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In the Flesh Review: The Walking Oppressed

In the Flesh Season 1 Review: Episode1, Episode 2, and Episode 3

**There might be some very, very, very mild spoilers in this article, but I'll stay away from any specifics beyond what's available in the logline. Feel free to read this without fear of knowing what's coming.**

If those novelty T-shirts from Hot Topic that say "Zombies were people, too" were transformed into a TV show, that show would be BBC America's three-hour miniseries In the Flesh. The trio of episodes, which will air over three consecutive nights starting Thursday, puts a unique twist on the zombie genre by bringing the undead back from the undead, so to speak. In the world where In the Flesh takes place, the dead rose from their graves, ate human brains, got better, were rehabilitated through treatment and counseling, and then rejoined society, where they now live—with the help makeup and colored contact lenses—as if they'd simply had a bad case of the chicken pox (the show refers to their condition as "Partially Deceased Syndrome"—PDS). But at the same time, untreated zombies roam freely and cause serious problems. Sounds pretty cool, right?

In the Flesh is successful at nibbling on many of the unique topics that arise from such a situation, particularly the prejudice against those affected by PDS, which makes it immediately interesting. But as a TV series, it fails to achieve any depth, assembling incomplete characters, cutting stories short, and spinning dizzying inconsistencies. The series is already renewed for a second season in the U.K., but it might've benefitted from a longer first season that would've allowed its stories to breathe. As it is, In the Flesh appeared to have plenty to say in its first three episodes but not enough time to say it, hurting what could've been a fun little show by firing off several bullet points scattershot instead of concentrating on a smaller number of more effective, point-driving snipes to the head.

At the center of In the Flesh is teenager Kieran Walker (an apropos surname to Walking Dead fans), who returns home to his family in the very anti-PDS small town of Roardon, somewhere in rural England. The situation is understandably awkward for everyone, and it's made even more uncomfortable by: 1) the manner in which Kieran died the first time around, and 2) his younger sister's participation in an anti-zombie army that saved the town from the initial zombie attack and doesn't take kindly to "rotters," as PDSers are derogatorily called.   

But what really hurts things is the fact that Kieran is incredibly boring for 95-percent of the series. He's a quiet, passive protagonist who takes lumps as he remains in a funk, unable to shake the guilt of his zombie days (short flashbacks reveal what he did when he had a taste for human flesh). His wallowing is not the best choice for a central character who's supposed to carry a three-hour first season, though some of it becomes understandable by the time the series is over. His parents aren't much better; they care for their undead son, but they're not interesting enough to improve what should be a fascinating family dynamic. Only Kieran's fiery punk sister Gem adds spice to the homefront, but even she suffers from inconsistency, bouncing between hatred and compassion for "rotters." Fortunately, a few characters outside of the Walker household, particularly the small-minded and zombie-hating Bill and his family, break the doldrums with some genuinely f*cked-up problems. 

Like True Blood, the main theme of In the Flesh is tolerance for the recently re-ceased. And like True Blood, that theme is reflective of the plights of minorities and other groups that fought, or are fighting, for civil rights and equal treatment throughout history. In the Flesh gets more specific and clearly parallels the current movement for LGBT rights, which quickly becomes obvious and then more obvious. It's a great message, but it's also one that In the Flesh pounds into viewers 'til they're bloody. 

All these small problems really affect the overall tone of the show, which hovers somewhere between an indie movie and an afterschool special. The attempts at humor don't mix well with the heavy drama, and the series never settles into its own voice because it's trying to do too much. Scenes and characters come and go without resolution, and by the time the final credits roll, the actual end of the first season feels nothing like a season finale. However, one positive thing about the open-door ending is that some of the most interesting storylines are certain to explored in Season 2. 

And despite being about the recently raised dead, In the Flesh rarely feels like a zombie show because its message of fighting intolerance is so heavy-handed. It has more in common with cautionary tales of drug abuse and closeted homosexuality than it does with The Walking Dead. You won't confuse Kieran with a coke head, but his zombie-ism isn't used as a unique aspect for In the Flesh's story. Subtract a few inconsequential differences, and he could easily be an alcoholic, an oppressed minority, an ex-con, or any other group fighting against a stubborn majority. And that's where In the Flesh becomes a disappointment for fans of the zombie genre.

