Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Brain Dead

In recent years, the absurdities of what passes for politics in present-day America have inspired some amazingly successful TV. Think Veep, for example, or - more edifyingly - The West Wing. Now, just in time for - and right in tune - with the 2016 election season/debacle, comes CBS' Brain Dead, which promotes itself as "a comic thriller set in the world of Washington, DC, politics." The first of a proposed 13 [!] episodes of Brain Dead premiered on CBS last night. (Having long ago been spoiled by other stations and having lost my tolerance for commercials, I recorded the show and watched it today.)

Before introducing the series' central character - Laurel Healy, a documentary filmmaker who takes a job in her brother's Senate office, in a deal to get her father to pay off her student loans and fund her work) - the show sets the scene with TV images of our real-world contemporary candidates speaking and an opening observation that in 2016 it began to be noticed that people were losing their minds. Why? Well, we also see some familiar footage of a meteor landing in Russia. As we soon learn, this meteor, which gets shipped to the United States to be studied at the Smithsonian, happens to contain dangerous alien insects that will eventually crawl into people's ears and destroy much of their brains. 

Meanwhile, Laurel, who genuinely hates the family business - politics - but seems to have inherited some talent for it, starts work on the day of a government shutdown, caused presumably by Republican intransigence. Laurel divides her time between, on the one hand, mediating a deal between her brother and a Republican Senator, whose principal staff member is obviously Laurel's opposite number (and, this being TV, one suspects possibly an eventual love interest), and, on the other hand, trying to find out what is causing some strange behavior (which we, the audience, already know the alien source of).

The image of alien insects destroying the brains of American politicians - and thus making our dysfunctional politics even worse - is intended to offer a comic knock at our poltiica system at the very time that it has such to the lowest it presumably can without the intervention of alien insects! Whether that is enough to sustain 13 episodes remains yet to be seen. But it is a good beginning so far!

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