For most people, the words “zombie TV show” can only mean one thing. That’s a shame, because there’s another zombie show that you’re probably not watching and it’s one of the most underrated shows on TV. iZombie not only seamlessly incorporates comedy, drama and horror, finds new and inventive ways to do so.
The fan-favorite CW series follows Olivia Moore (Rose McIver) as she navigates the tricky waters of life as a zombie. Liv was a happy medical resident in Seattle, on track to marry the man of her dreams… until she attended a party that wound up being ground zero for a zombie outbreak. Confused and consumed by a hunger she didn’t understand, Liv broke off her engagement, traded her job at the hospital for one at the morgue – for easy brain access– and kept her friends and family in the dark.
When Liv ingests someone’s brain, she takes on their personality traits and also experiences some of their memories. Under the guise of a psychic, she partnered up with a detective and began using her newfound abilities to solve crimes.
There’s a whole lot of great TV out there and it can be tough to decide which shows are actually worth your time. If you’re feeling skeptical, we’ve compiled 15 Reasons iZombie Is The Most Underrated Show On TV.
15. Fresh take on the zombie genre
When it comes to zombies, we’ve pretty much of seen it all before. They are lumbering, brainless monsters with a taste for human flesh. With few exceptions, we are mostly left with nothing but tired tropes at this point. What makes The Walking Dead so great is that while it masquerades as a zombie comic, it’s not really about the undead at all. They are little more than a catalyst to tell a sprawling tale about what people become when they’ve lost everything.
What iZombie does is equally revolutionary. It presents a story about zombies that are basically just people who need to eat brains in order to survive. Without the food they so desperately crave, they do go full on George Romero, but as long as they’re feasting on grey matter, all is copacetic. These zombies are basically the same as they were before the change, except now brains are tasty– and they need to stock up on spray tan and hair dye.
14. Based on a great Vertigo comic
iZombie, created by Chris Roberson and Mike Allred, was published by Vertigo from 2010-2012. It followed the misadventures of Gwen Dylan, who was a zombie living in Eugene, Oregon. Gwen became a gravedigger in order to have regular access to brains, without which she goes from being dead to becoming Night of the Living Dead. The catch is that every time Gwen eats a brain, she sees pieces of the life that it once belonged to.
Although the comic laid the groundwork for the series, iZombie is a very loose adaptation, changing just about everything, except for the basic premise of Liv solving crimes by eating the brains of the victims. That being said, the show definitely pays homage to its excellent source material by using Allred’s amazing artwork for the opening credits.
13. Adapted by the minds behind Veronica Mars
Veronica Mars aired for three seasons, beginning in 2004 and has since spawned a film – which met its Kickstarter goal of $2,000,000 in less than eleven hours – and two novels penned by series creator, Rob Thomas. With the central mystery of Twin Peaks, the socioeconomic divide of The Outsiders, and a heroine who was kind of a combination of Buffy Summers and Nancy Drew, Veronica Mars has wound up on just about every list of brilliant TV series canceled before their time, including our own.
iZombie was adapted by Rob Thomas and Veronica Mars writer Diane Ruggiero-Wright. For those of us left with a Veronica shaped hole in our hearts, iZombie was the perfect fix. We’ve got a new mystery each week, while the larger story continues to unfold. There is snappy dialogue, and a cast of lovable and unforgettable characters.
Most importantly, there is a plucky, sarcastic heroine whose wry voiceovers act as our window into this world. However, while iZombie definitely measures up to Veronica Mars in terms of quality, it is also very distinctly its own show with a distinct tone.
12. Mysteries that actually make you think
One of the many aspects of Veronica Mars that set it apart from other mystery series was the way that the outcomes were not only incredibly clever, but also never undermined the intelligence of the viewer. Somehow, the answers weren’t often obvious, nor were the motives of the guilty parties. Yet, the mysteries also allowed for the audience to be intelligent, managing to be unpredictable, but not ridiculously so. You may not have seen it coming, but those reveals always felt earned.
With Thomas and Ruggiero-Wright at the helm, the mysteries of iZombie are equally compelling. The weekly whodunit is almost always difficult to guess – of course, some are better than others – and the larger questions posed by the series keep the audience guessing as well.
