Some Thoughts on iZombie

dltgbigt0oyayt3nywbb

Last year, I decided that I was finally going to stop being a woman in her thirties that watched shows on the CW. My interest in The Vampire Diaries, the final show that I was watching on the network, had begun to wane and when I decided to jump ship it seemed like a good time to part ways with all things CW. I was always slightly embarrassed by my association with a network that isn’t necessarily known for much other than teen soap operas; I still stand by The Vampire Diaries as an enjoyable show, but I do have a pop culture reputation to uphold.

However, I decided to wade back into the CW waters this spring when they debuted iZombie as a midseason show; there was good critical buzz around the show and it came from a good pedigree, since the show was created by Rob Thomas – not the guy from Matchbox 20, but the man behind Veronica Mars. I actually have never watched Veronica Mars – another hit to my pop culture cred – but a lot of people whose opinions I respect really dug the show, so I figured this was my chance to redeem myself and get in on the ground floor of his new show. Though zombies are close to reaching the same saturation point that vampires reached a few years ago, I haven’t quite hit the wall yet so a show about zombies that would not be as bleak as The Walking Dead appealed to me. Since Tuesday nights are pretty open in my TV schedule – RIP Justified – I decided to take a chance and see what all the fuss about Rob Thomas was all about.

Now that I’ve watched a handful of episodes, I have to say that iZombie is a pretty fun show. It’s not necessarily appointment television, but I do look forward to new episodes every week and it’s a nice change of pace from a lot of the prestige dramas and dark comedies that I tend to consume. The show is primarily a procedural – a genre that generally that doesn’t hold much interest for me – but the writing is smart and funny, the characters are well-developed and the general premise and overarching story arc are engaging. I don’t know how this holds up to Veronica Mars or the graphic novel that iZombie is based on, but I was surprised by how much I dug the show. When I forgot to set the DVR one week, I was legitimately disappointed and scrambled to find the episode I missed on-line. That’s the sign of a fun show.

iZombie does a good job of quickly setting up the premise in the pilot episode – Liv Moore (Rose McIver) is an over-achieving medical resident with a hunky fiancée Major (Robert Buckley) and a type-A personality. One night, she decides to live a little and attend a boat party. The evening turns tragic when the boat is overrun with zombies; Liv is turned and her whole life is upended as she learns to adapt to her new after-life. She leaves her residency for a job in the Seattle PD medical examiner’s office, where she’ll have plenty of access to brains. She ditches a confused Major and keeps her condition a secret from everyone, except for her boss Ravi (Rahul Kohli), who becomes her friend and ally. Liv discovers that one of the side effects of eating a person’s brain is briefly taking on their memories and personal quirks and she channels this special power to help detective Clive Babinaux (Malcolm Goodwin) solve murders by posing as someone with psychic abilities. While the show deals with the “murder of the week,” it also focuses on Liv’s adjustment to her condition and features some bigger, episodic plotlines as well. This may all sound silly and ridiculous, but it is actually executed quite well. The idea that she takes on the characteristics of the deceased is an interesting wrinkle and lets McIver play all sorts of different personalities. This may grow tedious over time, but right now I have enjoyed seeing slight variations on her character week to week. It keeps things interesting and adds a different angle to a formula that has been used on other shows (most recently Psych).

The strongest part of iZombie is the writing – it’s smarter than you might expect and it’s also fast and funny. The dialogue leads to some clever banter between characters and it is clear that the writers have a clear handle on who these characters are. This helps to establish the different personalities on the show very quickly; it only took a few episodes for me to feel like I really understood who these characters are as people and their different motivations. There are still layers to be revealed, of course, but these characters feel much more developed in just a few episodes than on a lot of other shows. The scenes between McIver and Kohli in particular are my favorite, as the two actors have great on-screen chemistry and have the wittiest repertoire of the group. Because they are the only two protagonists that are clued in on what’s going on, they have a shared bond that the other main characters do not have. Other characters have since been introduced that are in the same predicament as Liv, but there is not the same comradery that she shares with Ravi.

