A zombie outbreak has turned UK into zombie-land but the only ones who have managed to stay safe are the oblivious contestants of Big Brother. This is the premise of Charlie Brooker’s mini-series Dead Set. The 5-episode series premiered in the UK in 2008 and can today be termed as a precursor to Brooker’s successful series Black Mirror. Up until that point, Brooker was popular for his weekly TV reviews where he often took a dig at the Big Brother series. But with Dead Set, he took that premise and set up a world where the characters had almost zero chance of survival.
Dead Set is spread across 5 episodes and was broadcast for five consecutive nights when it first premiered on television. The first episode starts as the eviction is about to take place on the reality show. The crowd is chanting contestants’ names but a zombie outbreak changes everything within a few minutes. Only a few manage to survive apart from the contestants in the house.
The contestants are unaware of the events outside the house but even after they are told the truth by a producer who has managed to stay hidden, they think of her to be a wildcard contestant. The ones inside are pretty much the only survivors and now their journey inside the Big Brother’s house takes on another meaning.
Characters have conflicting viewpoints as to how they can escape but they continue to treat it like a task of the game by indulging in petty politics and sacrificing a few of their mates to the zombies. Here, Brooker introduces us to his signature dark humour which is now synonymous with him.
Dead Set is crisp storytelling at its best. The five episodes have a duration of a little over 2 hours in total, making it a perfect binge-worthy series. Since this is a survival horror drama, there is no unnecessary time spent in establishing subplots as there is nothing but safety on the characters’ minds. The final act here is to watch out for as it strongly talks about the negotiating nature of humans.
Dead Set gave the gift of the talented Riz Ahmed, and this was the show that prompted Channel 4 to plan an anthology series with Brooker, which later became Black Mirror.
Dead Set is streaming on Netflix.