Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Review of BrainDead

A lot of the creative talent for movies has gone into television in recent years, so I’ll start a new category of reviews: TV series. (If I ever get Wi-Fi, I’ll have to change the name.)

So a delightful new show is BrainDead, starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Tony Shalhoub. This was my favorite premier since the Battlestar Galactica mini-series in 2003. Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays Laurel Healey, a new congressional aide who has to learn fast the cynical ways of politics in the employ of her brother, Senator Healy. With an offer from Gareth (Aaron Tveit), an aide from the other side of the aisle, she has to run through Washington, D.C. to try to prevent a government shutdown.



She doesn’t succeed, because her side wants the government to shut down so they can blame the other side. A lot of whimsy that feels authentic goes into this, and the political humor is at the forefront, so the alien takeover of some people’s minds is more on the back burner.

Yes, a multitude of aliens in the form of tiny bugs are in town. They go into the human ear, like what happened to poor Chekhov in Star Trek II, and the people become strangely creepy, like in Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

The funny thing is, Luke’s boss Senator Wheatus (Tony Shalhoub) becomes more efficient at cutthroat politics. He goes from a drunk who longs for a masseuse to being a glad-handing dealmaker who upturns Washington. This is bad for Gareth, since it makes Laurel think he’s a backstabber.

What Senator Wheatus done is normal, but you should see the evil look that Tony Shalhoub puts on his face as he does the scene. If you’ve never seen evil Tony Shalhoub before, you’re in for a treat.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead is the center of the show, and her face is fascinating to watch, whether she’s showing anxiety, bewilderment, concern, or whatever she’s feeling towards Luke.

BrainDead is on CBS on Monday nights at 10:00 pm. (Or you can figure out some way to catch up online.) The creators are Michelle King and Robert King, and the executive producer is Ridley Scott. Yes, the Ridley Scott of Alien.

As delightful as this premier was, there were some political mistakes. If political details make your eyes glaze over, of if you don’t like spoilers, do not press the Read More button.

Laurel and her brother Senator Healy are Democrats, so most of the politics is from their viewpoint. But they fairly state that both sides were responsible for the shutdown, and they allow Gareth to get a few wisecracks in, though not as many as Laurel.

The main problem is the show is supposed to be happening now, with a couple videos of a pesky meteor landing date-stamped with June of 2016. They even constantly show bits of campaign speeches by Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton on ever-present telescreens.

But they state that Democrats have the majority in the Senate. This is not true. The Republicans have the majority. They have Senator Wheatus flip it to the Republican side by having a Democrat switch parties, but that would not be necessary. And the Republicans have enough of a majority that one senator changing parties would not flip things.

The main tension in this premier episode is the need for the Senate to pass a budget and thereby prevent a government shutdown. But the two are not related in real life. The Senate failed to pass a budget for years recently, and the government did not shut down.

Also, when the federal government “shuts down,” the majority of the workers stay on their jobs. The ones who are furloughed are the non-essential workers.

In one scene, Laurel goes on a Navy ship and wants the manifest. It is doubtful a low-level congressional aide could see a manifest on demand.

Gareth says, “People are going hungry over this. People can’t pay their rent.” After the workers were furloughed for one day? Didn’t they put any savings away?


So why did I like this series premier if I thought these mistakes were so obvious? It’s like enjoying a science fiction move or series, even though they show sound in space. (No, the vacuum of space does not carry sound, as my previous post indicated.) 

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