With the ever-growing, ever-profitable media landscape, you can never let a good idea die. From the mid-90s, until quite recently, one idea you couldn’t escape was Zombies. The flesh-eating corpses have been ridding a creative high of books, films, video games, and of course movies, you could not blink without seeing serious projects or ironic crossovers in the most unlikely places. The 2009 film Zombieland, earned deserved praise, by irreverently examining the tropes of the booming subgenre. In 2013, Amazon tried to adapt the acclaimed zombie film to a smaller screen, with only a pilot as a proof of concept. While fans weren’t as receptive to the idea, the surviving pilot does demonstrate a lot of what made the original so captivating in Zombieland.
After the earth, like in the films, has been ravaged by a zombie plague, we meet a familiar, yet new batch of survivors, who use their destinations as handles, so they don’t get too attached. A couple of months after the apocalypse, the debate of whether the wanderers should settle down in a community with other people is necessary the best course of action. Guided by the On-Star system in their car, our rag-tag group of survivors learn that, sometimes, the best community is each other.
Starting with a slice of early 2010 ‘First world problems’ the audience gets its assurances that the humour of the original will be preserved in the translation to T.V. The elephant in the room is that the likes of Jesse Eisenberg and Emma Stone couldn’t commit to a full T.V. season (or two), the pilot instead relies on more rising stars who could commit to the schedule. The Killing’s Tyler Ross does well as the T.V. equivalent of Columbus, along with The Starving Games, Maiara Walsh is now taking over for Stone here as Wichita, while Kirk Ward does a good job filling in for Tallahassee, as does Izabela Vidovic as Little Rock. It would have been interesting, in the case of this new show, to focus on newer characters, with some new pseudonyms, yet the cast here does feel different enough to their cinematic counterparts as to not feel too jarring, yet retain the established bonds that worked so well before.
Some cosmetic changes are welcomed here, we learn that Tallahassee is a sandwich delivery, that has found new life in the apocalypse. Fresh change does come from new characters like Detroit, who carries on her vigil as the lone On-Star operator that helps the group to find a place for them to call home. It is these changes that do a lot to dispel the notion that Zombieland is just a carbon copy of the original. Yet, those worried that this project would be related in name only. Some scenes are outright hilarious, playing to the film’s warped slapstick humour, the sequence where they visit the old couple’s home is a memorable example of the comedy that made Zombieland an initial success.
Zombieland in its under 30-minute pilot preserved the great premise and showed that the charm of the original does not entirely rest on the stellar cast’s shoulders. The Pilot’s novel ideas that, at the same time, were familiar to the original spirit, yet not entirely carbon copies. If you want some more witty exploration of the flesh-munching corpses or exploration of the concepts of friends and family, Zombieland’s sole episode makes for a more bite-sized rendition of the beloved zombie property.
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