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BrainDead

BrainDead is an American political satire science fiction comedy-drama television series created by Robert and Michelle King. The series stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Laurel Healy, a documentary film-maker who takes a job working for her brother Luke (Danny Pino), a U.S. Senator, when the funding for her latest film falls through. Assigned as his new constituency caseworker, she discovers that Washington, D.C. has been invaded by extraterrestrial insects which are eating the brains and taking control of people, including members of Congress and their staffers. Much of the internal comedy of the series was that, in the altered reality of Washington DC politics, only a few people noticed.

CBS announced a 13-episode straight-to-series order on July 22, 2015. The show premiered on June 13, 2016. After four episodes, the show moved from its Monday timeslot to Sundays to make room for the network's coverage of the Republican and Democratic National Conventions. The show had a planned four-season arc, which would have seen the bugs then invade Wall Street, Silicon Valley and Hollywood, but on October 17, 2016, CBS cancelled the series after one season.

Premise

The series centers on the Capitol in Washington, D.C., where alien bugs infect members of Congress.

Documentary filmmaker Laurel Healy agrees to take a job working for her brother, Democratic Senator Luke Healy, in order to secure funding for her next film. However, she comes across a conspiracy in which alien bugs have partially replaced the brains of several people, including members of Congress. Sometimes, the bugs cause their victims' heads to explode. The song "You Might Think" by The Cars is used frequently in the series as a leitmotif for characters who are infected by the aliens.

Production

Singer-songwriter Jonathan Coulton wrote and performed musical recap segments of previous episodes, shown during the cold opening of each episode. There were exceptions to this, however: one episode instead opened with a parody commercial for "Space Bugs" in the style of prescription drug commercials, while another, after admitting that the previous episode was too overwhelming to recap, recapped an episode of the western Gunsmoke instead.

Cast

Main

  • Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Laurel Healy, a documentary filmmaker who takes a job as a constituency caseworker working for her brother, Senator Luke Healy, and stumbles across the bug conspiracy
  • Danny Pino as U.S. Senator Luke Healy (D-Md.), Laurel's brother, who is the Senate Majority Whip
  • Tony Shalhoub as U.S. Senator Raymond "Red" Wheatus (R-Md.), a Republican Senator who is one of the first people to have their brains eaten and replaced by the aliens
  • Aaron Tveit as Gareth Ritter, a staffer for Senator Wheatus who befriends Laurel, despite their extremely different political beliefs
  • Nikki M. James as Dr. Rochelle Daudier, a medical doctor who befriends Laurel and Gustav and helps them uncover the bug conspiracy
  • Jan Maxwell as U.S. Senator Ella Pollack (D-Ca)
  • Johnny Ray Gill as Gustav Triplett a.k.a. Dr. Bob, a pseudo-scientist and conspiracist who has discovered the existence of the aliens and how they communicate
  • Charlie Semine as FBI agent Anthony Onofrio

    Recurring

  • Paige Patterson as Scarlett Pierce, Senator Healy's Chief of Staff and one of his mistresses
  • Megan Hilty as Misty Alise, a conservative political television commentator
  • Beth Malone as Claudia Monarch, a liberal political television commentator
  • Zach Grenier as Dean Healy, former U.S. Senator and father of Laurel and Luke
  • Brooke Adams as U.S. Senator Diane Vaynerchuk
  • Wayne Duvall as U.S. Senator Andre Amarant, Republican Leader in the Senate
  • Glenn Fleshler as FBI Agent Aaron Blades, Onofrio's partner
  • Patrick Breen as Cole Stockwell, a budget analyst hired by Luke
  • Lily Cowles as Germaine Healy, Senator Luke Healy's pregnant wife

    Guest

  • Margo Martindale as Dr. Joanne Alaimo
  • Michael Moore as himself
  • Kurt Fuller as J.K. Cornish, FBI torturer
  • Michael Gaston as Lawrence Boch, a special investigator
  • Santino Fontana as Kevin, an infected who gets captured by Rochelle
  • Michael Potts as Dr. Daudier, a doctor conducting a joint operation with the Russian Institute on the retrieval of a meteor

    Episodes

    Broadcast

    The series premiered in Australia on Monday June 20, 2016, on Eleven, part of the Ten network.

    Reception

    BrainDead has received generally favorable reviews. On Rotten Tomatoes, the series holds a 65% approval rating based on 49 critics. The site's critical consensus reads: "While admittedly uneven, BrainDead remains a charmingly idealistic sign of the political times". On Metacritic, the show holds a 61 out of 100 Metascore based on 37 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".

    On its cancellation, Robert King, the show's creator said, "It was a show that was trying to be as weird and anti-network as could be, and it was probably a mistake to do that on a network. But I loved that show."