Logline: An eager young Hill staffer starting her first job in Washington who discovers the federal government has stopped working – because alien spawn have eaten the brains of Congressmen and other Hill staffers.
Cast: Danny Pino, Aaron Tveit, Tony Shalhoub
Creators: Robert King (Writer / EP), Michelle King (Writer / EP), Ridley Scott (EP), David Zucker (EP), Liz Glotzer (EP)
Studios: CBS TV Studios, Scott Free Productions, King Size
CBS’s second straight-to-series summer pilot. This one’s about Laurel, a struggling young documentary filmmaker, who gets suckered into working for her influential political family, more particularly her senator brother. All while brain-eating parasites from outer space creep into Washington, D.C. unnoticed (I hope I got that right). Via Russia, of course.
So CBS has two political family dramas on its summer slate, both with high concept hooks to elevate them. Unlike American Gothic, BrainDead spends a lot of screen time on the political plot line, which simply isn’t as interesting as the sci-fi bit. That said, it’s an entertaining ride. I’m not sure we know enough about Laurel, the protagonist, to really root for her.
But then again, we’ve got Mary Elizabeth Winstead, which might be a casting decision with a solid payoff. She’s having a great year, and is more than capable of bringing Laurel dimensions she might lack on the page. 10 Cloverfield Lane is a critical and commercial success, and she’s hot off a renewal for PBS’s Mercy Street.
BrainDead bows on June 13, and I’m mighty curious to see how this is going to be received. The closest comp is The Strain, which was originally pitched to Fox but landed years later on FX. Is CBS trying to take a leaf out of the book Fox hadn’t read back in 2006? But on the flip side, The Strain’s second season drew consistently low ratings when compared with the first, which might be in the book that Fox read but CBS didn’t.
At any rate, The Strain was renewed for a third season, so maybe these brain-eating parasites will have some legs too. Viewers have another horror drama to look forward to this summer. With its lighter tone and potentially broader demo appeal, will BrainDead be a ratings winner? We’ll know soon enough.