Spring 2015 Review: iZombie

20 Mar


Imagine there was a party game for TV junkies, where players would watch an episode of a show by a well-known TV writer and would have to identify the show was written by. After watching ten minutes of iZombie, any self-respecting television zealot would be able to pick it out as the work of Rob Thomas without a doubt. Aside from the high concept sci-fi premise (and, yes, it’s ludicrous to talk about a show called iZombie and toss that aside, but work with me), iZombie has an incredible amount in common with Veronica Mars that should have it appealing to Veronica Mars fans of all stripes.

Let’s walk through the comparison, with some longer explanations for the iZombie analogues. In both, at the beginning, a young girl (Veronica is in high school, iZombie’s Liv is in her 20s) is doing great – she’s successful and popular. Veronica is a high school cheerleader with tons of popular cool friends, and Liv is a doctor kicking ass in her residency and engaged to a cool, attractive dude. Something happens. In Vernoica Mars, it’s the death of her best friend, followed by a messy, botched investigation by her sheriff dad that makes her a pariah and an outcast at school. For Liv, it’s well, becoming a zombie. Liv’s zombie form, to be clear, is no AMC’s The Walking Dead-style brainless cretin (it would be a pretty boring and/or nonsensical show that way). Instead, she still maintains the same personality as before, but medically she’s cold, nearly bloodless, and needs to eat brains to maintain her intelligence (she’s actually much closer to a convention vampire than zombie).

Both Veronica and Liv, after this life-changing event, struggle, face a period of despair, and then regain their footing somewhat, seeking a new way forward – realizing their lives will never quite be back to the way they were, but that maybe they can carve a different path.

Veronica and Liv both use their particular newfound skill sets to solve crimes. Veronica has been groomed partly intentionally and partly unintentionally by her now private eye father, while Liv gains visions from the people whose brains she eats. As those brains tend to be acquired from murder victims, she sees flashes of how they die and who killed them. Although solving these crimes isn’t initially part of the plan, it soon becomes a calling for each, a way to follow the new paths forward both are building.

Oh, and both Veronica and Liv narrate the action with a world-wary, self-aware, and pop culture-dotted voice over which takes you through their point of view.

So, yeah. Not talking right out of the gate about the fact that Liv is an undead zombie who needs to eat brains and has psychic visions is kind of burying the lead, while Veronica is merely a teenage girl with a really expensive camera and some mad private eye skills. But down in its guts, iZombie has a whole lot of what Veronica Mars had, which, since Veronica Mars is a great show and a personal favorite is definitely a good thing.

The similarities, particularly in the voice overs, were so uncanny that it made me think Rob Thomas was desperate to bring Veronica Mars back, but in a way more palatable with current trends, which, given the outsized success of AMC’s The Walking Dead, meant zombies.

Does Rose McIver have the chops to pull off the Kristin Bell role? Does the wacky premise have enough heft behind it to last a full season and then some? It’s too early to say. iZombie featured the sharp dialogue that is the hallmark of any Rob Thomas show, and the sweet spot tonal midpoint between drama and comedy, that Thomas and Joss Whedon have mastered.

Will I watch it again? Yes. This was one of those shows, that due to the Rob Thomas connection (he’s behind not only Veronica Mars but my beloved Party Down), I would have had to have hated not to watch another episode. That said, it’s Veronica Mars similarities only enhanced those chances.

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