Third-episode verdict: BrainDead (US: CBS; UK: Amazon Prime)

The BarrometerA Barrometer rating of 3

In the US: Mondays, 10/9c, CBS
In the UK: Airs on Amazon

If summer were only a little warmer in the UK – or warm at all – BrainDead might seem like some fun, throw-away bit of nonsense to while away our time with. A sort of Mars Attacks meets Invasion of the Body Snatchers meets The West Wing, it sees brain-eating alien ants taking over US politicians, including Tony Shalhoub, resulting in extreme political behaviour and a liking for The Cars. 

All of this seemed jaunty and fun in the first episode, when we had intrepid young über-liberal Mary Elizabeth Winstead trying to get to the bottom of the problem with the help of her small-government Republican counterpart Aaron Tvei, to much satirical enjoyment. But since then, beyond a singing recap of the plot at the start of each episode, there hasn’t been much new. Indeed, the second episode actually dispensed with most of the laughter and tried to be just Invasion of the Body Snatchers, which wasn’t fun at all.

Fortunately, the third episode was a near-return to form, with Winstead finally getting a conspiracy-theory genius wackjob partner to solve the mystery with (Johnny Ray Gill) and some more yucks showing up. All the same, the uneasy mixture of comedy, horror, satire and thriller never quite gels the way the creators want to, particularly with no actual sunshine to distract us, and Tvei and Winstead’s romance has all the chemistry of a Noble gas. 

A beast like this gets by on craziness, but if the craziness has all been front-loaded with little more to come, BrainDead‘s going to flounder. Winstead is appealing and Gill is sufficiently loopy to be an equal draw, but the whole thing seemed like an idea that got used up in the first episode. There might be more to come, so I’ll probably tune in for the next episode, but it’s no must-watch, even by summer standards.

Barrometer rating: 3
Would it be better with a female lead? N/A
TMINE’s prediction: Unlikely to get a second season, but stranger things have happened


  • I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.