BUT: In the Flesh isn't as bad as I'm making it sound. It's just that there are several minor problems that hamper an enjoyable viewer experience. What sounds like a unique take on the oversaturated zombie genre really becomes a new take on a completely different genre: the outsider kid trying to fit in and the closed-minded town trying to push him out. It's a passable three hours, but it's far from being a must-see. 


In the Flesh airs over three nights, from June 6-8, on BBC America.


To our handsome U.K. readers who've already seen the show (and to any of you rascals who downloaded it), please refrain from posting untimely spoilers in the comments. Thank you!

Comments (104)
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I don't think I watched the same show as this reviewer, here. This show had me right from the start and never let go. Yes, there a a lot of plot threads left unfinished by the end, but I'm glad they left them open instead of rushing to tie loos ends in the last 15 minutes of the third episode. This show really got to me. The part with Amy and Kieran where he shows her how he died felt so real to me because I had a friend go through something similar and reacted much the same way Amy did. That whole scene felt so real and personal to me and I just...wow is all I can say. I was in tears for most of this show, to be honest...
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I'm in America, & just finished watching the third episode. I don't know what the writers were thinking, leaving us hanging like that. There should've been more, at LEAST six more episodes. Psychologically devastating.
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"What sounds like a unique take on the oversaturated zombie genre really becomes a new take on a completely different genre: the outsider kid trying to fit in and the closed-minded town trying to push him out."...a perfect description

I will however put it on my "must see list" simply for the fact that is it so unique. If we were to avoid shows that got a little heavy handed with the message they were sending, Tim, you'd be out of a job.

Personally, I didn't find messaging in this show to be quite as overt. Being someone of colour, I didn't immediately associate them with the LGBT community. I chalked up the, "we messed around a little" has having a different British context and was general drunken horse play, so I didn't see the implications of the "mixed CD" reveal coming at all, causing me to flashback and put pieces of the story together into a nice (though slightly cliche) story.

I was gutted to learn this was only a 3 episode run since there's potential for A LOT of story to tell...especially if it involved Amy returning from the zombie compound. I kinda was secretly hoping for a double date with her and Kieren and Jon Snow and Ygritte. That would be EPIC!

Anybody else unable to shake the similarities between Rick and Hoyt from 'True Blood'?

I eagerly anticipate whatever the BBC does with this show...for the first while anyway. I figure like many of it's predecessors, it'll be fantastic for a few seasons before they push things too far and driving it over a cliff (I'm looking at you 'Being Human')
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The show flickers around moral ground from Descartes to Kant (sp.!), to questions of class and race and sexuality and what and who is society. But it does so in an Northern English rural setting in which those themes appear with heavy brush strokes and accents! The whole zombie dialect fits neatly within the setting, as class and its inherent value system is and has always been a hot spud up North.
It picks up pace a bit by episode two but never roller coaster rides itself off. In fact, the first series feels more like a preview of what's to come at times, as it has themes that are flash backed to, but are far from dug out as of yet - see what I did there? No. Ah, well. I'll get me coat...
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The show is great. But, I somehow failled to understand the NATURE of the relationship that was between Mr. Walker and his Afghanistan returned friend. :| It was definitely something more between the two... >;-)
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I respectfully disagree!

I'm not British so I did have hard time understanding some of what was happening, although that didn't stop me from fully enjoying the show. <

I love the friendship Kieren developed with that lady zombie (can't remember her name), she was corky, weird, fun, kind, warm and gentle, and I absolutely adored all of their scenes together! I love everything about this show! It's smart, witty, and the story is well developed. It's well paced, and entertaining to watch!

