BrainDead

TV review by
Kari Croop, Common Sense Media
BrainDead TV Poster Image
Odd mix of sci-fi, politics is a mockery of modern problems.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Though the tone is satirical, the drama often outweighs the comedy, and the show's outlook is largely pessimistic. Major themes includes corruption, betrayal, and government conspiracy.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The main character is a smart, independent, and compassionate Washington outsider. Though she learns to play politics (and sometimes twists the truth) to get the information and assistance she needs, she tries to hold others accountable for their actions in pursuit of truth and justice.

Violence

Unsettling visuals include bugs crawling into people's ears, chunks of brains falling out of someone's head, and a person's skull exploding; some blood.

Sex

A married senator with a pregnant wife is having an affair with his female aide. Sex is implied with bare skin, but no sensitive parts are shown.

Language

Characters use words such as "damn," "ass," "crap," and "screw."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Social drinking. A secondary character begins the show with a serious alcohol dependency, drinking directly from bottles of liquor stashed in his office, and so on.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that BrainDead is a sci-fi-infused political satire with a comic twist that blames America's out-of-control behavior on an infestation of -- wait for it -- space bugs. Some visuals are downright disgusting (from an exploding head to a mass of brain material falling out of someone's ear), and characters use words such as "damn," "ass," "crap," and "screw." There's also regular social drinking (plus a character who drinks heavily in the pilot) and implied sex, with bare skin in bedclothes but no sensitive parts shown on-screen.

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What's the story?

When the financing on her latest film falls through, documentary filmmaker Laurel Healy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) strikes a desperate deal with her father, agreeing to work for her U.S. senator brother (Danny Pino) for six months in exchange for half the money she needs. But while looking into a seemingly routine constituent complaint, Laurel learns that Washington is literally becoming BRAINDEAD, thanks to an infestation of alien origin.

Is it any good?

Instead of smart satire, this promising but tone-deaf "comic-thriller" aims to explain America's problems away via an absurdly implausible metaphor: alien infestation. Maybe it looked funny on paper, but the joke falls particularly flat in the face of terrorism, discrimination, and gun violence, not to mention a contentious presidential election that’s fanning the flames of a city -- and, more broadly, a nation -- that’s already on fire.

Will BrainDead make you laugh? Maybe, though it largely eschews comedy in favor of its farcical sci-fi plot. But one thing it won't do is teach you much about the way American politics actually works or how we've arrived at our current delirium. True analysis of the American mind would be far too frightening -- and rather unfunny indeed.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about BrainDead's take on Washington politics and the role the news media plays in shaping public opinion. Improbable plot aside, how realistic are the show's portrayals of politicians and other talking heads? How do issues explored on BrainDead compare to current events?

  • Does BrainDead have an agenda? (Does it take sides, call anyone out, or favor any one particular ideology?) Will a show like BrainDead fix any of the problems plaguing American politics, or is it merely designed to entertain?

  • Is BrainDead a comedy, a drama, or a sci-fi thriller? How does the show blend elements of all three genres, and does it work?

TV details

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