11. A good balance of procedural and serialized elements
Although iZombie has a weekly mystery, the creators are not afraid to abandon this format when the narrative dictates it. The story never suffers due to the constraints of a typical procedural show. Much like Veronica Mars, the series excels at balancing its procedural and serialized elements. The crimes that Liv solves each week may often take center stage, but the big picture is always unfolding in the background.
While the mysteries of the week are important, it is the larger narrative that truly drives iZombie. The series is about so much more than solving a weekly crime. Each character is on a very specific journey and the relationships between them are extremely important. iZombie deftly handles both aspects, giving more screen time to whatever warrants it in a given episode.
10. The cast is phenomenal
Don’t worry, we’ll get to Rose McIver, but the entire cast of iZombie is amazing. Rahul Kohli makes Dr. Ravi Chakrabarti – Liv’s sole confidant – so warm, funny and sympathetic that you will wish that he were your best friend. In an incredibly understated performance, Malcolm Goodwin plays Detective Clive Babinaeux, who acts as Liv’s partner after she convinces him that she has psychic visions. Major Lilywhite, portrayed by Robert Buckley, is the ex-fiancé that Liv left behind without an explanation. Buckley gives a nuanced performance, merely hinting at the trouble brewing beneath Major’s veneer of perfection. Aly Michalka rounds out the cast as Peyton Charles, Liv’s former best friend who hasn’t given up on her. Michalka is so likeable that you can’t help but hope that the two women can find a way to restore their friendship.
The series has also had great guest appearances from so many familiar Veronica Mars faces, including Enrico Colantoni, Ryan Hansen and Ken Marino. Kristen Bell even had a cameo. Okay, so it was just her voice, but it was still awesome.
9. Complex, rounded characters
Liv’s transformation left her beaten and broken, with no one to confide in. Lucky for her, her boss at the morgue, Ravi, not only deduced her secret on his own, but also took it upon himself to begin seeking a cure for her condition. If Liv’s relationship with Ravi became the beating heart of iZombie, then the blood running through it’s veins would have to be her rapport with Clive. He had a difficult time believing that she was having psychic visions, but that lie was certainly easier to swallow than the truth.
There are no two-dimensional characters to be found on iZombie. Case in point, Liv’s former fiancé, Major, who could’ve easily been a throwaway character, has had one of the best arcs of the series. There is also Liv’s former bestie, Peyton. She is another character who didn’t seem to matter much in the beginning of the story. However, Peyton has since become integral to the series, evolving into an intriguing character in her own right.
8. Memorable villains
It’s not just the protagonists of iZombie that are easy to fall for, but some of the villains as well. Every season has had a new Big Bad to contend with, sometimes more than one. You’ll either love to hate them or just plain love them.
Blaine DeBeers – brilliantly played by David Anders – has been a consistently surprising character. When Blaine was introduced in season 1, no one could have predicted the unexpected twists his journey would take as the series progressed. He has become one of iZombie’s most compelling characters. Steven Weber’s maniacal Vaughn Du Clark and Eddie Jemison’s imposing Stacey Boss were a bit more straightforward in their villainous ways, but both have been incredibly fun additions to the series. The antagonists of iZombie are multifaceted baddies with complex motivations.
7. Character-driven stories
Like all great zombie stories, so much of iZombie is about survival. However, while other tales are concerned with humans surviving some kind of apocalyptic event, iZombie focuses more on the life after survival. Liv was a happy, well-adjusted young woman when fate saw fit to have her scratched by a zombie. For a while, that transformation consumed her and she could see nothing beyond what she had lost. As her story continued, Liv was able to embrace her unfortunate circumstances and found a greater purpose in solving the murders of helpless victims who could no longer speak for themselves.
However, Liv’s is not the only road traveled here. Her former fiancé, her BFF, and even her biggest adversary have all wound up in unexpected places as well. The relationships between these characters are vital to the series.
