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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Zombieland: The Series

Article first published as Zombieland: The Series on TheTVKing.

Amazon has recently released a bunch of pilots they are considering picking up for series, depending on the public's reaction to them. One such entry is Zombieland: The Series. Based on the hit movie Zombieland, different actors play the four roles from the film, and the action continues not long after the events from that endeavor.

I loved Zombieland: The Series's opening. It's two people sitting in an office. One of them, Ainsley (Tim Bagley, Web Therapy, Monk), thinks he is having a very bad day, and his sympathetic co-worker, Sheila (Rachel Cannon, Underemployed), is listening with a kind ear. But his issues involving someone mispronouncing his name and getting his sandwich wrong pale in comparison to the apocalypse taking place behind them, clearly visible through the window, as zombies attack and eat people.

It's a fantastic comedy bit, showing the contrast between the problems before the disaster and after. The two actors, sadly short-lived, play the scene with such earnestness, my attention is not completely pulled away by the action outside. Their last few moments of blissful ignorance of the crisis is amusing, and because the scene is so extended, thankfully, making for a memorable hook.

I'm not sure it's necessary to use the end of the Ainsley / Sheila scene to introduce one of the show's leads, Tallahassee (Kirk Ward, Forrest Gump), but it doesn't really hurt anything either, so I won't complain about that.

From there, the story follows the film, picking up after the central foursome have been together for some time. They decide that it's time to expand their group, but every person they find to try to join them soon dies, usually from a zombie attack. They just can't catch a break!

Zombieland: The Series retains much of the same comedic elements from the film, as well as the structure. We hear about Columbus's (Tyler Ross, Boss) rules for surviving the apocalypse. There is a count of how many times Tallahassee references female anatomy. They hang out in an IKEA. I even like their On-Star pal, Detriot (Kendra Fountain), whom they frequently talk to, but have not met.

But there is also some things that seem more irreverent. The way they don't bat an eyelash when witnessing a gruesome muder-by-zombie could be a sign that they have hardened themselves, but it's played for laughs, and since they are actively looking for new friends doesn't quite gel. They don't seem at all concerned about the danger around them, whereas the movie built up some suspense. Yes, we know that these four aren't in any real peril, but Zombieland: The Series doesn't even try to pretend otherwise. What the show does well is deliver a punchline. What it doesn't really do is make us care about the characters.

The only real attempt at pathos in the "Pilot" is when we learn that Columbus and Wichita (Maiara Walsh, Desperate Housewives) have broken up. It's unfortunate, but not entirely unexpected, based on their varying personalities. Once the immediate danger has passed, and life has returned to what now passes for normal, Columbus is just too eager. It is doubtful the couple is finished, but rather, the writers are just trying to add some tension to the story, and it will be an ongoing romantic arc for the characters.

The biggest problem with Zombieland: The Series, though, is that they have recast the four lead roles. I'm sorry, but these four performers, who are fine for a standard sitcom, pale in comparison to the amazing actors in the movie. Drawing parallels is inevitable, and the show loses across the board. The smarter move would be to keep the same universe and tone, but make the cast play different people, rather than the same ones film-goers are already familiar with. This form of goofiness certainly has a place, but the elements aren't quite combining right yet.

Zombieland: The Series also stars Izabela Vidovic (Help for the Holidays) as Little Rock, and the "Pilot" is available now on Amazon.com

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