Reality TV as safe haven, and other horrors

Jaime Winstone plays a TV assistant trying to make it to safety. Jaime Winstone plays a TV assistant trying to make it to safety. (Ifc)
By Matthew Gilbert
Globe Staff / October 25, 2010

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‘Dead Set’’ is a cool zombie miniseries set at a “Big Brother’’ house. While the awful, ridiculous contestants bicker inside, blissfully painting their fingernails and arguing over who ate the last egg, an army of crazy-eyed zombies are running rampant across the countryside. Inside, the contestants are planning alliances and evictions, disconnected from the real world; outside, the real world is going to hell.

Obviously, that setup has great satirical potential, as a way to skewer the frivolousness, self-absorption, and unreality of “Big Brother’’-style shows. And “Dead Set,’’ a British production written by Charlie Brooker, qualifies as a black comedy, as it implies that “Big Brother’’ viewers are members of the walking dead — brainless, soulless, but moving.

But the five-parter, which premieres at midnight on IFC and runs each night this week, is also pretty grisly and scary. I was surprised at how much adrenalized horror there is to be found in the story, as it races forward into bloody human-zombie battles and scary entrapments. This isn’t a wink-winkfest so much as a sly screamfest, with lots of post-apocalyptic misery and carnage afoot.

The heroine is Kelly (Jaime Winstone), an assistant on the show, who tries to make it to safety within the sealed-off “Big Brother’’ house. Also struggling to survive: a piggish, abusive producer named Patrick (Andy Nyman), who spends the early part of the premiere insulting everyone around him. Will Patrick get his due and be gobbled up alive? Or does he have just the right attitude to survive?

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at For more on TV, visit


Starring: Andy Nyman, Jaime Winstone


Time: Midnight-1 a.m.