Until Braindead came along, the only TV comedy series I watched was The Big Bang Theory. What can I say? Nerds are cute and Sheldon Cooper is simply adorable. Then, at Alex’s prodding, we watched the pilot episode of Braindead. We liked it and we’ve been watching the show since. The eighth episode just aired and Braindead has not let us down yet.
What is Braindead? It’s a sci-fi comedy about alien bugs invading the Earth. Yes, bugs. They infect a person by entering his ear and eating the left part of his brain. If the infected person “accepts” the invasion of his body, the left side of the brain is ejected through the ear (and he thereby loses his ability to think logically, analyze and be objective). If the person “rejects” the invasion of his brain, his head explodes.
Okay, that may sound more scary than funny but consider that the story is set in Washington, D.C. and the largest concentration of infected people is in the Capitol. The bugs are taking control of high government officials to, obviously, make the invasion of Earth easier.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead (the adult Lucy McClane in Live Free or Die Hard) is Laurel Healy, sister of Democratic Senator Luke Healy, recently transplanted from Los Angeles after she failed to get funding for her documentary film. She starts working for her brother as a conduit between the senator and his constituents.
Laurel is the first (and, so far, only) victim of the bug invasion who was able to cure herself. With the help of two unlikely friends, she discovered that the invasion can be repelled by continuously ignoring all left brain functions (by listening to loud music, drinking copious amounts of alcohol and having wild sex) until the bugs have no choice but to abandon the victim’s head.
But probably the most (infuriatingly) funny moments are the scenes with Republican Senator Raymond “Red” Wheatus (Tony Shalhoub) in it. One of the first to be infected, Red wants to manipulate legislation in order to make it easier for the invasion to proceed. When he discovered that Laurel and her friends were on to the bugs, he manipulates the FBI into conducting an investigation which leads to the detention of Laurel who almost gets tortured.
It is a political satire. Of sorts. You have senators acting like jackasses and it’s all attributed to the control that the alien bugs have over their brains. But if you look at the political manipulations and wrangling, you start seeing the humor in making the bugs an excuse for the stupidity of government officials. It’s as if the writers are saying, “Let’s show the world how stupid government is but let’s not do it in a rabid-activist kind of way. Instead, we’ll put in bugs and say it’s their fault.” The title of each episode makes that intention quite clear:
Episode 1: “The Insanity Principle: How Extremism in Politics is Threatening Democracy in the 21st Century”
Episode 2: “Playing Politics: Living Life in the Shadow of the Budget Showdown – A Critique”
Episode 3: “Goring Oxes: How You Can Survive the War on Government Through Five Easy Steps”
Episode 4: “Wake Up Grassroots: The Nine Virtues of Participatory Democracy, and How We Can Keep America Great by Encouraging an Informed Electorate”
Episode 5: “Back to Work: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Congress and How It Gets Things Done (and Often Doesn’t)”
Episode 6: “Notes Toward a Post-Reagan Theory of Party Alliance, Tribalism, and Loyalty: Past as Prologue”
Episode 7: “The Power of Euphemism: How Torture Became a Matter of Debate in American Politics”
Episode 8: “The Path to War Part One: The Gathering Political Storm”
Braindead is fresh, innovative and I especially like how the previous episodes are recapped in a song. But, of course, it’s not for people whose definition of “funny” is The Jerry Springer Show. Two episodes to go before the first season of Braindead ends. My expectations remain high.