TV Review: Zombieland

While it is only one pilot (and only 28 minutes long), having viewed Zombieland, it might be better if Amazon avoids producing its own programming. It is hard to believe that this comes from the movie’s screenwriters, Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick. It is forced and obvious and strains to be funny, and it fails miserably. You might chuckle once or twice, but it isn’t nearly as amusing or fun as the feature version. 

The opening sets the stage for what’s to come, in that it takes a joke and doesn’t know when to quit. A couple of obnoxious office workers have a mundane conversation about personal electronic devices and Starbucks. As they ramble on and on, the world goes to hell right behind them. People are attacked by zombies and there is carnage aplenty. They of course fail to notice everything until it is too late. It goes on for way too long and the joke is beaten to death, a problem that resurfaces frequently. 

Fast-forward two months to Los Angeles. Columbus (Tyler Ross) introduces himself and proceeds to let us know all about the rules and the current state of things. The voiceover hardly ever stops, and most of what he says is painfully obvious (“we go by the city we’re from”). It gets tedious in a hurry, as does the pilot. 

Columbus, Tallahassee (Kirk Ward), Wichita (Mairara Walsh), and Little Rock (Izabela Vidovic) are trying to make it out of L.A. A former OnStar employee named Detroit, who is a guardian angel in Zombieland, informs them that there is a safe place on the Eastern seaboard. So the group heads east as Detroit guides them to the few remaining survivors in the city. 

A running joke sees every survivor they encounter die almost immediately. It’s kind of funny once, but it’s overdone. The show also telegraphs everything and is subtle as a sledgehammer. So Tallahassee insists that this time the survivor they find will live no matter what. Guess what happens? And when they find out that the last survivors in the city are a nice old couple, and they have an extended conversation about their grandparents, do you think the nice old couple are zombies now? 

While the storytelling is clunky, the acting is even worse. Ross is mostly excruciating as the lead. Whereas Jesse Eisenberg effortlessly pulls off being sort of hapless and dopey, Ross is just annoying. He barely knows Wichita and wants to talk marriage and parenthood with her. It’s a mystery why she wants anything to do with him. Ward fares no better than Ross. Tallahassee is still a good killer, but he’s also incredibly stupid in a way that isn’t remotely believable. It’s supposed to be hilarious that he says “vagina” repeatedly, just as it’s supposed to be funny that Little Rock says “fuck” even though she’s a kid, just as it’s supposed to be funny that the aforementioned office workers curse repeatedly. None of it is funny because none of it feels natural. 

There are a few somewhat humorous moments. Someone comments on how sweet it is when an old couple dies really close together, and a zombie-kill-of-the-week involving one of those huge Phillips 76 gas station signs are highlights. Those moments are fleeting, and they add up to maybe a minute of screen time. This is a bad pilot and you won’t get those 28 minutes back. Watch the movie instead, even if you’ve seen it already. 

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