iZombie took a few episodes to find its footing and its voice, which is to be expected; to me, the only hiccup for the show is resolving what to do with the character of Major. I think that they may have finally found a way for that character to feel organic to the show and not forced in to storylines, but there was a stretch of early episodes where it felt like they just hadn’t quite figured the way to use Liv’s ex-fiancée in a way that made sense. I’m reserving judgement until a few more episodes of this new storyline, but I think that they are finally headed in the right direction with him.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t cite the character that David Anders has created – as Blaine, the drug-dealer turned zombie, he’s the closest thing that the show currently has for a villain and he’s delightful to watch. He’s up to no good, but he is such a presence and so charismatic that he’s hard not to root for. Any time Blaine is on screen, you know it’s going to be fun to watch.

It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I recommend giving iZombie a chance. For me, it’s a nice change of pace from my usual viewing preferences and it has been consistently entertaining. The acting is generally good and the dialogue is snappy enough that I don’t mind the inherent procedural aspects of the show. I generally shy away from taking a chance on new shows early in their run– I’ve been burned too many times – I’m glad that I took a flyer on iZombie. I was an unexpected treat that adds a little spunk and un-dead fun into my week.

iZombie airs Tuesdays at 9pm (ET) on the CW.

MythBusters – Zombie Edition

Well, if I’m back watching MythBusters that must mean that they had another pop culture related episode.

Frequent readers of the blog know that I am not a regular watcher of the Discovery Channel program MythBusters. However, whenever the show tests something from movies or television show that I like, I make an exception and try to tune in. These pop culture editions of MythBusters seem to happen with some regularly; first there was the episode where they tested out if Jack really had to drown at the end of Titanic and earlier this year they did a Breaking Bad themed episode where they challenged some of the science of the show. My general rule of thumb is that if I hear about one of their themed episodes, I’ll probably tune in, since that means that it has received coverage on one of the many pop culture related blogs and websites that I read with alarming frequency. I don’t generally seek out info on MythBusters, but if it falls in my lap and sounds interesting, I’ll tune in. That happened last night when Adam and Jamie set out to test some myths related to zombies in a special MythBusters episode. While this was not specifically a The Walking Dead themed episode – they didn’t test any specific myths from the show, but more zombie myths in general – it did feature a guest appearance from Michael Rooker, who plays Merle on the AMC series.

While I understand that this was a special Halloween-ish episode that was designed to cash in on the popularity of zombies overall and The Walking Dead in particular, I have to call shenanigans on this whole exercise. All preface of scientific integrity flew out the window when the first myth that they busted failed to be “are zombies real?” Sure, that would have been a short episode, but working from the flawed premise that there is such a thing as zombies meant that they were basically making everything that followed up. Arbitrary restrictions were placed on the zombies for all the tests that followed, so their results were, to quote Dr. Sheldon Cooper, “hokum.” No myths were actually busted on this episode other than the idea that the crew always uses scientific methods. When you start with a false premise, your findings are invalid.

I know I sound grouchy about this. Maybe I still hold a grudge because they disproved much of what happened on Breaking Bad. Or maybe I am annoyed that I struggled to stay up so I could blog about this.

Anyway, the zombie episode tested three zombie myths: Is an axe a better weapon for killing zombies than a gun? Can a human outrun a field full of zombies? Can a group of unorganized zombies break through a reinforced barn door? For all of these myths, extras were stand-ins for zombies. I have to give them credit; they did a fantastic job with the make-up for the faux undead. Some of the extras were pretty creepy looking.

For the first myth, Adam armed himself with an axe and Jamie’s weapon of choice was a gun. Since they didn’t want to actually kill or hurt any of the extras (where’s their dedication to science?), Adam’s axe was made of foam and would mark the zombies with paint. Jamie’s gun was loaded with paint as well and all of the extras had special masks on so that they wouldn’t be injured when they were “killed.” Jamie and Adam took turns in the center of a ring as zombies would slowly surround them. Using their different weapons, they wanted to see how many zombies each would kill before they became overwhelmed.

