While The Good Wife, a flagship series that ran for 7 seasons on CBS-TV, has passed into history (the series ended on May 8th), the creators of that show, Robert & Michelle King, without missing a beat, have launched a brand new series, called BrainDead which premiered last night (June 13th).
The main question I have now is this – will continued viewing of this show render me into some sort of mushy-brained, incoherent, babbling and drooling blogger.
BrainDead’s story can be summed up rather quickly. The setting is Washington DC, and a good part of the show is set in the building where the US Senators have their offices. It may be The Russell Senate Office Building, a Washington DC landmark, or it may not be. But within these corridors of power, running in the hallways is not permitted, and even walking fast is looked down on.
We learn this as we are focused on the winsome Mary Elizabeth Winstead who plays Laurel Healy. She’s an early 30-something documentary film maker, and she’s in need of funding for her project about Melanesian Choral Singers. Her brother Luke Healy is played by Danny Pino, and he is a Senator.
If Laurel will go to work for her senator brother for six months, her Dad, Dean Healy (played by Good Wife alum Zach Grenier) a rich something or other, will pay off her college loan debt which currently amounts to being in the neighborhood of 200K. In short she has no choice.
Her first day on the job begins at once, and you may be shocked to learn that the Senator’s offices are anything but luxe. All the money that the Kings and the their producers put into sets and office furnishings on The Good Wife is nowhere to be seen in this production.
But that may be the point. After all this is public service. Laurel is assigned the job of CRA – that stands for Constituent Relations Administrator, and her job is to listen to, then work on and, hopefully fix the issues or problems of Senator Healy’s constituents.
There’s no manual or training course for this job. You listen and you learn as you go. Of course, the needy constituents that line the chairs in the waiting room are a motley crew. Except for one woman who says – My husband, he was away at sea, but now that he’s back, he’s not the same. He’s my husband but he’s not my husband.
Mmmm, that sounds strange.
But it is only the beginning. Still to come are Aaron Tveit (Graceland and before that Les Miserables) as Gareth Ritter, a somewhat shady political consultant/bagman/fixer, Tony Shalhoub (Monk) as US Senator Red Wheatus, plus Megan Hilty (Smash).
What I haven’t told you yet, that besides the setting the dramatic elements in our nation’s capital, there are strong elements of sci-fi, horror, thriller, and comedy.
As for the comedy it is more towards parody and black humor than laugh-out-loud funny. The Senators are fairly straightforward; that is, until, they, and others, like a Smithsonian Institute doctor, are overtaken by an army of alien warrior ants that have an insidious ability to invade your body (via the ear canal) replace part of your brain, and then exert brain control over you which clearly leads to a substantial personality change.
Don’t be at all surprised if this makes you think of classic films like The Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Stepford Wives, Alien, and almost every film about politicians that you’ve ever seen except for Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and The West Wing.
Now the Kings have won many awards for The Good Wife, but this seems like new territory for them. And I have my doubts about it. The element of humor won’t produce laugh-out loud moments. The lead actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead may not be able to keep an audience involved. Aaron Tveit was certainly effective in Graceland, but he may not be taken serious as a possible villain.
Of course he may not even be a true villain. That job would fall upon the ants, but they’re small, and as skilled and dangerous as they may be, they do their work inside skulls, not out in the open, and what’s more – so far they have no spokesperson, or for that matter anything to say.
The one sure thing they seem to have is an intense dislike of alcohol which has been known to cloud judgement, impair your motor and speech skills, as well as your physical capabilities like standing up, or walking in a straight line. So everyone who falls under the influence or control of these alien ants, immediately separates themselves from the intake of alcohol.
But we can count on a few things – it is business as usual on the banks of the Potomac. Deals are offered and made, or almost made, or not made. Mr Donald Trump makes a few cameo appearances on TV monitors. I guess this is to establish that the series is taking place in the present day. And or politics is a wacky place.
The writing is less than crisp, and the King’s and the pilot resorts to having at least three or four different characters recite the exact same lines. This of course is to establish that these columns of ants have some skills but they aren’t really all that deep. Laurel Healy picked up on the fact of the repetitive statements almost immediately, as will you.
Then there’s the repetitive music which just so happens to be You Might Think, a song recorded by The Cars back in the 80’s.
You might think it’s foolish
this chancey rendezvous
you might think i’m crazy
but all I want is you….
i’m still trying to work out for myself a reasonable explanation about that…
Maybe the Kings want us to consider that they think, the political climate of Washington these days is mindless, crazy, and decidedly off-kilter. Only they choose to not state that directly. Rather they’ve chosen to have their political agenda wrapped up inside a comedic, horror, sci-fi thriller.
We will all have to wait and see. This series first episode had the unwieldy title – “The Insanity Principle: How Extremism in Politics is Threatening Democracy in the 21st Century”. How about this for an explanation – The Government has shut down due to budgetary constraints, and alien insects are eating the brains of some important people on Capitol Hill.
Does that make more sense? Does the series make sense? We’ll just have to wait and see. Episode Two, called – “Playing Politics: Living Life in the Shadow of the Budget Showdown – A Critique”, airs next Monday, June 20th.
While you wait, have a look at the trailer –