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Jeff Simon: Spring cleaning with ‘IZombie,’ ‘CSI: Cyber’ and more

Jeff Simon

“IZombie” was less than five minutes old when our heroine Olivia (aka “Liv”) had been transformed from a hard-charging, black-haired medical student with a devoted fiancé into a white-haired, raccoon-eyed zombie morgue assistant of no higher ambition whatsoever.

Lest the magnitude of that personality change not sink in, we were quickly treated to the sight of our girl Liv (played wonderfully by Rose McIver) in the morgue scooping out a couple spoons full of human brains, mixing them with noodles, heating it all up in the microwave and then chowing down.

As one who is in life awfully fond of mixing foods with noodles, I must confess being a wee bit taken aback.

I wish I could tell you that this scene in the pilot was an anomaly that watchers of the show won’t have to be bothered with again but it’s not. Brain-eating is integral to the show’s premise. It seems that Liv, the unambitious morgue assistant, relives the final moments of murder victims whenever she consumes their brains. She is, therefore, in a perfect position, to help the police find their killers.

Got all that? I hope so. That’s because Rose McIver is playing the new 2015 incarnation of “Veronica Mars” – or at least as close as we’re going to get while Veronica Mars (Kristin Bell) has long since become a card-carrying grown-up on “House of Lies” and the cherished inner circle of guests on the bygone Craig Ferguson edition of “The Late, Late Show” (which begins its James Corden period at 12:30 a.m. Tuesday).

“IZombie” was created by “Veronica Mars” guiding wiseacres Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero-Wright, the two who made the lovable “Veronica Mars” movie by turning Kickstarter and fandom into their personal movie studio and subsequent theater audience.

Let me confess that I don’t really get the whole zombie thing. I don’t watch “The Walking Dead.” I don’t mind watching zombie movie spectaculars starring Brad Pitt. And I was certainly impressed when George Romero first gave us his Pittsburgh pals in “Night of the Living Dead.” And that was not just because the star of Romero’s movie had been a fellow camper at a Chautauqua Lake summer camp with the woman I was married to for 15 years (not a sudden name drop either; she’d mentioned her name to me many times years before the movie opened and became a midnight movie immortal).

But the whole zombie thing kind of – well – bores me a little. Vampires and werewolves are more fun to watch. (I must admit, though, that the actors who stumble around doing their version of the stiff-legged Zombie Shuffle seem to be enjoying themselves immensely).

The reason “IZombie” – from a DC comic – is so worth talking about is that prime-time TV needs writer/creators like Thomas and Ruggiero-Wright pretty desperately. It needs to do its media version of consuming their brains. Veronica Mars was just about the smartest and most adorable misfit in all of TV teendom amid the fictional social rigidities of Neptune, Calif.

Thomas and Ruggiero-Wright’s new zombie heroine Liv is, in her own, horror comic way, just as droll. Her mother, best friend and ex-fiancé all think her new white-haired zombie appearance is just a new Goth look. They don’t know she’s the undead. They think, too, she has PTSD – just the result of the zombie jamboree party she accidentally went to that transformed her.

Veronica was TV’s most irrepressible misfit because she was always funny about being smarter than everyone else. Our new little zombie has rather more compelling reasons to be a young misfit (diet, for instance) – though, like Veronica, she has close friends who are happy to indulge her needs and whims.

Check her out on the CW Tuesday and see if you can tolerate her unusual diet enough to satiate your “Veronica Mars” needs.

Now, I know perfectly well that Big TV is on the march in our direction. Coming at us soon are the first half of “Mad Men’s” final season and everyone’s favorite barbarian bonanza “Game of Thrones.”

“Glee” is now over for good. And “Bones” returns Thursday so that the denizens of the Jefferson can continue to mourn the death of Dr. Sweets.

But, along with “IZombie” are a whole lot of smaller TV subjects begging for attention. So let’s make this a quick spring cleaning.

“CSI: Cyber.” The new CBS “CSI” fantasia is a watchable but instantly forgettable cybercrime show that has one distinguishing characteristic: one of the shortest casts I’ve ever seen in a TV drama.

Take a look at the show’s credits as the cast walks toward us while the theme music – the Who’s “I Can See for Miles” – plays. James Van Der Beek looks like a giant in their midst, a Gulliver among Lilliputians.

According to the IMDB website, Van Der Beek is only 6 feet tall. But the show’s star, Oscar-winner Patricia Arquette is only 5-foot-2, Peter MacNicol is generously listed at 5-foot-8 and Shad Moss at 5-foot-7.

Me? I’d have some fun with the idea of Dawson of “Dawson’s Creek” turning into an accidental LeBron James among such a cast. I’d let Thomas and Ruggiero-Wright free to write all sorts of gag-filled voiceover narrations.

But this is part of the ultra-straight “CSI” franchise and it’s really not that interesting either. As much as I like Arquette in dramatic movies, I haven’t quite accepted her yet as an actress with the snap, authority and, let’s admit, superficiality, necessary for the center of TV’s crime procedurals.

Ted Danson, on “CSI,” fit into the role perfectly. Arquette seems to keep threatening to humanize the show completely, from top to bottom, which isn’t the point of a “CSI” spinoff at all.

“Fresh Off the Boat.” What was worth paying attention to in this sitcom was its launch. The show is based on Eddie Huang’s best-selling book. Huang went everywhere he could on opening week telling everyone how glad he was that TV finally had a sitcom about Asian-Americans (the last one starred Margaret Cho) but was very disappointed that it wasn’t nearly as tough and stinging and truthful about the adjustment as his book had been.

Now there, I thought, is hype I can live with – a writer practically admitting that he’s going to enjoy the daylights out of the royalties he’ll take from the TV version of his autobiography but eager to point out that TV neutered almost everything significant he had to say.

You’ve got to love publicity in the new millennium, right?

“Bloodline.” The new Netflix series is about a family. It stars Kyle Chandler of “Friday Night Lights” and – are you ready? – Sissy Spacek and Sam Shepard.

Sissy Spacek and Sam Shepard in a TV DRAMA SERIES? Really?

It’s a new day in America.



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