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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Z Nation, SYFY's New Zombie Series with Longtime Production Partner The Asylum

I'm not really sure what to make of SYFY channels jump into the Zombie TV series business with their usually garbage production companion The Asylum and their new series Z Nation -- Virtually every cell in my body is in revolt as I watch this for the first time, a pilot titled "Puppies and Kittens" preceding tomorrows episode which steals a little of its naming convention from Battlestar Galactica's mock expletives "Fracking Zombies".

There are some interesting casting choices for various roles that caused me (at first) to be extremely interested, specifically Harold Perrineau, whose known for his very distinct style on screen, mainly his most popular role in Oz as Augustus Hill. Perrineau isn't new to this genre, if you like arguing that 28 Weeks Later was a Zombie film (which I tend not to do) but in terms of similarity this isn't entirely new to him. 

After viewing the first episode I have extremely mixed feelings. I admit I may have a large bias against The Asylum as a production house that delivers consistently horrific films that are usually copies of popular media. Most of the time what is produced is named extremely close to the same media they are copying for the purposes of being placed on the shelf next to said films. So while I have a natural tendency to want to hate the bulk of what they produce (along with their dirty tactics), I do give them credit and respect for the ridiculous level of output they have as a company. But that's usually where my respect ends.

All that said, I am a huge fan of Zombie films and of course of The Walking Dead. While I doubt this will ever reach the same quality or attention to detail. So far it isn't the usual Asylum production. While I can't say it is 'Good' I'm having a hard time 'completely' disliking this series. 

Z Nation is like many a Zombie story. A virus outbreak started an apocalypse, called an extinction event in the pilot. a couple of years later there are very few pockets of people remaining. There's a small military outpost that has some experimental serum and in the course of the opening sequences there are doctors testing it on prisoners. As they get overrun, one prisoner remains who gets a dose and is seemingly lost to the horde that attacks and starts biting chunks out of him. Somehow, of course, after the opening credits, he is revealed surviving multiple bites and may be humanities last hope for a cure. 

The biggest problems here are the general awkwardly placed lines attempting at epic heroism or badassdom, I'll let people decide if either of those hold true. I'm also not completely impressed with the needless escalation of shock and awe style tactics in the horror and gore. It almost feels trendy instead of appropriate or connected with the continuity. 

The first episode also seemingly removes the best actor on the project, Harold Perrineau late in the pilot by killing him off in the most idiotic and unceremonious manner possible. 

Another actor I was having trouble watching on the screen was DJ Qualls, named Citizen Z in the show. He's a communications soldier left behind in another military base as soldiers were evacuating. A turn of events that seemed to be in his favor as he watched his evac flight leave him behind and subsequently crash and burn. He now remains at the coms communicating over the radio waves like a DJ to the Apocalypse at what seems to be a fully contained military bunker of sorts. Which makes me wonder why they were abandoning the location in the first place. 

While there is some overall entertainment quality to this show I think this will be for audiences that understand it can't really be taken seriously. The drama is underlined with completely underwhelming characters played by actors who somehow are trying really hard to summon some gravitas and I'm not sure if i'm supposed to laugh at how badly they're doing is Asylum...or if I'm supposed to be moved by the poorly executed script. 

Perhaps because I love the Zombie genre I gave it a watch, expecting not to gain much. But this is truly a series for people who don't care or put too much stock in the quality of what they watch. In that respect I guess it can find an audience. 

SYFY is putting out a documentary style series called "Town of the Living Dead" and I am looking forward to watching that instead. I'll still be objective and give a few more episodes of Z Nation a try before completely deciding if it's worth the time. Especially with all of the high quality media available today. 

Whatever your thoughts on this series, comment, share, tweet, pin and hit me up on social media. 

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