I look at this show as a piece of art. The more you look at it, the more you appreciate it.
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I also disagree. It is most def a must see.
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I couldn't disagree more, I loved this show! I did not find it boring at all, I loved the main character, and even had an embarrassing intense cry at one point.
It is however a very British show, and if there's one thing that almost all educated Americans are in denial about, it's that they cannot appreciate most non-American TV properly - you've just been too trained to need constant action/drama/craziness so if a show takes its time to develop characters and follows whole conversations you guys lose interest.
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So, your also alluding to the uneducated in the US not being able to cope with, but not in denial of, or liking UK tv. No wonder us licence payers for the beeb in the UK were wary of BBC America's costings. No bugger cares to properly, or improperly, watch it!!!
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I take it you haven't read any of the comments?
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As a Texan I appreciate British shows more than most American stuff outside of Fx or hbo and its ilk. Even the reality stuff is better. Id rather watch xfactor or britains got talent before the American versions by a longshot. Plus they have Luther and Sherlock
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Another Texan (well, I've lived here for around 27 years) here who loves the BBC (and I love Australian and American shows...lol). Everyone needs to stop stereotyping people from countries other then their own.
Yeah, Rectify is constant action/drama/craziness.....
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I love The Blue Rose from New Zealand--corporate skullduggery...
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haven't seen it...will add it to my list;-)
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I know exactly what you mean :)
Just to clarify for others, as strange as it may seem from the outside, up here in north Texas where I am, & long before the net properly existed, our PBS station here has given us a massive steady diet of UK programs for decades. We even have the distinction of being the city that was the very 1st to introduce Monty Python to the states. Overall, you'd think NY or Boston would have the bigger budgets to purchase the airing rights for so many properties, but oddly enough, it's us Lone Star shit kickers.
Go figure, huh?
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TEXAS!
Don't mess with Texas;-)
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Yep North Texas here as well. As a kid wihout cable growing up it was either PBS or WGN (somehow we got that signal all the way down here). Well plus lots of my dads Zorro and Lone Ranger tapes.
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All those stations bring back memories of Matlock, In The Heat of The Night, McGyver, Saved By The Bell and such a host of others. As for PBS im pretty sure Bob Ross and Mr Rogers shaped my life more than anyone else has. And I remember running home from school to watch Ghost Writer
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Wow! I totally forgot about the old-school superstations.
as a kid, I don't remember WGN before my parents bought cable, but I DO remember TBS.

Hell, I even remember OnTV & VueTV...barely, but still.
Scrambled R-rated movies & soft-core porn on the UHF bands ftw! 8-)

Perfect fodder for any devious preteens such as myself back then to enjoy
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You panned Banshee---lol
Ok, this show is not an action oriented show, not a comedy, not horror and not a zombie killing or killing zombie show.
It's more of a slow drama about acceptance, life, family, ramifications of actions, etc. I liked the show but don't go into it thinking it will be a traditional zombie horror flick. I found it enjoyable and it was only 3 episodes long. By the end I was looking forward to the next season because of a particular character/site---will stop here to avoid spoilers.
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This is the thinking persons walking dead. Actually it's more rectify than Walking dead. This site pans Bandhee, ignores Orphan Black for the vast majority of its run yet globs attention on Revolution or Defiance
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and we had to bitch and moan to get Orphan Black reviewed and they did it at the end (just like BANSHEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
....if they had just listened to you we could of shut the f*ck up...but no, they had to ignore everyone until a sh*t fit occurred every week on the FTW list. This applies to both Banshee and Orphan Black.

