Posted by: Peter Hall
Created by Charlie Brooker, 2008
“DEAD SET” may be one of my favorite horror productions of 2008 if only because it would never exist in the United States. Shot, cast and set largely in and around the “BIG BROTHER” house in England, “DEAD SET” is a five part miniseries chronicling a zombie apocalypse whose eve coincides with the latest eviction ceremony on the ailing British reality show. Those on the inside have no knowledge of the mayhem approaching their surreal walls until a few surviving producers of the show are forced to lock themselves in the studio while the undead world rages away around them.
When I first heard about “DEAD SET”, I assumed it was inspired by a segment in Max Brook’s brilliant WORLD WAR Z in which a hot shot producer lets celebrities stay at his house, airing footage of their day-to-day life for the rest of the plaguing world to see. I was surprised to discover that the Charlie Brooker masterminded event is nothing of the sort. There is no notion that TV addicted couch potatoes would spend their final days watching other people attempt to survive on “BIG BROTHER”. Yes, it is a wry dissection of reality programming, but Brooker’s higher agenda is to tell a survivor’s story with all the instruments of his trade: The attention craving dingbats of reality TV, vulgar, power crazy producers, fans of the show, low level production assistants and anyone else in their orbit.
It’s a unique setting to say the least, which is the first contributor to its non-Hollywood roots. I can’t imagine any US reality show (which oddly enough are almost all based on British originators) granting permission to transform not only its brand, but the actual sets into as blood soaked an event as “DEAD SET” is. No network, broadcast or cable, would have the balls to pull this off. More impressive still, one would have to go to a premium network in the US to find programming this gory and yet Brooker’s aired first on E4 and then Channel 4 in the UK. For those unfamiliar with British broadcasting, imagine if Zack Snyder’s DAWN OF THE DEAD took over NBC prime time for a week straight. Imagine if instead of edits the gore was turned to 11. Imagine character diatribes that would seem crass on an episode of “DEADWOOD”.
That is precisely why I cannot imagine “DEAD SET” – or anything like it – ever originating in the United States.