The Best Thing That Ever Happened to Reality TV

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If you've ever watched an episode of reality TV series Big Brother or Survivor or The Pick-Up Artist and wished everybody involved would just get ripped apart by rampaging zombies, then you're about to feel seriously awesome. The UK miniseries Dead Set started airing this week, and it's all about what happens to the cast and crew of Big Brother when a zombie plague hits England. The best part? It's all filmed on the Big Brother set. In the first episode, we watch the oddly mundane reactions that our reality TV crew have as the zombie plague starts spreading. At first, they're just seeing it broadcast on the news as "rioting," and because they're in their studio bubble nobody is quite sure what's going on. The main thing they're worried about is that their giant Big Brother Reunion special might get bumped for the news. There are a series of incredibly funny and dark scenes where we watch news reports about deadly mayhem spreading, and zombies start slaughtering people in the crowd outside the studio, while the clueless producers and hosts wail about getting airtime.

Once the zombies take over, though, the show really starts to move. Not because the zombies are fast — which they are, 28 Days Later-style — but because we zero in on what the point of this angry little series really is. Especially when the only people left alive are the reality TV stars on the locked set, slowly melting down as they realize Big Brother isn't watching them anymore. The only ones watching are growling, gore-soaked zombies. Fittingly, reality TV has become ground zero of the zombie invasion, as well as the one place that's already so zombified that it can withstand the rotting onslaught. Written by Charlie Brooker, who worked on the utterly mental comedy series Brasseye, Dead Set is both genuinely terrifying as well as spot-on satire. It's also produced by E4, makers of Big Brother, who loaned out the sets for the guts-spattering. That the creators were able to use the Big Brother sets turns Dead Set into as much of a cogent allegory as George Romero's late 1970s Dawn of the Dead, famously filmed in a giant suburban mall. Come to get a vicarious thrill out of watching vacuous reality TV starlets eaten alive, and stay for a social satire of media cannibal culture that cuts right to the bone. Dead Set's five episodes will air nightly at 10 PM all this week in the UK. If you are in the UK, you can catch past episodes streaming on the show's website. Those of us who live elsewhere will have to wait for the DVD or watch it on the intertubes. Official Dead Set Site [via E4]