrainDead proves is that there is nothing else to do but laugh at some of the crazy things happening in the world. Welcome, 2017.
BrainDead airs every Tuesday at 10pm on AXN (Astro Ch 701/HD Ch 721).