Town of the Living Dead

TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Town of the Living Dead TV Poster Image
Inside look at how a zombie movie is made.

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

This in-depth look at the making of a movie shows people working together on a passion project. Tweens and teens can learn much about the value of cooperation, as well as how difficult it is to turn an idea into a reality. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

The real people spotlighted in this show are good role models to varying degrees. A grandmother who cares deeply about the production mortgages her house to keep it going; the movie's director maintains a boring day job he hates to fund his art project. 

Violence

Kids may be frightened by the shambling zombie walks and eerie bloody makeup. Gruesome (fake) body parts are blown up and run over; the impact of these effects may be softened when viewers see how they're accomplished (stage blood and dummies). Two angry men get in a scuffle. A character is burned during the filming of a scene. 

Sex

Some discussion of flirting and dating. One character tells another he has a "fine ass." Cast members have a running joke about a faux "zombie penis" that's used to play pranks. 

Language

Cursing is bleeped: "You've got to be f--king kidding." There also are colorful epithets, such as when one character says she's trying to "blow a chicken's ass out" for a movie effect. 

Consumerism

Other shows such as The Walking Dead are mentioned briefly. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters smoke on-screen. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Town of the Living Dead is a reality show about the making of a zombie movie in a small Southern town. Some viewers may be alarmed by the many shots of gory stage makeup, including eaten-away facial features and missing limbs. They also may be unnerved by scenes in which zombies and body parts are shot, stabbed, run over, or blown up; this discomfort may be alleviated by scenes that show exactly how these effects are accomplished. There's some cursing, though the F-word is bleeped. Some characters discuss sexuality and dating. Parents may appreciate that this show gives teens an insider's view of how movies are made and how certain cinematic effects are achieved. 

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What's the story?

For six long years, a determined crew in Jasper, Alabama, has been struggling to make a zombie movie, Thr33 Days Dead, turning their tiny, heavily Christian city into THE TOWN OF THE LIVING DEAD. In this comic docuseries, viewers will follow the tempestuous travails of Thr33's crew, including producer and grandma Tina Teeter (who has sunk $25,000 of her own money into the production and will soon mortgage her house to get more), director John Ware (who holds down a day job at Radio Shack), and the production's leading man, Bryan Boylen (who starts popping St. John's wort to deal with his crippling anxiety). They'll do just about anything to advance their production, up to and including begging ketchup for fake blood from cast members and asking to "borrow" a boat they plan to blow up. The movie these people are making seems, frankly, pretty bad. But watching them make it is priceless. 

Is it any good?

At first glance, Town of the Living Dead appears to be yet another entry in the "mocking Southern people" reality genre typified by Duck Dynasty. Indeed, the camera seems to relish whenever Tina Teeter lets loose with a countrified turn of speech, and shots linger on Jasper's, shall we say, modest downtown and its citizens in a way that seems sardonic. But Town of the Living Dead transcends its underpinnings by offering a clear-eyed look at the circles of hell endured by those who attempt to make an independent, low-budget film. Shots are sabotaged by dynamite that goes off too soon, extras who want to take smoke breaks, and a declined credit card that won't allow Ware and Teeter to buy dummy heads and ketchup for a special-effects shot. 

All that pain, of course, makes for entertaining drama. But, more than that, it's instructive for teens who watch zombie movies or shows or who have their own filmmaking aspirations to see how shots are put together and how effects are accomplished, as well as how many things can go wrong even when everyone is trying his or her best. Town's very best gimmick is that after viewers see a shot go completely awry and the filmmakers make compromises just to get something on film, we're then allowed to see the completed segment in the film. It's a wonderful tool for media literacy and a cool payoff for viewers that makes this show more than a guilty pleasure. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why this particular show is airing at this time. Are zombies "hot" on TV and at the movies right now? How do you know?

  • Town of the Living Dead frequently shows shoots that go awry for various reasons. Name a couple of scenes that went wrong. How would you have changed things so these problems didn't arise? 

  • Does this show make being a director or a producer glamorous? Fun? Having watched the show, would you like to try to make a movie? 

TV details

For kids who love reality TV

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