March 18, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “iZombie”

IZOMBIE:  Tuesday 9PM on CW – Potential DVR Alert

Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero-Wright’s clever IZOMBIE (based on a DC comic) brings back from the dead something very close to the premise of ABC’s lamented Pushing Daisies.  In that fantastical show, the hero had the magical ability to bring corpses back from the dead, but just for one minute–enough time for him to get some information about the deceased’s unfortunate end, and then use that to solve the crime.

iZombie goes the concept one better by making the heroine a corpse herself, a sentient zombie a la the latter stages of the movie Warm Bodies.  Olivia (Rose McIver)–but call her “Liv”–was an aspiring heart surgeon when as-yet unexplained events on a boat party involving the briefly-seen Blaine (David Anders) led to an undead infestation and Liv’s untimely demise.  When she woke, she had an appetite for brains as well as dead-white hair and complexion (she uses bronzer) and little more than listless energy, but rather than kill for her brain food, she joined the Seattle coroner’s office for the endless buffet.

What she discovers in the pilot, written by Thomas and Ruggiero-Wright and directed by Thomas, is that ingesting the brains gives her access to fragments of the corpse’s memories, as well as some of their traits (in the pilot, these include kleptomania and the ability to speak and understand Hungarian).  Her boss at the morgue, Ravi (Rahul Kohli), who conveniently used to work at the CDC, realizes what’s up with Liv and decides he’s going to figure out a cure–but meanwhile he encourages her to use her abilities to solve crimes, which leads to her assisting (as a “psychic”) Seattle detective Clive Babinaux (Malcolm Goodwin), who doesn’t suspect anything even after he’s watched her get shot in the chest with no (additional) ill effects.

The procedural aspects of the pilot are less than thrilling, with Liv having just enough brain-fed insight to keep the plot rolling along, and the killer’s actions making little sense throughout.  What does work very well in iZombie is the wry character of Liv, who takes to her undead state with disgust but also a sense of humor and a willingness to make her situation work.  Thomas and Ruggiero-Wright were previously the creator/showrunner and a senior writer/producer of Veronica Mars, and zombie details aside, iZombie is strongly similar, with its offbeat, assertive young female detective who narrates her investigations.  This is territory the creators know well, and iZombie has an assured tone, one much more straightforward than the endlessly filigreed mythology and fairy tale production design of Pushing Daisies.

The show is further marked by a charming lead performance from McIver, who’s been a bright presence in roles as varied as Tinker-Bell on Once Upon A Time and the love-hungry daughter of a closeted gay university official on Masters of Sex.  She makes Liv come alive, even when the character is in a deathly funk.  On first glance, there’s not nearly as much to the supporting characters, although there’s still plenty of time for them to be further developed.

iZombie seems like a good fit for CW, an offbeat twist on the kind of supernatural melodrama the network has made its own.  Certainly the network is showing confidence by giving the series the smash hit The Flash as its lead-in.  Its longevity will require some better plots, either the serialized story of Liv’s own death or the episodic mysteries, but there’s potential here for a vital life beyond the grave.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."