Until recently, Channel 4 has had the market cornered on gripping zombie TV in the UK. In 2008 they produced the excellent Charlie Brooker-penned satirical horror miniseries Dead Set, which told the story of a group of Big Brother contestants hiding out from the zombie apocalypse. More recently, they aired a gripping reality show created by illusionist Derren Brown, who managed to trick a directionless young man into genuinely believing that zombies had taken over Britain by building an elaborate military compound set around him and filling it with zombie extras and character actors. This year, however, the BBC has decided to enter the fray by making their own significant addition to zombie TV.
BBC America has announced that zombie drama In the Flesh is coming to the channel this summer, and have launched an official page for it that includes cast and crew interviews, photos, and guides to the episodes and characters.
The show stars Luke Newberry (Anna Karenina) as the lead, with Ricky Tomlinson (Brookside, The Royle Family) and Kenneth Cranham (Valkyrie) as part of the supporting cast. Newberry plays Kieren Walker (insert The Walking Dead joke here), a zombie who returns to his family several years after going on a murderous rampage as a freshly-turned member of the undead.
Obviously, this is hardly the first time that the zombie narrative has been told from the perspective of the zombies themselves; superficially, the plot of In the Flesh sounds almost uncannily like that of this year’s rom-zom-com Warm Bodies. However, the show is unique in the way that it uses Kieren’s undead status as a metaphor for mental illness and clinical depression. After deciding to end his own life, the character finds himself forced back into the community that rejected him, more of an outcast than he ever was before, and faced with a family that doesn’t want to talk about his condition.
The show takes place in the wake of a violent zombie outbreak known as The Rising, during which the country came under attack by the flesh-hungry undead. Four years on, things are more or less back under control and the zombies – now referred to using the politically correct term “Partially Deceased” – are being rehabilitated back into society after extended hospitalization and regular programs of therapy and medication. In order to blend in with normal human beings, those with Partially Deceased Syndrome must wear contact lenses and panstick, having to hide their identities for fear of persecution when out in public.
In the latest press release, creator and writer Dominic Mitchell says this of his inspiration for the series:
“What’s great about using the zombie genre was I could talk about all those issues, talk about feeling ‘other’ and feeling different and feeling like you can’t come out to your parents…but under the guise of ‘I’m a zombie and my parents don’t recognize me as a zombie’.”
With such a positive response from both audiences and critics, surely there’s a good chance of the BBC resurrecting In the Flesh for a second run, right? Unfortunately, this may not be the case. While Being Human notably got commissioned for not just one full season, but four more seasons and an American remake after the positive response to the pilot episode, a more recent example of the BBC’s track record with such shows is the shock cancellation of supernatural drama The Fades, which went on to win a BAFTA for the best TV drama of 2012.
When In the Flesh aired in the UK the ratings were solid, though not outstanding, with 0.8m viewers tuning in for the first episode, 0.4m for the second and 0.5m for the third. That’s more or less on par with The Fades, and there’s been no talk so far of renewing In the Flesh, which was originally written as a three-episode miniseries rather than an ongoing series.
As British fans of In the Flesh wait for news of a possible continuation, US viewers still have it all to look forward to. Look out for the zombie drama when it arrives on BBC America this summer.
BBC America’s special three-night premiere event of In The Flesh begins June 6, 2013 @10:00pm ET/PT.
Source: BBC America