I thought the same thing about it being more like rectify then twd but rectify was better. Regardless, I enjoyed this show;-)
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You're not spelling "fuck" correctly. Tim opened the floodgates on that, thank fucking god. Or is it you wouldn't say shit if you had a mouthful???
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I was attempting to redeem myself after that fisting line of comments....
thanks for calling me out
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I have never seen anything interesting in zombies, I had to do an effort to go through it in The Walking Dead because I am interested in the aphocaliptic scenarios, and it paid off (although I almost left half second season) - but here I really don't see the point. It is a pass for me.
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meant "apocalyptic", sorry - you guys should put an edit button somewhere for people like me :)
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Zombies are the least interesting of all the undead--they're fucking zombies for crissake. Vampires are at least cool sometimes, Werewolves can also be cool--Dyson on Lost Girl--but zombies are just fucking zombies--SPLAT!!!
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Which is what makes this show so different. This show gives the zombies heart. The main character Kieren is quiet, gentle, gay, artistic and a zombie and he's overcome with guilt over what he did before he was treated, shame over dealing with his family after his death because of suicide and gets to deal with the love of his life coming back and being given a second chance.
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In this show, they're not just zombies... :)
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hmmm...I think I'll just wait til season 2 is available and then just marathon the show.
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good idea!
I liked season 1 but by the end I wanted to know..... (no spoilers here)
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I TOTALLY disagree with you, Sir!
I completely fell in love with that show! & I thought the actors were a-ma-zing.
No, it is NOT horror centered, not much blood & brains exploding, & I didn't mind.
Yes, it is slow, & totally lacks of any glamour. Not a problem either, I'm not into the 'fast & furious' kind of things. This is more 'realistic British cinema - with zombies', in a way.
& I certainly did not think the characters were incomplete! I thought it was meant to be like that. I loved the things that were unsaid, the layers in the stories, the secrets... (Maybe cause we do not talk in my family, pretty much like in Kieran's & maybe that's the reason it touched me so hard, I don't know, I should talk to my shrink about that...)
But really, REALLY, I loved those 3 little hours of television.
& I'm not gonna spoil, but the song at the end of episode 3 really did the trick for me...
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Just having seen the movie "Warm Bodies", think im gonna go ahead and pass.....(or wait until its on Netflix instant).
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I truly liked it. Quirky and gloomy. Also the love story at the centre was really interesting for me. It is a required taste but I liked how it is so categorically different sci fi from anything that is out there, the colours and the general atmosphere were so whack that I can't wait for more. To be honest, I have a weakness for BBC or ITV shows, just as a different pace and style next to all the flashy American shows I watch. I would not reccommed passing on this barely based on this review. Tim might not have liked it, but I am sure a bunch of people, including me, will
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Well said. Itv is great. I just finished up Life of Crime and thought it was very well done
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Love those required tastes...
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You'd be fucked without them.
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Not bad. It was worth the time. I was entertained & it left me wanting more.
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Thanks for the review, Tim. Sounds like a pass for me.
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Tim is utterly wrong. This is the best show of the year, passing it because someone wanted it to have more gore and over the top drama is the worst mistake you could possibly make.
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I didn't get that from this review. In fact, his statement of "In the Flesh rarely feels like a zombie show " is a positive factor for my viewing, I'm not a fan of the zombie genre so that's what drew me to considering this show. What turned me off was his statement that the message comes off heavy-handed, and the main character and his parents are mostly passive vessels rather than engaging the story.
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Tim also said don't watch Banshee. This is a good show for thinking people
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and was late to the Orphan Black party;-) lol
we're just picking on you Tim but you can handle it and probably don't give a sh*t anyways~so it's all good
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Harsh review. I quite liked the show.
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I really enjoyed the show. Especially because it is so different from other tv shows featuring that zombie topic. Refreshing. Give it a shot. It's worth it!
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With a few exceptions, British shows are kind of "boring" by American standards. (Doctor Who is an exception, and staff reviewers on here don't think the most recent series was that good, either, so go figure.) Utopia is another show that is a bit of a slow burn. The Fall seems to be as well.

Kieran is a former human being, turned zombie, who is in the process of re-becoming a human being. So yes, he's kind of passive, early on. That's also why they have the other post-zombie character, Amy, who is the exact opposite. If they both acted the same, wouldn't be much of a contrast.

But yes, it's probably a disappointment to zombie genre fans who want people being ripped apart, eaten, and decapitated. On the other hand, the best zombie movies are a metaphor and a mirror for society (like the original Dawn of the Dead). Post-zombie-apocalypse obviously won't much appeal to folks who want their spoonful of during-the-zombie-apocalypse stuff.

The show has been renewed, by the way, although that didn't seem to be clear here.
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Misfits, Luther, Sherlock, shameless, utopia, the last enemy, spooks, ripper street, and he'll even Skins. Boring must be people's word for 'more realistic'
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I've asked this several times but no response. Has anyone but me seen Parade's End--BBC, HBO--Cumberbatch and totally awesome...
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Ive seen Parades End and liked it a lot. But then again I am a big fan of Cumberbatch. I think I prefere it over DOwnton Abbey but Im sure a host of people will disagree with me
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the last enemy?
I think it is on my list of shows to watch. All the rest were great and there are so many more awesome UK shows.... Isn't Misfits Australian (to lazy to google...lol)
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Misfits is British, about 99 percent sure. Last Enemy is a nice little 3 part mini-series of sorts dealing with a government conspiracy of sorts. Its really good but one of those things you have to be in the mood for.
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Give Luther a go then...
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Utopia is awesome imo;-)
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I don't know what show you were watching, but I was watching In the Flesh. I think you were doing something else after the first 15 minutes of the show, because your review, makes no sense whatsoever, trashing it for 5 paragraphs & saying at the end that it's not as bad as I make it sound, is just poorly amateur work. The show is not a typical zombie show, its about fighting intolerance & that's what makes it so great.

