As I’ve said before, summertime can often be a desolate landscape when it comes to good, new TV. Now this isn’t exactly the case with cable (see “UnREAL” and “Mr. Robot“), but for the major networks like NBC, ABC and CBS, the summer is often a time to quietly burn off a series that maybe didn’t live up to the promise of its pilot. I can’t quite tell if that’s what CBS is trying to do with “BrainDead,” a new series from the creators of “The Good Wife,” but if they are they’re making a serious mistake. Because, you guys, “BrainDead” is actually really great. In fact, it might be one of the best new shows to come out of CBS in a loooong time.
The best thing “BrainDead” has going for it (although there are many good things to say about “BrainDead”) is its very unique premise. Set in Washington, D.C., the show is part-political satire, part-alien invasion horror comedy. Like I said, very unique. It follows Laurel Healy (played by the always great Mary Elizabeth Winstead), an aspiring documentary filmmaker who returns to her politics-focused family in D.C. in the hopes of getting some financial assistance from her father for her next film. He offers her $10,000, but says that she must work in her Democrat Senator brother’s (played by Danny Pino) office for six months first. She accepts the offer and is pulled into the constantly-gridlocked world of D.C. politics, where certain people are starting to act quite…strange. The reason? Alien bugs have crawled into their heads and eaten parts of their brains, turning them into the most extreme versions of themselves. It’s certainly not your typical show, but that’s what makes it so great and so worth keeping around in a time when CBS is allowing Kevin James to basically just reboot “King of Queens” with a different name.
“BrainDead” cleverly addresses and skewers the extremism that can often be found in modern politics with its “alien bugs” premise and based on the way current election news reads, it honestly wouldn’t be too surprising to find out that some extraterrestrial source was the cause of much of the tension and absurdity that seems to be ever-present. The show also has many other clever elements, including the always catchy and charming musical “previously on” recaps that start every new episode. Winstead is an excellent audience proxy, deftly leading us through the insanity of her world, and she’s surrounded by an equally great supporting cast, including Pino, Johnny Ray Gill as a conspiracy theorist that Laurel teams up with to take down the bugs and Tony Shalhoub as an extremely right-wing Senator whose brain may or may not be bugged out. There’s also a whole host of wonderful Broadway stars in the cast, like Aaron Tveit as Shalhoub’s Senator’s aide and Tony-winner Nikki M. James as a doctor who joins the bug-fighting squad. Megan Hilty and Beth Malone even appear occasionally as competing cable news anchors.
To break it all down into the most basic of terms, “BrainDead” is a really interesting and enjoyable show that I’m afraid is at risk of cancellation. CBS already moved it from Monday nights (where it competed against “UnREAL”) to Sunday nights in “The Good Wife’s” old slot. Normally this wouldn’t be super-concerning except this is the summertime when no one (but me, obviously) is watching live TV on a Sunday night. So please, I beg you, check out the six previously aired episodes of “BrainDead” online so you can be all ready to go when the latest episode airs next week. I clearly don’t think you’ll regret it. And hey, maybe if we all work together it won’t get cancelled! Or, at least, when the aliens come to get us all because it did get cancelled, you can say that you watched it and they might spare your life. It’s definitely something to consider.
Have you already watched “BrainDead”? Have any other summer shows you love that might be on the brink of cancellation? Think that aliens have already landed on earth so it’s too late to do anything anyway? Share your own conspiracy theories in the comments. And, before you go binge-watch “BrainDead” (seriously, do it), remember…
P.S. Also, go see “Hunt for the Wilderpeople“! I saw it last night and it’s really lovely!