Series premiere review: ‘iZombie’ – ‘Pilot’

Senior Television Writer
03.17.15 15 Comments

Welcome to “iZombie,” boys and girls. Earlier today, I published interviews with producers Diane Ruggiero-Wright and Rob Thomas, and I have a review of the series premiere coming up just as soon as I choose not to have a drawer full of fake eyeballs…

“It's probably wrong that every time I see a dead body, I think, 'What the hell am I doing with my life?'” -Liv

TV adaptations – whether from books, movies, comic books or even other TV shows – are a tricky thing. Ideally, you want to capture what was compelling in the source material without doing a straight-up copy, but if you make too many changes, you risk annoying the pre-existing fanbase who helped your adaptation become a reality in the first place.

Unlike a lot of the recent comic book adaptations, “iZombie” plays very loose with the source material. Thomas and Ruggiero-Wright, not wanting to do a “True Blood” rehash, and focusing on their shared strengths from the “Veronica Mars” days, threw out the whole monster cosmology of ghosts and mummies and were-terriers, moved Liv from gravedigger to assistant medical examiner, and expanded one story from the comics where Liv investigates the murder of a corpse whose brain she eats until it's the plot engine driving the whole show.

The important part is they kept the basic core of Chris Roberson and Mike Allred's idea: bright and energetic young woman finds herself transformed into a slowly-decaying zombie, and struggles to find ways to build a new life for herself while being one of the undead. Rose McIver makes a very strong lead, and if the case of the week isn't so exciting in and of itself – and Liv telling Clive the cop that she's a psychic is a retread of the central gimmick from “Psych” – it's fun to watch Liv deal with the full implications of her new powers, and of all the memories and abilities she temporarily borrows while each new brain is still digesting.

The show also does a smart thing in bringing her co-worker Ravi into the secret almost instantly, giving her both a confidante and a potential light at the end of the tunnel, as he works to see if there's a cure for her strange condition. We'll see with the rest of the supporting characters – David Anders only appears briefly here, and at this stage the show is still figuring out what to do with Robert Buckley as Liv's ex-fiance Major – but the core of the show is a quippy blonde solving mysteries. These writers have some experience at that.

Tuesdays are too jammed at the moment for me to do weekly coverage of this show, but I'd like to check in periodically, especially as the show begins tilting the procedural/mythology ratio as Thomas talked about with me. There will be bumps, like there are for almost all new shows (the fourth and final episode sent to critics in advance was my least favorite of the group), but there's clearly good raw material here, and a star in McIver who can deliver Thomas and Ruggiero-Wright's dialogue. It's a fine start.

What did everybody else think? Are you setting the season pass yet?

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