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Dead Good

November 14, 2008


Many of you have been singing the praises of Charlie Brooker’s Dead Set and I just wanted to add my voice to the choir. (Charlie’s a mate, so feel free to ignore everything that follows.)

Gosh, it’s good. Charlie thought I’d hate it because it has swearing, but he’s got me all wrong. I’m not against swearing! I just hate it when it’s pointless and cheap or used to make a weak joke ‘funnier’. But if you can’t swear during a zombie apocalypse, when can you swear? A zombie apocalypse without swearing…the very idea! I would oppose such a zombie apocalypse! (That said, Charlie’s swearing on ‘Screenwipe’ doesn’t add much to that program, I think. I mean, even Jamie Oliver swears while presenting now! Jamie Oliver, a man who is proud that he has never read a book! Do you really want to be like Jamie, Charlie? Or any chef?)

Simon Pegg wrote a nice piece complaining about the new trend for speedy zombies and I would agree with him if I had only seen ’28 Days Later’, which I couldn’t take seriously as soon as I saw the angry monkeys at the start (screenwriting tip–never lead with angry monkeys). ‘Dead Set’ pulls off a nice trick of deliberately presenting us with a ridiculous situation and then piling on the horror so that the comedy sort of rises naturally, like a terrifying soufflé. Needless to say, the jokes (at the expense of TV producers, ‘Big Brother’ and its former housemates) are top quality.

And what a cast! In Andy Nyman, especially, Charlie has found his DeNiro. No-one swears like Andy Nyman. He swirls Charlie’s dialogue around like it’s claret before spitting it in the face of anyone who makes the mistake of coming near. It’s an extraordinary performance and if there were no-one else in it worth watching, it’d still be worth watching because of him. But the other performances are outstanding. It’s especially nice to see Kevin Eldon excercising muscles he’s normally not called upon to move and giving us a  touching portrayal of a man who’s not nearly as intelligent or moral as he thinks he is. And as for…well, I could go on, really I could. There are no weak links.

It takes a lot to get me fired up enough to write an appreciation like this. ‘Dead Set’ should act as a spur and inspiration to anyone thinking of doing something similar. Charlie has joined the ranks of those who prove that it is possible to do good genre stuff in the UK, and that if you’re going to aim for anything at all, you might as well aim high, because, man, when you pull it off…you’ve really got something.

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