TV Review: ‘Z Nation’

Z Nation TV Review

No limit exists on zombie shows (although perhaps one should be imposed), but since “The Walking Dead” is out there — with a companion spinoff in the works — a new entry really ought to unearth something new. From that perspective, Syfy’s “Z Nation” has more guts than brains, essentially trotting out an old-fashioned wagon-train western, with a hardy band running a zombie gantlet trying to reach California. Along the way, the show serves up one doozy of a twist, and otherwise a lot of slavering, mindless flesh-eaters chasing our intrepid heroes. Think of it as the fast-food alternative to “Dead’s” more-flavorful dish.

Unwilling to waste even a minute on plot or story, the whole zombie apocalypse thing is tossed off in roughly 30 seconds. Chaos already reigns when a special-forces officer (Harold Perrineau) is assigned to transport precious cargo — a human host bearing a possible vaccine — to a facility in California, dispatched by a radio operator (“Legit’s” DJ Qualls) who is quickly left to fend for himself.

A couple odd bites later, it’s Year 3, A.Z. (get it?), and Perrineau’s character encounters a group of survivors, asking (OK, more like ordering) them to help complete his mission. They include former National Guardsmen Tom Everett Scott and “The Bernie Mac Show’s” Kellita Smith, as well as a lot of other folks who, given their relative level of recognition, may or may not be zombie bait.

Created by Karl Schaefer, and produced by “Sharknado” supplier the Asylum, “Z Nation” taps into the practical economic advantages, locations-wise, of a post-apocalyptic world, since the characters spend most of their time running around in the woods.

The show also seems determined to demonstrate the ruthlessness of this A.Z. era by exhibiting little sentimentality regarding the fate of children and those who are AARP eligible, which only goes to show that survivors of a zombie invasion and demographic-conscious TV executives have a surprising amount in common.

Yet while the series incorporates a specific quest element in the form of its possible “last, best hope to save humanity,” there’s just not enough to distinguish it from the other programs dealing more inventively with similar material, including “Dead” and this summer’s FX entry “The Strain.”

That’s not to dismiss “Z Nation” completely, since there are a few visceral thrills, but simply to reinforce that a hearty appetite for the genre is required to muster much enthusiasm for a plain old me-too zombie project.

TV Review: 'Z Nation'

(Series; Syfy, Fri. Sept. 12, 10 p.m.)


Produced by The Asylum.


Executive producer, Karl Schaefer, Paul Bales, David Michael Latt, David Rimawi; co-executive producers, David L. Garber, Michael Cassutt, Craig Engler; supervising producers, Jodi Binstock, Dan Merchant; director, John Hyams; writer, Schaefer; camera, Alexander Yellen; production designer, Vincent De Felice; editor, Anders Hoffmann; music, Jason Gallagher; visual effects supervisor, Jason McKee; casting, Nike Imoru, Gerald Webb. 60 MIN.


Kellita Smith, Michael Welch, Keith Allan, Anastasia Baranova, Russell Hodgkinson, Pisay Pao, Nat Zang, Tom Everett Scott, Harold Perrineau, DJ Qualls

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  1. I like this show. Its better than I expected and main characters DO die off, just like they really would. I do like The Walking Dead too. Who says we cannot have more than one zombie show? Ever count the cop procedurals on tv on any given night? Or the lame comedy shows featuring yet ANOTHER dysfunctional family?

  2. George says:

    I like it more then the walking dead. Granted its not as visually pleasing as AMC’s the walking dead but I find the story interesting and much more fast paced I felt like there were some episodes in Walking Dead that just waste time energy and effects. Starting to watch Z-nation has brought me more joy then any zombie related thing SCFI has put out in recent years. Z-nation is not as gloom and doom as walking dead. This show will do okay like most SCFI productions and then fade away but even if that’s true I still find it enjoyable.

  3. Patty says:

    I thought it was a wanna be “Walking Dead” I rate it 2 and half stars. You have pretty good actors but horrible WRITING!!!!!!!! Bad writing!!! Embarrassing writing!!!! This show will never get walking dead ratings. Try again, and baby zombie-really!!! Babies don’t have teeth, think of something else. Zombies have super strength! No!!!! Stupid! Sorry it was no good.

  4. Jodi Binstock says:

    Supervising Producers are Steve Graham and Jodi Binstock, not Dan Merchant.

    • never seen a year old baby then, have you? Babies start getting teeth at around 6 months, some sooner, some later….it was the image of that zombie baby that made me want to watch this gnosh fest.

  5. speller mcgee says:

    you misspelled “gauntlet”

  6. raymond59 says:

    Interesting opening plot. I might have to take a look at this show.

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