Dead Set is a British horror comedy-drama miniseries written and created by Charlie Brooker and directed by Yann Demange. The show takes place primarily on the set of a fictional series of the real television show Big Brother. The five episodes, aired over five consecutive nights, chronicle a zombie outbreak that strands the housemates and production staff inside the Big Brother House, which quickly becomes a shelter from the undead.
|Created by||Charlie Brooker|
|Written by||Charlie Brooker|
|Directed by||Yann Demange|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of episodes||5|
|Running time||142 minutes|
|Distributor||Endemol Shine UK|
|Picture format||1080p (16:9 HDTV)|
|Audio format||Dolby Digital 5.1|
|Original release||27 October –|
31 October 2008
Dead Set is a production of Zeppotron, part of the Endemol group of production and distribution companies that produces the actual Big Brother. The series first aired on E4 starting on 27 October 2008, just six weeks after the end of Big Brother 2008 on the same channel.
- Jaime Winstone as Kelly Povell, a runner on the Big Brother set
- Riz Ahmed as Riq Rahman, Kelly's boyfriend
- Adam Deacon as Space, a housemate in Big Brother
- Andy Nyman as Patrick Goad, the producer of Big Brother
- Warren Brown as Marky, a housemate in Big Brother
- Beth Cordingly as Veronica, a housemate in Big Brother
- Kathleen McDermott as Pippa, a housemate in Big Brother
- Kevin Eldon as Joplin, a housemate in Big Brother
- Raj Ghatak as Grayson, a housemate in Big Brother
- Chizzy Akudolu as Angel, a housemate in Big Brother
- Liz May Brice as Alex Bryson, a survivor who Riq encounters
- Elyes Gabel as Danny
- Shelley Conn as Claire Oberon
- Kelly Wenham as Chloe
- Jennifer Aries as Sophie
- Davina McCall as herself/Big Brother host
- Charlie Brooker as a zombie
- Krishnan Guru-Murthy as himself
- Marcus Bentley as himself/Big Brother narrator
Cameos by former Big Brother housematesEdit
|No.||Title||Directed by||Written by||Original air date||UK viewers|
|1||"Outbreak"||Yann Demange||Charlie Brooker||27 October 2008||1,465,000|
During an eviction night on Big Brother, riots occur in several cities across the UK, with emergency services struggling to cope and the military being called in. In the response, the live show may be bumped for related news. Producer Patrick tries to maintain control, issuing orders to his assistant, Claire, and one of the runners, Kelly. Former seasons' housemates Aisleyne, Imogen, Helen, Bubble, season 8 winner Brian, Kinga, Eugene, Makosi and Ziggy are having a reunion party in the studio green room while presenter Davina McCall is preparing for the post-eviction interview. The current housemates, Marky, Veronica, Grayson, Joplin, Angel, Space, and Pippa get ready for eviction. Kelly and co-worker Danny are flirting in an outer office when co-worker Chloe interrupts, making frank accusations about Kelly and Danny's activities. Meanwhile, Kelly's boyfriend, Riq, is stranded at a railway station after his van is stolen. Another runner, Sophie, travels to the studio with Pippa's mother and their driver, who was bitten by a zombie earlier. They reach the studio as he dies and reanimates, killing both women and biting a security guard. As Pippa's eviction is announced, the guard stumbles into the crowd of fans, dies and reanimates and begins to infect others. The zombies invade the studio's interiors and attack Davina, the production crew, and the former contestants. Zombie Danny kills Chloe, but Kelly manages to barricade herself in an office. Meanwhile, Pippa hides in the Big Brother green room, while Patrick hides in a toilet cubicle after sacrificing Claire and a disabled man to save himself. In the morning, the housemates are bickering, oblivious to the situation and wondering why Big Brother seems to be ignoring them. Patrick finds Pippa hiding in the green room when he ducks inside to escape zombie Davina. Kelly kills zombie Danny and is then chased outside and attempts to escape in a van. She gets the keys but is forced back inside the closed studio, where she escapes from a zombie cameraman, lurking in the camera runs, by going into the house. The housemates believe that she is a new contestant and she tries to explain that something is behind the two-way mirrors. Marky opens a door to taunt her and the cameraman bursts into the house, biting Angel before Kelly smashes his head in with a fire extinguisher.
