Thursday, April 02, 2015

Culture Shock 04.02.15: 'iZombie' brings life to the undead

Rose McIver as Liv Moore in "iZombie." (Photo courtesy The CW.)
I believe it was the late philosopher of teenage angst Jason Dean, as played by Christian Slater in the 1988 movie "Heathers," who asked, "Now that you're dead, what are you gonna do with your life?"

Ah, that is the question — or at least it is for Liv Moore, who is not feeling quite herself these days.

Liv (Rose McIver, late of "Once Upon a Time" and "Masters of Sex") puts the lower-case "i" in The CW's latest comic-to-screen adaptation, "iZombie." The show is loosely based on writer Chris Roberson and artist Michael Allred's 28-issue series published by DC Comics' Vertigo imprint.

On paper, Liv seems to have it all. She has a loving and not-too-embarrassing family, a handsome and caring fiancé, and a promising career as a doctor in her future. Until, that is, against all her usual instincts, Liv accepts an invitation to a party, held at the wrong place at the wrong time. Or maybe it's the right place at the right time, if a zombie outbreak is your idea of a happening scene.

So, Liv Moore — the name is a pun; get it? — wakes up the next morning dead, or rather undead, and with an occasional craving for brains with hot sauce, but otherwise just a little worse for wear.

Liv's new undead look — unruly white hair and a deathly pallor — even works for her. Put her in a hoodie, and she totally rocks shoegazer chic, which I read is making a comeback. It's a style that'll probably be all the rage among cosplayers on this year's sci-fi convention circuit.

Mind you, being a zombie entails some serious lifestyle changes. Liv abandons her hospital internship and gets a job as a medical examiner's assistant. Not counting state legislatures, morgues have the best stash of fresh brains just going to waste. Also, Liv dumps her boyfriend (Robert Buckley's equally punny Major Lilywhite) so as to avoid accidentally zombifying him.

With a regular diet of microwaved brains keeping her from going "full-on zombie" and frequent applications of bronzer, Liv passes for alive — emo, but alive. The only living person in on Liv's secret so far is Ravi the M.E. (Rahul Kohli), who thinks he might be able to cure her, but in the meantime, her condition makes for fascinating study.

Speaking of her condition, when Liv eats a person's brain, she also absorbs fragments of the person's memories and personality traits. Say Liv eats the brain of a kleptomaniac, she might find herself unconsciously stealing things. Say also the kelpto was murdered. Liv might have some insights into who done it.

In the comic book, Liv (named Gwen instead) works as a gravedigger so as to satisfy her hunger for gray matter. The TV's show's change of setting allows "iZombie" to double as a police procedural.

Enter newbie police detective Clive Babineaux (Malcolm Goodwin), who could use a little assist making his way past the department's old boys club. A zombie assistant M.E. could help with that, only better not let on she's a zombie. Just tell Clive she's psychic instead. Cops really go for that "psychic detective" stuff, just like USA's "Psych."

There you have it. The perfect setup for a story about a woman who comes to find out only after she's dead that she rushed through life so fast she never stopped to smell the roses. So she uses her second chance to have a life worth living. If it seems a bit trite, it is, but Liv and her supporting cast are endearing enough to make it work. McIver's Liv is a pleasant change from the tedious slow-walkers over on AMC's "The Walking Dead" (and I'm not talking about that show's zombies). She's adorably morbid, and her banter with Ravi makes the show.

The recurring baddie, David Anders' dealer-turned-zombie Blaine, is also a blast, with his fatalistic plan to make the most of his situation by turning more people into zombies and then acting as their hook-up for prime-cut brains. The first lobe is free, but then you've got to pay.

It's Blaine who, briefly speaking as the voice of the show's producers, wonders aloud if zombies are past their sell-by date. I wonder the same, but if shows like "iZombie" can think up new twists, there may be some life in this genre yet.

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