My main objection to this experiment (other than the previously stated zombie issue) is that it failed to provide realistic handicaps to Adam’s axe wielding. He simply had to touch the zombies in the head to kill them in this version, which doesn’t take into account the actual force that would have to be used to really kill someone (undead or alive). It also didn’t factor in resistance – when you chop wood, sometimes the axe gets stuck. I’d assume that would happen with someone’s head as well. Chopping someone in the head isn’t like sliding a knife into warm butter; occasionally, the axe will get caught.

To see if a human can successfully outrun a field full of zombies, the MythBusters took turns testing this theory out. Each successive trail, the number of zombies in the field was increased. The zombies were limited to moving 2 miles per hour, though I have no idea how they measured or enforced that. The humans were pretty easily able to navigate all the obstacles to a certain point; one the third trial the sheer number of zombies made safe passage impossible. They then tried using distractions to facilitate evading the undead, though I have no idea how they determined what would be a suitable distraction for the zombies and how they would react to it. Like I said, this was an episode only loosely based on science. They were making a lot of this up as they went along.

For the final test, you had to concede that the humans in the barn would have power tools to fortify the door and the time to do this work. That seems like some big concessions, but whatever. The zombies weren’t exactly unorganized either, as they were pushing together on the count of three. I guess the ability of zombies to work together depends on what version of zombies that you subscribe to; some films depict zombies as pretty aimless and uncoordinated, while others seem to have some semblance of teamwork.

I didn’t enjoy this episode of MythBusters as much as the other pop culture related episodes; I simply couldn’t get over the concessions that were made. It was a fun little episode in premise, but for a show that was is all about using the scientific method of testing things it just wasn’t a good fit. To me, it was all an exercise in futility and obviously didn’t “prove” anything given the assumptions it was working with. An admirable attempt to cash in on the popularity of The Walking Dead and other zombie related projects, but I wound up regretting staying up to watch it. I don’t know what I was exactly expecting, given the subject matter, but I was too distracted by the questionable science to really get into it. Who knew I was such a science purist?

Pop Culture Odds and Ends – Epic Roundup edition

So it appears I went a little overboard this week with the links; I was freaking out that I was behind schedule on this post and just started plugging away in compiling links. Next thing you know, the document was nine pages long. I guess I just kind of lost track of what I was doing. So while you wade through all the pop culture goodness I’ve cultivated for you over the last two weeks, I’m going to consider taking a nap after a job well done.

  • Chris Brown is facing possible jail time after an alleged hit and run incident. That’s kind of like getting Al Capone on tax evasion.
  • Don Draper’s childhood home is a real place (and for sale), though it was heavily CGIed for Mad Men. Michael Jackson’s Thriller video and scenes from Chinatown were filmed in the same neighborhood.
  • Get off the ledge – Robert Downey, Jr. is confirmed for Avengers 2 and Avengers 3.
  • Breaking Bad is the latest TV show to get its own beer. Anyone in Albuquerque want to send me some?
  • Um….am I the only one that finds it odd that they are using an Eminem song in the trailer for Despicable Me 2?

 

  • Starz has officially announced a new series Outlander, based on the books by Diana Gabaldon. Not sure it is for me, but sounds interesting.
  • No shocker here – Dan Harmon finally watched the 4th season of Community and he wasn’t a fan.
  • Flavor Flav’s last chicken and ribs restaurant has closed. Fun fact – Flavor Flav is inexplicably one of my Twitter followers (Word up, Flavor FLAV!).
  • Stephen Colbert’s mother passed away last week. If you haven’t seen his touching tribute to her, it is a must watch. I bawled through the whole thing.

 

  • The national nightmare is over – Twinkies, Ho Hos and the rest of the Hostess cake family will return to shelves July 15. I’m guessing the people who dropped a ton of cash to stock up are feeling kind of foolish right now.
  • Someone (brave) got an Arrested Development inspired license plate:

anustart-640x480

 

  • The Faceblock App from the new episodes of Arrested Development can now be downloaded.
  • Shark Week is coming in August – and if this promo is an indication, it’s going to be particularly twisted. RIP Snuffy.

 

  • CNN breaks down the accuracy of the recent Lifetime movie on Jodi Arias (which yes, I watched). Good job CNN – no worldwide crises you should be covering.
  • Nick Swisher and his actress wife Joanna Garcia have released the first picture of their baby daughter and she is just precious:

 

Welcome to the world, Emerson Jay!

