Zombieland pilot spoiler-free review

Review Jake Laverde 22 Apr 2013 - 08:00

Jake checks out Amazon's Zombieland sitcom pilot and finds it a confident start that keeps the original's sense of humour intact...

Last week saw the launch of the much mooted TV adaptation of horror comedy Zombieland. Writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick have long talked about a possible TV series spun out of their whip-smart apocalyptic comedy and now it's come in the form of one of eight comedy pilots being piloted by internet shopping dominant Amazon as they move into original productions. 

The 2009 film, originally pitched as a TV show funnily enough, was a whip-smart, quirky take on genre tropes noted for the chemistry between its leads Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg. So how does this proposed series compare without them? Written by both Reese and Wernick along with Eli Craig (writer of the excellent Tucker and Dale vs Evil), the offbeat humour is kept intact. It starts as it means to go on with an excellent opening scene showing the first few moments of the outbreak. Kirk Ward steps into Woody Harrelson's 'Tallahasee' role with aplomb before Tyler Ross provides the voiceover and introduces the rest of the cast, Wichita (Maiara Walsh) and Little Rock (Izabela Vidovic). 

The rest of this pilot episode is about establishing the scenario and tone. Set after the events of the movie, it expands on the universe, focusing on the group's attempts to find other survivors, and the darkly comic pratfalls that befall those unlucky souls. The characters are well-defined, more so than a certain other TV series featuring the undead, even if they are perhaps a bit generic for a sitcom. But the dialogue bounces well enough between them to keep you onside. Visually, it's surprisingly close to the film, the undead hordes looking effective as well as rather silly. And it's just as playful showing you “the rules” as well as keeping count with how often Tallahasse refers to an anatomical term. 

This is a confident start and whets the appetite for a further series well. The dynamic between the characters feels natural within a sitcom and the road movie-like nature lends itself well to an episodic format. But as with all sitcoms, it feels like it needs a couple of episodes more to really build on the characters and develop their quirks. So while this episode is enjoyable, it's frustratingly too early to say whether or not this could be something special. And on the evidence so far, there's much to like but not enough to love. Kirk Ward's take on Tallahassee is a highlight but that could be because he's onscreen the most. Tyler Ross is likeable as the everyman Columbus, but doesn't have much to get his teeth into, aside from a rather hairy zombie encounter. Maira Walsh as Wichita just doesn't have the same laconic dryness that Emma Stone pulled off beautifully. And as such, feels more of a prop to keep Columbus motivated. 

But overall, this is a good start for Amazon. Taking a different approach to Netflix by commissioning pilots and listening to feedback, it's down to the audience on whether or not Zombieland goes to a series. There's a lot more that can be explored here, and possible future episodes could see this taking on a very interesting direction. See the difference between season one and two of Parks and Recreation as they changed what didn't work, brought out characters' quirks etc. If Zombieland is to rise from limbo, there's every chance it could come back as a quicker and leaner series. And that's the one I really want to watch! 

Zombieland is available to stream for free now, on Lovefilm in the UK and on Amazon Instant video in the US.

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The trailer was awful (IMO) - but on the strength of this review I'll give the full pilot a try.

FINALLY! Somebody who likes the pilot like I do!

OK watched it - one minor smirk during the whole running time...
I think I'll pass.

Awful. The rest of the show was like watching the opening, with guns. Unfunny, unlikeable people blathering on about themselves.
In the film the only character i found interesting/likeable was Woody Harrelson's.
Replace him with someone who doesn't have the charisma and wow, it's a slog.
Poorly done CGI Blood (aarrrgh,) not particularly great practical fx and a script that's not funny, clever or well paced enough to let you ignore that with one good laugh in 28 minutes.

One.

No other small laughs, stony faced silence.

My instant reaction was pretty negative and I didn't find Kirk Ward nearly as charismatic, though I agree with your other point that its length doesn't give it much room to develop, so...maybe.

looks good but needs a better Tallahasse the immature, nutty zombiekiller just isnt working with the new Woody. , should have spent the money on Zombieland 2..

I thought this was OK for a pilot and has the potential to grow into something half decent. It's never going to be the best thing on TV.

The nature of its narrative shape allied to its short episode length means that it will be an exercise in repetition with small variations. There'll be little chance of drama or a story arc so it will end up being an exercise in 'how many funny ways can we find to kill a zombie'. That will run out of legs quickly.

You can kind of see how it was turned down for a TV show first time around.

I thought Tallahasse was trying too hard to be WH, but that he might find his own voice if this went to series. Wichita didn't really work for me, she was a little too primped and didn't really pull off the character. She came over as whiney rather than hard and uptight.

Columbus and Little Rock both worked for me as did the story being told about finding new companions. There was a couple of sniggers along the way but nothing approaching a big laugh.

The effects worked and it was nice to have uncensored language in a show.

I wouldn't sign up to watch it on the basis of the pilot, but compared to Dark Minions (the only other LF pilot I've seen so far) this would get my vote.

As many others have said, a second movie would be my preference to a TV show.

good production values but the show just isn't funny.

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