With the final The Good Wife slap starting to fade, Michelle and Robert King, the duo behind the acclaimed drama, returned to TV this week with their new series BrainDead.
Trading office politics for the real thing, the drama follows Laurel Healy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a documentary filmmaker-turned-congressional aide who returns to D.C. to help her brother, Senator Luke Healy (Danny Pino). But a funny thing happens on the way to a government shutdown: alien ants start eating the brains of D.C. politicians.
The show is part-comedy, part-thriller, and BrainDead struggled a bit in finding the right tone in the premiere. But still, there’s a lot to love about this new summer series. Here are our four favorite things about the BrainDead premiere:
Given the current political climate and the outrageous things being said, bugs eating politicians’ brains would explain A LOT. The deal for this series was announced last July, a little over a month after Donald Trump officially announced his Presidential candidacy. Now with Trump the presumptive Republican nominee, his soundbites (along with Hillary Clinton’s and Bernie Sander’s) acted as a very special guest star in the pilot. This splicing of the real world with this fictional one will be tricky. If Clinton and Trump are Presidential candidates, is President Obama currently the President in the BrainDead universe? The pilot also explored the backroom deals that regularly happen in D.C., against the backdrop of bug-eating brains. Any fan of the 1962 classic The Manchurian Candidate will find the idea of those affected saying the same phrase (“Sometimes it takes your family awhile to adapt to you, and you awhile to adapt to them”) over and over, verbatim, very familiar.
Some of the classic The Good Wife touches were present—from the great use of music, to the long opening scene before the title credits, to the bizarre sight gags (chocolate dog). Plus Nikki M. James, Monica Timmons on The Good Wife and Zach Grenier, the ever-conspiring David Lee, star in the series. Megan Hilty, who guested on The Good Wife as gun expert Holly Westfall, will recur as conservative talk show host Misty Alise. Here’s hoping a lot more familiar faces drop by.
You can have a great premise for a show, but if you don’t have the right leads, the whole thing falls apart. Winstead is terrific as the quintessential fish out of water who recognizes that something isn’t right. She has an easy chemistry with Tveit, who also shines as conniving legislative director Gareth Ritter. Plus, after watching Tveit in Grease Live! earlier this year, I’m totally holding out hope that a future episode causes him to break into song.
I mean, if the show is going to have a song that is its signature ear worm, it might has well be the 1984 classic “You Might Think” by The Cars. Check out the video where Ric Ocasek constantly appears (and not in a good way) to the object of his affection—he’s in her medicine cabinet, her mirror and inside her mouth. He’s everywhere and he’s multiplying. Kind of like those alien ants.
What did you think of the BrainDead premiere? Talk about it below.
Amy Amatangelo, the TV Gal ®, is a Boston-based freelance writer, a member of the Television Critics Association and a regular contributor to Paste. She wasn’t allowed to watch much TV as a child and now her parents have to live with this as her career. You can follow her on Twitter or her blog.