Review: Dead Set- Please, somebody give this guy the money to make a feature film!
DEAD SET, E4, Monday 27th October, 10pm Alert me
Charlie Brooker is known to most people as the misanthrope’s TV critic of choice, angrily lampooning the 24-hour sludge produced by most TV channels for the Guardian. What fewer people know is that he has also been integrally involved with some of the best that British TV has had to offer over the past decade, from Brass Eye’s ‘Paedogeddon’ masterpiece and the tragically overlooked Nathan Barley, to his very own show, Screen Wipe.
Dead Set is his first proper crack at the mainstream and boy does he make use of it. The gist is that Zombies with a blatant disregard for Channel 4 scheduling have taken over the country during a series of Big Brother. The only people unaware of the situation, therefore, are the BB contestants. This establishes the classic zombie siege, with the undead attempting to find a way in and the survivors simply trying to remain alive.
In this post censorship age, where the Exorcist has paled in comparison to Supernanny and you can get your bloodlust satiated 24 hours a day on ‘BBC Carnage’ (not quite yet, but trust me, it’ll happen), it can be hard to do this kind of high-splatter horror without teetering over the edge into parody, ‘Shaun of the Dead’ style. Dead Set however, achieves this feat impressively, creating a real sense of tension, observing the fundamentals of the genre, the siege and violence (be warned, there’s more blood and guts than a Victorian abattoir) whilst ignoring its more tedious sides. It makes no attempt to explain where the Zombies came from, at least not in the first ep, largely because it’s unnecessary to our pleasure.
The Big Brother element, which has a definite risk of coming off a little gimmicky, actually works beautifully, making this not simply a British attempt to emulate American Zombie movies, but a quintessentially British, Zombie flick. The sight of Davina McCall frantically attempting to chew a producer’s throat out gave me a tingle of giddy delight that I fear is unlikely to be matched by anything else I’ll ever see on TV.
Davina notwithstanding, anybody expecting belly laughs may be disappointed, but that isn’t really the point. This is straight up horror of the best kind – tense and bloody. Dead Set is a brilliant piece of populist television which should, in a just universe, serve as a long overdue coming out party for one of Britain’s finest writing talents. Please, somebody give this guy the money to make a feature film! He may be our only hope.
By Matt Thomas