6. Witty dialogue and plenty of pop culture references
Much like Veronica Mars, iZombie has ubiquitous pop culture references and witty dialogue. It’s got Rob Thomas’s fingerprints all over it and that’s a good thing. For the season 2 finale, the other Rob Thomas – as in the front man from much maligned ‘90s band, Matchbox 20 – performed on the show, even allowing the series to make a couple of jokes at his expense. You can’t say the guy doesn’t have a sense of humor. Aside from that, the episode left us dangling off some pretty serious cliffs. iZombie definitely knows how to deliver an excellent season finale.
The series is constantly subverting expectations, always finding new ways to drive the story forward. Whether it be with a sly wink at the audience about some clever meta-humor or a murderous twist that you never saw coming, iZombie has some of the best writing on television.
5. It will make you crave… brains
Of the myriad ways that iZombie has revitalized a stale genre, one of the most ingenious examples of this would have to be Liv’s diet. Brains have been an endless source of gore in zombie stories, but they have never looked so…tempting. Liv doesn’t just eat brains as they are because, well… they’re kind of gross. Also, her taste buds pretty much disappeared when her life did, so she puts hot sauce on absolutely everything.
Almost every single episode of iZombie has featured an exquisite dish that makes brains look downright delicious. There is usually a brief scene before Liv chows down that can be best described as food porn. Whether it’s a delightful salad, a delectable stir-fry, or some heavenly hush puppies, this show is going to make you want to share a meal with Liv Moore.
4. Punny humor
Humor abounds on iZombie. The show offers no shortage of laugh-out-loud moments. The rapid-fire jokes, the interactions between the characters, and the clever one-liners all add up to one seriously funny show. Not to mention all of the comedy mined from whatever brain Liv is on at the time. However, not all of the jokes are immediately apparent. Some of them will sneak up on you.
There is a lot in a name on iZombie, as evidenced not only by its central character, but also by the looming threats of the series. Blaine ran both the Meat Cute; a butcher shop that had more than animal meat on the menu and Shady Plots; a funeral home that dealt in something far more sinister than death. Let’s also not forget about the more recent addition, Fillmore-Graves Enterprises; a company that knows a thing or two about the undead.
3. It just keeps getting better
Some series start out so strong, only to get you hooked and ultimately leave you hanging. We’ve all been there. It’s like a love affair gone wrong. First there’s the flirting. You’re not sure if the show is right for you and you’re not quite ready to commit. Then you fall… hard. The series is perfect. It can do no wrong. Little by little though – or sometimes even all at once – the show begins to change. It’s no longer the series that you fell in love with. In fact, it’s become unrecognizable to you. The only question is, will you keep hate watching or will you move on?
Of course, there are no guarantees in life or in television, but fortunately iZombie continues to flourish in its third season. The series has evolved, the characters have grown, their relationships have deepened, and the mysteries continue to intrigue. Thus far, the show has only gotten better.
2. Seasons 1 and 2 are currently streaming on Netflix
Sometimes you hear about a truly great show way too late, with absolutely no hope of catching up. In today’s binge culture, we want access to everything and we want it now! Well, fortunately for those of you a bit late to this dead man’s party, both season 1 and season 2 of iZombie are currently available on Netflix.
Aside from that, The CW has an app that grants access to all of their content – the most recent five episodes – without a cable subscription. The series just returned last month after an almost yearlong hiatus. If you start now, you can catch up to the current season. Now you have no excuse not to be watching iZombie. Time to set your clock to binge mode– learn to love the CW’s best kept secret!
1. Rose McIver is amazing
When Liv ingests someone’s brain, she not only gets glimpses of their life, but also takes on some of their traits. She has been a sociopath, a compulsive gambler, a magician, even a costumed vigilante! Rose McIver is basically playing a different character every single week, sometimes within a single episode, and she kills it every time.
McIver needs to not only play the “brain of the week”, but also let a bit of Liv herself shine through as well. She is walking a tricky tightrope and somehow manages to balance multiple personalities every episode. It’s a brilliant performance. Part of the genius of the series is the way Liv is able to use every brain that she eats as a means of not only finding justice for the victim, but also as a way of working out her own issues. Let’s face it, she’s got some big ones.
Start watching iZombie Tuesdays at 9:00 pm on The CW