The "assembling incomplete characters, cutting stories short, and spinning dizzying inconsistencies" comment is so wrong, its laughable. And the wallowing thing, what you expected Kieren to come home wracked with guilt for killing & having everybody basically in the world hate him, except his parents to do a jiggy?

I think the show is incredible, the emotional gravitas being what it should be in a situation like that, intolerance is unfortunately very much alive & should be handled with the maturity that this show presented. If you don't tear up at the end you have no heart.

I don't always agree with the reviews, but that usually comes down to liking or not liking. After your stellar review of the Orphan Black finale, I am so disappointed in you for this more than sloppy job.

I know my fellow TV fans on this site, watch what they like & don't take reviews to heart, & will give this series the time it deserves.
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Yep! Reading the rest of the comments you see pretty much nothing but praise.
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I couldn't get past episode 2 (I'm not British, so I'm one of the rascals). I really wanted to like it, 'cos I thought it was a great premise;I don't know, it didn't work out for me, though. Maybe because of its naivety at times? Or the main character's being boring to death? It wasn't the slow pace - I can stand slow pace pretty well, if there's any pay off; I'm really enjoying Rectify, for example, which is real slow-paced. I don't know, I can't really put my finger on why I didn't like it. Still, I think people should give it a try, it is definitely a different take on the zombie theme.
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There's no different take on zombies--they're fucking zombies for crissake!
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they are not zombies! They are Partially Deceased Syndrome victims;-)
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This is actually a very different take on zombies. Because they become unzombies. It's actually one of the most unique concepts on tv
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OK, then. Whatever. Don't watch it.
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I won't, that's for sure...
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I'll give it a shot, but shows that get preachy are on a very short leash with me. I can't stand to have a show try to hammer its principles about how the writers and producers or whoever think the world should be. There's too many ways to succeed at telling a great story without trying to impose your values or thoughts about society on me.
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I promise no spoilers my 'merican friends, but the show has some interesting touches, its the UK, but its slightly skew whiff, bits of the landscape are subtly changed as are aspects of the technology and transport. Its the UK but not quite as we know it. I enjoyed the first outing, altho' in very typical BBC style, a season is 3 episodes! Does it deserve another run out? I think so, if only for the backstory.
Love and Peace from Sunny (no really its actually warm for once) Scotland.
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So like a very specific, more charmless version of Being Human?
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No, this is much better than Being Human, has more charm and far better acting. Especially by the main actor who plays Kieren and is probably the most remote thing from boring imaginable.

He just isn't the usual cliché action hero type of protagonist, which is a welcome change of pace.
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I am recording it just to give it a shot, but the more I keep hearing about it...it really kind of seems like a tv version of Warm Bodies.
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It's not. Not at all. Warm Bodies was much more of a romcom. There's none of that here.
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Okay...I know, I watched Warm Bodies and while clearly it was actually just Romeo & Juliet there was the whole humanity fighting against the zombies until the boneys made them unite and then R and the others started showing human sensations again. I read the log lines for each episode and I was sort of like, huh, there is something there, but that wasn't until the third episode.
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It is slow and not what anyone would call action packed, if you are looking for another Being Human you will be disappointed, as it lacks the humor and charm. It is not very subtle with its message of tolerance. There are some good parts and as it is only 3 episodes long, its worth watching if nothing else is on.
There is a storyline that pops up in all 3 episodes which is probably a set up for the next season - and that plot seem's more interesting than these episodes.
If someone was looking for a show with creepy one off storylines (like an updated and at times very gory twilight zone), i would recommend Black Mirror instead
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When is Mad Dogs going to air in the US? It's one of the better UK series out there.
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I took the liberty of looking for an answer in my google machine & found no peep or plan for a US airing or disc release...I'd like to thank you though for mentioning it 'cause it made my week to learn while looking, that the new season started only a couple days ago. THANK YOU!! :)
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so we will watch it online;-)
Mad Dogs--thrilled to hear the next season is ready
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I've seen s03e01 and its REALLY good.
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You are being too harsh with this review. This was a story of a small town in Northern England. How would people deal with this situation and live their lives with PDS. This series was inventive and realistic to say the least. TO say the lead Character was boring was well and achievement, as in these small towns in Northern England, they aint surfers or body builders, they are normal teenagers with normal problems about growing up, the actor captured this perfectly, to have portrayed this in any other way would have been unrealistic.
Shame on you for such a bad review of an original story. Tv needs new ideas. I am sick of werewolves and vampires coping with feelings.
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I want to take back the thumbs up I did! You had to ruin it by stereotyping Americans....
never saw honey bo but that's probably because I'm eating a big mac...
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Say it joeca1234, I think some people are just for watching Honey Booboo etc. We need more intelligent TV, stop trying to hinder it
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You both seem to be equating "negative" with "bad," which is unfair. Tim's review, while you may disagree with it, was well-written and made his position fairly. He didn't hate it, but, from his as-objective-as-possible position, had some problems with it (things I tended to agree with).