Welcome to the world, Emerson Jay!

 

  • Finally! One of Taylor Swift’s (alleged) exes has (allegedly) written a song about her. Oh John Mayer – I knew you were the one that was douchey enough to do this and I love you for it.
  • Jon Stewart was on the Egyptian version of The Daily Show. It switches over to English about 2.5 minutes into the interview

 

I’m still reeling from the death of James Gandolfini and am touched with the various ways he has been honored:

  • The New York Yankees took a moment to observe his passing:

GTY 170957623 S BBA BBN BBO SPO USA NY

 

  • Holsten’s Ice Cream, the locale for the final scene of The Sopranos, saved a table in his honor:

obit-james-gandolfini

 

  • Sesame Street posted a clip of his 2002 appearance:

 

  • Gary David Goldberg, creator of Family Ties and Spin City, passed away. Michael J. Fox remembers him.
  • I’m regretting that I didn’t go to the Wilco’s Solid Sound Festival – it happened only a hop, skip and a jump away in North Adams, MA. I’m especially bummed I missed Wilco’s all cover set, but now I can listen to it online in its entirety.

 

  • Happy 50th birthday to Georgios Kyriacos Panagiòtou (George Michael to the uninitiated).  In honor of half a century, here’s one of my favorite songs:

 

  • A new poster has been released for the final season of Breaking Bad (did anyone else internally yell out Fame? Just me? Moving on….)

breaking bad poster

 

  • Men’s Wearhouse has fired their founder (and star of their commercials). I’m guessing they didn’t like the way he looks.
  • The Village Voice has an interview with my favorite member of The Roots, Questlove.
  • A Street Fighter parody – with cats. My Pumpkin would dominate in this.

 

  • Among the new Houseguest on this season of Big BrotherRachel’s sister (if you watched the show, you know what this means).
  • Late Night with Jimmy Fallon was really exceptional last week – great guests and fun bits – but this Super Mario Brother’s rap is really fantastic:

 

  • Speaking of…this photo makes me deliriously happy:

Rob Stringer Honored As UJA-Federation Music Visionary Of 2013

 

  • The first episode of the Stephen King miniseries Under the Dome did very well for CBS. The rich get richer.
  • An infographic of Leonardo DiCaprio movies.

tumblr_molhevq4wD1qb74y4o1_1280

 

  • The first trailer for the upcoming Lego movie has been released:

 

  • This screencap pretty much sums up the 90s:

colorbadd

 

  • Parks and Recreation will kick off its sixth season with an hour long episode that takes place outside Pawnee.
  • Disney has (thankfully) decided to change the name of the upcoming Muppets sequel from The Muppets…..Again! to Muppets Most Wanted.

 

  • Ridley Scott. Cormac McCarthy. Brad Pitt. Michael Fassbender. Penelope Cruz. Javier Bardem. Cameron Diaz. All associated with one movie – The Counselor

 

  • The actor in this character might look familiar – he was the awful Oliver on The O.C.

 

  • OK – I PROMISE this is the last Kanye-related thing this week. He made a terrible short film to promote his new album Yeezus that features fellow Kardashian baby daddy Scott Disick and Kim BFF Jonathan Cheban. They are not great actors, but this is kind of hilarious since Disick has always given off an American Psycho vibe. Glad to see he owns his sociopathic-ness.

 

  • This isn’t really pop culture related, but it’s far too crazy not to share (and it happened a few towns over from me).

As always, we end with the mashups and supercuts

  • Here’s montage of famous movie actresses, edited to make their heads explode

 

  • Wonder what it would be like if John Lennon auditioned for The Voice? Wonder no longer

 

  • I’m still not tired of Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky;” listen to it performed by President Obama:

 

  •  A supercut of all of Troy McClure’s credits on The Simpsons

 

  • Jon Snow gets an 80’s style training montage, as it should be:

 

  • This supercut seems to indicate that David Letterman is kind of obsessed with drums:

 

  • A supercut of zombie headshots

 

  • And finally – Hannibal’s open credits get an Arrested Development make-over:

 

Have a great week!