Question: What is the difference between a monster and a person with an unusual dietary requirement? Answer: Timing.
Disclaimer: I don’t like zombies. Really. They’ve been done to death. And yes, this may just be that kind of “punish”ing review. Because I like this show. So far a lot, although only two episodes in it’s kind of hard to judge what kind of lurching legs it has. It may be unkillable.
The story: uptight and over-achieving young and hot surgeon, Liv Moore (who’s very name has to be a pun), gets talked into loosening up and joining a fellow doctor for a boat party. Where free samples of a new designer drug turn partakers into brain-eating zombies. Liv is scratched by one–the truly smarmy dealer himself, coincidentally–before escaping over the side of the boat. She wakes up on the beach in a body bag. Yup, you guessed it, she’s now a zombie. Apparently the rest of the new zombies were killed by fire when the party-boat burned to the water line, and all the other partiers either burned or drowned.
Of course nobody believes in zombies, so Liv isn’t promptly quarantined by the CDC. But she does quit her amazing surgeon’s position for a job at the local medical examiner’s office. Because, yes, she needs to eat brains to survive–or at least to keep from switching into full on mindless hungry Zombie Mode. Everything else she eats is now completely tasteless unless she adds a six-alarm fire side of chilli peppers, which is a pity because apparently brains don’t taste at all good; dress them up how she might, she complains endlessly about their squishy texture and metallic aftertaste.
Anyway, Liv is very depressed, practically a… okay, a zombie. She’s had to give up her career, which apparently she’s been preparing for since she was potty-trained, and her Absolutely Perfect Boyfriend fiance (she very rightly fears that zombie-ism is a communicable social disease and she isn’t about to risk doing that to him). Her family, roommate, and ex-fiance don’t understand her, she is “living” with no purpose, and death just sucks.
Then her medical examiner boss (who got tossed out of the CDC because of his obsession with man-made viruses) figures out what she is. Instead of outing her, he starts treating her as his personal science project (in a friendly way). He wants to both understand her and cure her.
And Liv finds a purpose in death: because you see, when she eats bits of someone’s brain she gets stimuli-triggered visions from their memories. She also temporarily picks up their skills and personality quirks… A series of events leads to her working with a rookie detective to solve murders (he thinks she’s a psychic, which is just so much more believable than zombies).
Liv is a zombie superhero!
To be honest, writing all this down I find the premise clever but not deep. So, why do I like it? Because the writer has gone beyond the zombie-joke aspects of the story. Liv is believable and sympathetic as Everywoman (if Everywoman was a brilliant overachiever turned into a zombie); she is a very relateable young woman who Had It All or at least a close approximation, then lost it. The human resonances are everywhere; she has a condition that makes her unemployable in her chosen field, she has a disease that makes intimate relationships risky, all carefully laid plans for the future wrecked, she is drifting and trying to find purpose. She’s practically a Woobie (see TV Trope here).
Pleasingly, the writers are avoiding stereotypes when not winking at or outright mocking them, and everything is a least one degree from normal. Did I mention the first Regular Bad Guy to appear? He’s the dealer who scratched Liv, yes he’s a zombie, and he’s making the most of his condition by infecting victims and becoming their supplier of brains. Clever.
The viewer can even count on the occasional moral lesson; in Episode 2, Liv eats part of the brain of a talented artist; she discovers her artistic and passionate side (to the point where her vocabulary changes and she’s both painting compulsively and lusting after beautiful men and women). She loves her new-found sense of passion, but also realizes that our passionate natures are inherently selfish as desire drowns reason and consideration. Plus it was fun to watch her detective partner wonder just what was happening to his morose emo psychic.
So I’m going to give this show a shot. It might have quite a long TV-live, or unlife anyway.