Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Pilot Review: Braindead

Braindead (CBS)
Premiered June 13 at 9pm

A show about how alien bugs are eating the brains of members of Congress certainly stands apart from other series as creative and intriguing. That doesn’t necessarily make it a good, enticing idea, however. Opening with a title card about how, in 2016, everyone in politics seemed to be losing their minds, does make this feel highly relevant, but then you remember that, in real life, elected officials do act crazy and it’s not because bugs are chewing on or simply spitting out their brains. If this show feels and sounds a lot like “The Good Wife,” that’s because it is extremely similar and happens to also come from husband-and-wife creative team Robert and Michelle King. Their recently concluded Chicago-set law show engaged in regular parody but never reached this much of an unhinged point. There are some fun stars on this show, but I doubt they’ll put this at the top of their resume. I enjoyed Mary Elizabeth Winstead in two Sundance films from 2013, “A.C.O.D.” and “The Spectacular Now,” and she’s certainly great here, but I’d love to see her in a more solid project than this mediocre absurdist vehicle. Aaron Tveit, from the film version of “Les Miserables,” is performing at his best as political operator Gareth, but he’s also destined for much better things. It’s fun to see Tony Shalhoub in this role, and it’s no surprise that Zach Grenier, a recurring player on “The Good Wife,” was selected for his role here too. This show is moderately entertaining but nothing to write home about, and not something worthy of a second viewing in my opinion.

How will it work as a series? There aren’t many shows billed as comedy-thrillers, so this series definitely has a unique quality to it. That said, I think the first episode more than covers enough of the ridiculousness it wants to portray, and unless audiences are really laughing, there’s no reason to come back to see more of it play out.
How long will it last? I thought that this was initially supposed to just be an event series, but maybe I was wrong. The stark drop from a decent start in week one to poor numbers in week two suggests that it may only last a few episodes anyway, especially on the unforgiving CBS that I can’t imagine will fight hard for this far-out show.

Pilot grade: C-

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