To assume that we're all "just for watching Honey Booboo" is insulting and unfair. Many, many commenters on this site--and its reviewers--come from the exact opposite space, looking for engaging, subtle, and complex work. It doesn't have to be action-packed, but it has to be compelling and deft, and I thought sometimes that the material and commentary embedded in the show was too heavy-handed for my tastes, which I think is part of what Tim had a problem with.

Additionally, it's one thing to see a character going through difficulties--I guess "wallowing," for lack of a better term--but it gets old quickly if nothing is done with it. Sure, Kieran did some bad stuff as a zombie, but it's really not entirely his fault (he had a "disease," you might say), and his willingness to be so passive when people are being so one-sidedly negative about him gets annoying rather than interesting. His character left a sour taste in my mouth, and saying that doesn't mean I'm wrong or writing a "bad" comment; it means I have a view different than yours.
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I said "some people are just for watching Honey Booboo"& at the end of my review I gave a very positive compliment to the TV fans on this site. I said a certain comment was wrong & about the review I something completely different. Please read carefully before replying
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I totally understand what you are saying. There is some quality programming out there with fantastic stories and characters. But because the American public would rather watch the afore mentioned "honey boo boo", entertaining dramas are cancelled. It is a shame.
To negatively criticise "in the flesh" in this way borders on the manic, of someone frustrated, not being able to comprehend that this drama is set in small town in Lancashire ,England & not Beverley Hills 90210 (which was also cancelled)
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I wasn't responding to your original assessment; I was responding to this particular comment (that's why my response is HERE). Don't accuse me of not reading carefully, please. It's equally insulting.
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i set this to record, over the weekend, but my DVR has 4 shows as "new" not 3.
i didnt actually look at the description of the eps, so i'm not sure.
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I watched and loved the show. Its like Doctor Who in a sense, long conversations. But good especially after Walking Dead. Mirror has two sides. Worth to watch.
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Your review is dead on Tim!

I've seen all 3 episodes and although I wouldn't tell people not to watch it, I would warn them that they are in for a very slow ride IMO. Like renting a Ferrari only to discover that it's top speed is 30m/h. It has some interesting aspects, but not interesting enough to bring me back for season 2.
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Great show !
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"but it's also one that In the Flesh pounds into viewers 'til their bloody. " 'Til their bloody what?
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It has aired on the Space channel in Canada for the past 3 Saturdays after Orphan Black. I agree that it is kinda BLAH. It's not a must see as you said but it's not bad either. If you got nothing on for summer tv, give it a look see.
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The best bits were the public announcements "trailers" It's so British so "there nothing wrong here move along" about it.
(best watched in sequence)

http://youtu.be/AHZxW3gsDeA
http://youtu.be/PpVuJVjYbno
http://youtu.be/s-nVShANdbU
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Geez even the trailers are slow...
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I've seen the whole first season.. yes, all THREE WHOLE EPISODES! lol I thought it was a very interesting take on the whole zombie fad going on now, and I like how these had to be dead before it happened and not just getting bit turns you into a zombie. only 3 episodes sucks though, makes it feel unresolved. I was hoping if there's a 2nd series that they'll extend the episode order, which now apparently both are true. it actually reminded me a lot of the failed CBS pilot a few years back called Babylon Fields (which I actually liked) where the dead came back and tried to reintegrate into society.
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You got this show spot on. I thought it was incredibly boring on top of making me fell like i just watched a high school drama club production about not bullying. DONT waste your time on this one go do something much more enjoyable like bashing your face into a wall for 3 hours.
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