Cast : Marcus Bentley, Krishnan Guru-Murthy, Davina McCall, Aisleyne Horgan-Wallace, Brian Belo, Imogen Thomas, Helen Adams, Paul "Bubble" Ferguson, Kinga Karolczak, Eugene Sully, Makosi Musambasi, Ziggy Lichman
|2||"Can the Housemates Keep Angel Alive?"||Yann Demange||Charlie Brooker||28 October 2008||1,038,000|
Riq hides from zombies in a petrol station, where he is rescued by another survivor named Alex. The two set off for the coast in her car, which eventually breaks down. Riq attempts repairs while Alex stands guard, occasionally shooting approaching zombies. The sound of them arguing attracts a large group of zombies, forcing them to leave the car and escape on foot. They take shelter in an abandoned country house. Patrick and Pippa are stuck in the green room with no means of communication; their already poor relationship begins to deteriorate rapidly. Meanwhile, zombie Davina continues to prowl the corridor outside, making the occasional attempt to get in. The housemates move Angel to the greenhouse in the garden so that she is contained if she turns. Grayson, a nurse, explains that he needs proper medical supplies to help her. Kelly, Marky, and Space plan to use the van outside to fetch supplies from the nearby supermarket. Kelly tells Grayson to stab Angel in the head if she dies. Veronica and Joplin create a diversion, buying the others time to get to the van that Kelly has the keys for. Former production assistant Claire and other zombies chase them, but they make it just in time. Marky injures his arm on a tool in the back of the van while leaping in.
Cast : Davina McCall
|3||"Live Feed"||Yann Demange||Charlie Brooker||29 October 2008||842,000|
Kelly, Marky, and Space make it to the supermarket and gather supplies. When they are chased out of the store, two policemen looking for looters shoot the zombies. One of the cops is bitten and then shot by his colleague who explains that those bitten die and turn quickly. Thinking the wound on Marky's arm is a bite, the policeman threatens to shoot him, refusing to believe that it is not. Kelly picks up the dead policeman's gun and shoots his partner in the leg. More zombies appear, and Kelly, Marky, and Space escape in the van, leaving the wounded policeman to the zombies. Grayson tries to comfort Angel, but when she stops breathing, he hesitates to stab her and she attacks. Veronica and Joplin, hearing the screams, run to the garden. Grayson stumbles out of the greenhouse clutching his neck, and Angel chases after Veronica. Joplin hesitates inside, watching as Angel tries to bite Veronica. Grayson pushes zombie Angel into the pool just before he dies and then reanimates. Joplin and Veronica trap zombie Grayson with a bed cover and Veronica stabs him in the head just as Kelly, Marky, and Space arrive. Seeing that Angel is unable to get out of the pool, they conclude that zombies have little intelligence, and Kelly declares that the living will win the day because they can still reason. She then kills zombie Angel with a shot to the head from the policeman's gun. At the country house, Riq turns on the television, and discovers the Big Brother live feed is still broadcasting on E4. Alex hears a French radio broadcast say that a rescue boat has just left, stranding them and any other survivors. Suddenly, Riq sees Kelly and the others on screen.
Cast : Davina McCall
|4||"Running"||Yann Demange||Charlie Brooker||30 October 2008||907,000|
Episode 4 begins to lay bare the true meaning of Kelly's episode 3 assertion that human "intelligence" will decide the outcome of the story. Riq decides he must get to Kelly, and convinces Alex to leave the safety of the country house and make their way to the studio by boat along the river. Alex is bitten by a zombie while opening a lock gate. Knowing that she will turn, Alex hands Riq her axe and he kills her with it. Patrick and Pippa manage to kill zombie Davina and make it to the studio control room. Using the PA System, they communicate with the housemates and eventually join them in the Big Brother house. Patrick wants to leave the safety of the house and head for the coast, but Kelly shows him the crowd of zombies at the gates preventing them from leaving the compound. Patrick suggests that they cut up Grayson's body to use as bait to distract the zombies while they escape in the van. The housemates disagree (excluding Joplin), but Patrick starts to chop up the body. Riq makes it to the studio and approaches the Big Brother house. Marky is on the roof, picking off the zombies inside the compound with the policeman's assault rifle. Marky spots Riq and, thinking he is a zombie, aims at Riq and pulls the trigger.
