a review by Jon Swabey
Creator: Charlie Brooker
Distributor: SBS DVD & Madman
RRP: $29.95. Worth every cent.
Dead Set was, to the best of my knowledge, the first Zombie Apocalypse television series. It first screened on Channel 4’s E4 in the UK in 2008, and was shown on SBS here in Australia in 2009. If you missed it, and are currently enjoying The Walking Dead, you’ve got a real treat awaiting you.
The show follows the fortunes of Kelly, a runner (production assistant) on the famous television programme Big Brother (this is the UK version of the show, incidentally), and her charges: the people trapped in the goldfish bowl of the household when the Dead Tide strikes. Of course, trapped behind their walls, the residents of the Big Brother household remain blissfully unaware of the hungry eyes watching them through the one-way glass…
Charlie Brooker is the mind and motivating force behind this 5-parter. Brooker is best-known for his “Wipe” commentary series in the UK: Screenwipe, Gameswipe and Newswipe, which take beautifully acerbic hits at elements of popular culture. I highly recommend his work; having once spent several days watching Screenwipe parts on Youtube. He has a fine eye for the elements of media which most catch our attention, and a black humour almost unmatched in television today.
He’s also a Zombie fan, well-versed in the history of the genre, and there are many shoutouts and homages to Dead Set’s predecessors: just part of the charm of this series. The budget for this production was apparently very tight, and very small, and this is one of the elements which is explored in the generous set of extras on this DVD, as well an extensive set of interviews with some of the key production personnel (including Brooker).
The series also features appearances by some of the famous Big Brother personalities: both former residents, and hosts, and there’s much here which will also appeal to aficionados of the UK series, from the wonderful scenes of a certain famous host zombied up and hunting (and there’s a whole chapter on metaphor there), through to the extensive design and construction work which went into making the sets so beautifully verisimillatudinous (please don’t hate me for using that word).
Dead Set is available wherever SBS DVD is sold (ISBN: 9322225078222), and retails for $29.95. Worth every cent.
This review was previously published in Dark Matter issue 2, January 2011, and predated on this website to reflect the original publication date.