You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

In the Flesh

Metaphorical part of being a zombie gets a workout in BBC America miniseries

Luke Newberry, David Walmsley, Emily Bevan, Harriet Cains, Steve Evets, Kenneth Cranham, Ricky Tomlinson, Stephen Thompson.

The metaphorical aspects of the supernatural have already been given quite a workout in “True Blood,” which is why BBC America’s three-part “In the Flesh” appears to be following a well-trod path by contemplating the alienating aspects of being a zombie. Too earnest and serious to work as satire, this character-driven study — treating what the government has dubbed Partially Deceased Syndrome as just another way of being “different” — certainly doesn’t fit into neat boxes, but its real-world, zombies-as-gay parallels play a bit heavy-handed. Although not bad per se, those with a genre appetite should be forewarned: “The Walking Dead,” this isn’t.

The program’s conceit picks up some time after the point at which most such tales begin. Zombies — who rose from the dead and munched on human flesh, in what was called “The Rising” — have now been successfully treated for their condition, using a medical cocktail that enables their brains to function. Still, ordinary humans are none too keen about plans to reintegrate them into society; paranoia and fear abound.

Kieren (Luke Newberry) took his own life at 18, for reasons that are apparent perhaps earlier than intended. So his apprehensive parents (Steve Cooper, Marie Critchley) are harboring him in their home, even though his now-older sister (Harriet Cains) is part of a group that fought “rotters” back when they were pillaging the countryside, and doesn’t want them back in the community. Her comrades-in-intolerance are led by a fire-breathing clergyman (Kenneth Cranham) and town leader (Steve Evets), a grizzled veteran of the battle, who faces the whole loathe-them-until-it’s-my-kid dilemma when his son, Rick (David Walmsley), returns from Afghanistan, also a zombie.

Written by Dominic Mitchell and directed by Jonny Campbell, “In the Flesh” contains some interesting elements, including the theatrical makeup and colored contacts zombies wear to obscure their pallid complexions. There’s also the little matter of being unable to eat or drink, and an ambling walk (hey, you’ve seen the movies) that Newberry in particular appears to have perfected.

Still, the central plot boils down to a familiar theme about small-town closed-mindedness. And while the zombies-becoming-members-of-society strain is an obvious device, even at a mere three hourlong parts, it’s not entirely clear what the end-game is, or what sort of afterlives these walking corpses can anticipate even if they can win over the bigots in their community.

Given the tone, Kieren’s flashbacks to his flesh-munching days (a side-effect induced by the drug) also feel a trifle gratuitous, as if to hide how little is happening during much of the narrative. And as an aside, a U.S. audience might find some of the accents particularly difficult to digest, at least in the early going.
That’s not to say the idea of employing a fantastic backdrop to explore more prosaic matters isn’t warranted or a well-established staple of science fiction, but “In the Flesh” feels a little too on the nose in using these zombies as surrogates to deliver a message.

In that regard, the makeup zombies use to blend in works better than the miniseries’ narrative device. BBC has already ordered a follow-up, affording Mitchell an opportunity to further explore the characters. That’s not a bad thing, since “In the Flesh” has potential, even if it just shuffles along at times en route to driving home its point.

In the Flesh

(Miniseries; BBC America, Thurs. June 6-8, 10 p.m.)

Production: Filmed in London by BBC Drama, Salford.

Crew: Executive producer, Hilary Martin; producer, Anne Harrison-Baxter; director, Jonny Campbell; writer, Dominic Mitchell; camera, Tony Slater Ling; production designer, Sami Khan; editor, Jamie Pearson; music, Edmund Butt; casting, David Shaw. 3 HOURS

Cast: Luke Newberry, David Walmsley, Emily Bevan, Harriet Cains, Steve Evets, Kenneth Cranham, Ricky Tomlinson, Stephen Thompson.

More TV

  • Ryan KadroPaleyLive NY: The News Is

    ‘CBS This Morning’ Executive Producer in Potential Exit Talks

    Ryan Kadro, the executive producer of “CBS This Morning” and one of the architects of the A.M. program, is currently in contract discussions that could lead to his exit from the show, according to three people familiar with the matter. Kadro’s contract is slated to run out at the end of the year, and he [...]

  • NBC's California O&Os to Launch 'California

    NBC's California O&Os to Launch 'California Live' Daily Daytime Series

    NBC’s three California O&Os are set to launch a live daily lifestyle series dubbed “California Live.” The series will air at 11:30 a.m. Monday through Friday across KNBC-TV Los Angeles, KNTV-TV San Francisco and KNSD San Diego. The show will have some modular segments that will be customized for each market, with an emphasis on [...]

  • TV Roundup: Netflix Sets 'Tidying Up

    TV News Roundup: Steven Yeun Joins 'Twilight Zone' at CBS All Access

    In Wednesday’s roundup, Netflix reveals the premiere date for “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo,” and Steven Yeun joins Jordan Peele’s “Twilight Zone” reboot. FIRST LOOKS  More Reviews Film Review: 'The Quake' Film Review: Clint Eastwood in 'The Mule' Variety has an exclusive behind-the-scenes first look at Season 2 of Showtime’s “SMILF,” featuring creator and star, Frankie Shaw. The new [...]

  • Charlie Rose Sexual Harassment

    CBS News Settles Suit Alleging Harassment by Charlie Rose

    CBS News settled a lawsuit filed by three women who alleged they were harassed by former “CBS This Morning” co-anchor Charlie Rose, and claimed CBS did not act despite being aware of the situation. The amount awarded to the women was not disclosed at their request, according to a CBS News spokesperson. “The matter has [...]

  • 'Liga' Kicks Off At Ventana Sur's

    Ventana Sur: 'La Liga' Kicks Off at Buenos Aires' Animation!

    Spain’s Quirino Awards, Argentina’s Animation! and Mexico’s Pixelatl Festival, three key events in Ibero-American animation, will join forces to create La Liga (The League), as announced Wednesday at an Animation! round table hosted by the Quirino Awards, titled “Iberoamerican Alliance Models.” Speakers included Quirino Awards promoter José Luis Farias, Mexico’s Pixelatl director José Iñesta, Gonzalo [...]

  • Netflix - Marvel's The Defenders

    Don't Expect 'The Defenders' on Disney Streaming Service Any Time Soon (EXCLUSIVE)

    Fans of the Marvel Television series recently canceled by Netflix who hope to see the shows revived on Disney+ may be out of luck. Sources tell Variety that the deal for the original four Marvel shows includes a clause that prevents the characters from appearing in any non-Netflix series or film for at least two years after [...]

  • One Dollar CBS All Access

    'One Dollar' Canceled by CBS All Access After One Season

    “One Dollar” has the ignominious distinction of being the first CBS All Access original series to be canceled. Variety has confirmed that the streaming service will not be bringing the drama series back for a second season. The series was set in a small rust belt town in post-recession America, where a one-dollar bill changing [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content