tek's rating: ¾

BrainDead, on CBS
A.V. Club; IMDb; TV Tango; TV Tropes; Wikipedia
streaming sites: Amazon; Paramount+

This aired for 13 episodes in summer 2016. (Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton often appear on TVs in the background.) I decided to put my review in my "limited series" section, because it does seem like the story is over. But I figured if it got renewed, I'd probably move it to the "quirky" section. It didn't get renewed, so I can leave the review here... although in 2017, I looked at Wikipedia's page for the show, and it said there had been a planned four-season arc. I'm fairly sure I never read or heard that anywhere before, and it kind of surprises me. I suppose this means I should move the review, after all, but... I dunno, I guess I'd just rather not.

Laurel Healy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is a documentary filmmaker, who's been living in California for some time, but has been unable to secure financing for her latest project. She returns to her hometown of Washington, D.C., where her brother, Luke Healy, is a Democratic senator. He offers her a job in his office, but she only agrees to take it on a six-month basis, when their father offers to finance her film if she accepts the job. Her job consists mainly of listening to complaints or requests from Luke's constituents, but she also ends up getting involved in her brother's political maneuverings. Mainly this involves her negotiating with Gareth Ritter, a member of the staff (and before long chief of staff) of Republican senator Red Wheatus (Tony Shalhoub). Wheatus himself is perpetually drunk, and takes little interest in his job. Meanwhile, a meteorite had been recovered in Russia, and shipped to the U.S. It contains what seem to be alien insects, which can crawl inside people's heads and take over their minds. Some of Laurel's work leads to her discovering strange things going on, though it will be awhile before she discovers the cause. But she's not the only one noticing these things. (And it's not just mind control; some victims of the insects simply have their heads explode.) She eventually teams up with a medical resident named Rochelle Daudier and an eccentric genius named Gustav Triplett. (Rochelle's father and a friend of Gustav's were both infected by the insects, and both had their heads explode.)

One of the people being mind-controlled is Senator Wheatus, who quits drinking and starts taking his job seriously, after he's infected. Another is Scarlett Pierce, who is Luke's chief of staff. She and Luke have been having an affair, which Laurel finds out about and chastises her brother for cheating on his pregnant wife. Meanwhile, tensions between Democrats and Republicans lead to a government shutdown. Luke tries to fix the problem, with Laurel's help, but Wheatus and Gareth's machinations usually make the Democrats' plans backfire. When the party loses confidence in Luke, a Democratic senator named Ella Pollack (who starts out as an ally of Luke's) steps up take his position of leadership within the party. But... Gareth seems like basically a good guy, and eventually becomes a love interest for Laurel (and later, an ally against the insects). Meanwhile, it turns out that Ella is also infected, and works with Red to further the insects' goals (though their political differences ensure they don't get along too well).

So... it's complicated, and kind of weird. But interesting and amusing. Also I should say, there are some quirky touches, like the fact that infected people frequently listen to the Cars' song "You Might Think." (And the reason for that is eventually revealed, sort of. But it's not really important.) And at the start of each episode, the recap of the previous episode is sung exposition (by Jonathan Coulton), rather than just clips from the episode. And... I guess that's all I want to say. I'm leaving out a bunch of little details, as well as how it all turns out. But it was definitely fun.

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summer series