Tag Archives: iZombie

Ranking the Shows That I Watch – 2015 Edition: 26-23

16 May

Yet another foursome that I changed the order of several times before actually deciding. Here they are.

Intro here and 58-55 here and 54-51 here and 50-47 here and 46-43 here and 42-39 here and 38-35 here and 34-31 here and 30-27 here.

30. Catastrophe – 2014: Not Eligible


Rom coms on TV are in again, and no one is doing it better than this British-American combo piece starring Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney. The premise may be trite; it’s essentially the same as Knocked Up, as an American businessman gets a British woman pregnant during a business trip. But it’s so much better than that. With clever dialogue and two appealing leads with real chemistry, Catastrophe is occasionally laugh out loud funny but still very much enjoyable when it’s not. And in six hyper-quick episodes, which make it faster than watching some movies, there’s no reason not to watch.

29. w/Bob and David – 2014: Not Eligible

w/ Bob and David

As a super duper short four episode sketch show, w/ Bob and David doesn’t have the impact of the four-season long possibly-best-sketch-show-of-all-time Mr. Show, and because sketch shows all, even the best, have a healthy share of misses, there aren’t the number of all time hits you’d like from the rare Bob Odenkirk-David Cross collaboration. But these two are simply pros at making sketch comedy and there’s more than enough in this short run for fans of the two and of the genre to love and hope for more.

28. Jane the Virgin – 2014: 31

Jane the Virgin

Jane the Virgin does something that’s surprisingly difficult and rare in the world of television. It’s a show about family, tight close-knit family, and has built several extremely well-developed characters that are generally good people, who more often than not like each other. These characters manage to fight and get into realistic arguments, arguments where there isn’t always necessarily an obviously right or wrong side, but arguments where you never doubt that they’ll come back together and get along again. That’s not easy. The show stumbled a bit figuring out how to handle a second season after the baby was born, taking time to find its footing after the first season’s arc largely wrapped up. The show still doesn’t always know what tone it’s going for, sometimes silly, sometimes serious, and it struggles with smaller characters. But when it focuses on the family and the interaction between major characters, it’s on solid ground and worth watching for that alone.

27. iZombie – 2014: Not Eligible

I’m a sucker for Rob Thomas, it is well known, as Party Down and Veronica Mars are two of my favorite shows of all time While this one isn’t quite up to their level, it’s compulsively watchable and a lot better than any show with its description should be. iZombie is, breathe in, a police procedural with slowly building serial arcs about a protagonist who becomes a zombie and works as a medical examiner, and when eating brains of recent murder victims, absorbs bits of their personality and sees visions from their lives that help her, working with her cop partner, solve the crimes. The show can absolutely be gimmicky, and that and its overly predictable procedural nature are its biggest faults. Fortunately it brings great Rob Thomas senses of character and writing along with a mostly pretty good, if not always consistent tonally long-term arc. There are some real issues with this show, but it’s definitely up there on the list of shows people aren’t buzzing about that they should be talking about more.

End of Season Report: iZombie, Season 1

12 Jun


iZombie has an almost laughably gimmicky high concept premise. Protagonist Liv has her life together; great fiancé, about to start on a promising medical career. Then, all of a sudden, she becomes a zombie, which in this universe is a cross between zombie and vampire. She breaks it off with the fiancé for fear of infecting him (sex as well as blood infects), and gets herself moved over the medical examiner’s office for convenient access to free brains. She needs to eat brains to keep herself alive and mentally together, but these brains also have side effects. They give her both the personality traits, positive and negative, of the people whose brains they were, and visions into those people’s lives. She then uses these visions to help solve their murders.

Rob Thomas is an experienced professional showrunner and it shows. Unlike many shows that take some time to find their feet, iZombie seems to know what it is and what it’s doing from the get go. . This is no epic conspiracy supernatural show that intrigues but threatens to go quickly out of control and has no idea where it’s going. The pacing is smart – there aren’t alternating episodes where tons happen followed by boring episodes as the creators need to slow down to avoid getting too far ahead of itself. The season starts with case-of-the-week murders, with the serial plot sneaking in and taking up more and more screen time as the season progressed, just as the two shows which iZombie is most like did, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Veronica Mars. I don’t normally watch most shows that are largely procedural but those two are amongst my favorite shows of all, because although they start with a procedural base they elevate it over time through depth of character and top notch dialogue.

iZombie is tone consistent as well, which is something CW’s other very good freshman hit Jane the Virgin could learn from. Jane the Virgin is loaded with lots of good stuff, but suffers from tone issues, as one episode is serious, and one is light, and the contract often feels confusing and unnatural. iZombie knows exactly what it is from day one, and keeps that tone level balanced, right between brooding and irreverent, light and dark, sarcastic and earnest. Rob Thomas is, with Joss Whedon (and of course I don’t want to short Diane Ruggiero-wright who is the co-creator along with Thomas of iZombie and longtime Thomas consigliere) of mixing comedy and drama and finding strength in the contrast, rather than incongruity. Rather than seem out of place, the mixture uses the humor to build the drama, and vice versa.

iZombie’s gimmick; not the visions, but the personality transfer is a brilliant way to have Liv face off against her personal issues under a different guise every week; a dose of pep from some cheerleader’s brains have her girlily reconnecting with her roommate and best friend. A young mother’s brains have her overprotective, reengaging with her mother and younger brother. It’s a smart technique and keeps every episode slightly different, and Rose McIver, who is the key to the whole kit and caboodle sells it and embodies these different personalities effectively.

The supporting cast, while limited is strong. Ravi is Liv’s boss at the M.E.’s office. He’s the only person who knows that she’s a zombie, which makes him an invaluable ally in her cause, and he attempts to use his knowledge and lab to find a cure. Major, her ex-fiance, feels like he’s being forced into the show at the beginning, as there’s no logical place for him. However, in the second half of the season, his investigation into the existence of zombies, and his involvement throws a wrench in the plans of the primary antagonist, Blaine. David Anders is fantastic as Blaine, who serves as kind of a black market (not that there’s any other kind) brains dealer to zombies, creating the zombies himself to serve both as minions and as customers. His wisecracks and sarcastic one-liners are frequent episode highlights.

The single most serial episode, the finale, delivered in a big way. There was a massive action scene featuring Major escaping from captivity and mowing through his kidnappers and torturers to the tune of After the Fire’s Der Kommissar; much of the time in this show such a scene might feel out of place, but here it worked perfectly and the song choice was a perfect example of the balance between the dramatic and the comedic. (How Major so expertly fired weapons he had just purchased is a reasonable question, but one I’m willing to move past.) At several points in the episode, scenes were unpredictable because at any given point, you could take a reasonable stab at what was going to happen, but you could also guess a couple of equally plausible alternatives, which essentially meant you didn’t know which was going to happen. The events both entertained and satisfied some major first season arcs, while leaving a lot out on the table for next season.

iZombie’s first season wasn’t revolutionary or breakthrough or entirely original television, like recent breakthroughs Transparent, Hannibal, and Rectify, but the show delivered consistently week to week an excellently written product that always left me wanting more, and I’m more glad that I realized I’d be even a few weeks into the season that the show is coming back for a second season.




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.