Cast : Davina McCall, Brian Belo
|5||"A Way Out"||Yann Demange||Charlie Brooker||31 October 2008||705,000|
Episode 5 completes the exposition of the shortcomings of the intelligence in a Big Brother house when pitted against the mindless zombie masses. Marky misses shooting Riq several times before Kelly recognizes him and stops Marky from shooting. Once inside, Riq warns that Patrick's plan won't work as there are too many zombies. The housemates decide to stay in the house as long as possible. When Patrick insists on going forward, they tie him up. Patrick manages to turn Joplin against the others, comparing their situation to the changing social-dynamics on a season of Big Brother. Joplin unties him and carries the bowl of bait while Patrick takes Kelly hostage, heading outside. Everyone follows him but in the struggle, the bait is dropped and Patrick shoots and kills Riq. Pippa runs back to the studio's offices, and Space follows. A panicked Joplin opens the gates and is devoured by the oncoming zombies. Kelly, Marky, Veronica and Patrick run for the house, but the zombies, including Saskia, rip Patrick apart. Space makes it to the control room and communicates using the PA system. Zombies quickly fill the camera runs and Kelly realizes they will easily make it through the two-way glass and fire doors. She urges Space to open the Diary Room - he is bitten by the zombie of previous housemate Aisleyne. He manages to get into the innermost control booth and sees on the monitors that the zombies have forced their way into the house. Only Kelly makes it into the Diary Room, Marky and Veronica are left to be eaten. Kelly congratulates Space on winning the series of Big Brother, and tells him to open the outside door so she can fight her way to the van. He refuses until he sees that Pippa is one of the zombies trying to get into the booth, alongside her undead mother. As soon as the Diary Room door is opened, Kelly screams - and the screen cuts to black. The next morning, Joplin, Space, Marky and Veronica are seen as zombies; Joplin roams outside the studio gates; Space stares blankly around the control room; Marky and Veronica feast on the remains of Patrick; finally, zombie Kelly stares into a camera in the Big Brother house. After the credits begin, the scene switches to zombie Kelly on multiple televisions in a shopping centre somewhere in the United Kingdom, as a rapt zombie "viewer" watches the Big Brother live feed on E4.
Cast : Aisleyne Horgan-Wallace, Saskia Howard-Clarke
Charlie Brooker said that the basic idea for the series came about in 2004, as he watched the American series 24. He commented: "I'm enjoying this, but these terrorists are just ridiculous. They're like waves of Space Invaders. They might as well be zombies." Following this, he imagined an apocalypse occurring during the filming of Big Brother. He cited the Big Brother House as an excellent place to hide during a zombie apocalypse.
The first draft of the script was written in 2005, during the airing of Big Brother 6. He based some of his fictional housemates on actual former housemates. For example, he cited Maxwell Ward and Saskia Howard-Clarke as inspirations for Marky and Veronica, with Pippa and Space being loosely based on Helen Adams and Kieron "Science" Harvey respectively. For further inspiration, he attended the live eviction of George Galloway during Celebrity Big Brother 4, where he also visited the camera runs that surround the House.
Beyond Big Brother, Brooker noted several examples of zombie fiction that had inspired him, including the Dead series of films by George A. Romero, Zombie Flesh Eaters, 28 Days Later, The Walking Dead, The Living Dead At Manchester Morgue and Zombie Creeping Flesh.
The Big Brother eye logo featured in Dead Set was described by Brooker as a combination of several of the real logos used throughout the series. The design of the fictional Big Brother set was made to look as authentic as possible - it featured similar cameras, two-way mirrors (which could be angled to avoid revealing the camera crew), astroturf and the actual (albeit slightly modified) Diary Room chair from Big Brother 8. Filming inside the fictional Big Brother set for the first episode was done using Digital Betacam technology, to retain the look and feel of the actual Big Brother series. The rest of the scenes were shot using the Arriflex D-20.
Filming for the series took place over the summer of 2008, mainly at Longcross Studios and the surrounding areas. The eviction of Pippa (Kathleen McDermott) was filmed at the actual Big Brother House in Elstree, on 18 July 2008 - the same night that Belinda was evicted. Before she left the house, McDermott was placed in the stairwell of the House, and "evicted" in front of the show's live audience. McDermott and Davina McCall had previously shot an improvised "eviction interview". In addition, several former Big Brother housemates appeared as themselves and were filmed chatting to each other as part of a fictional "reunion", before Dead Set's crew members "surprised" them in order to film a shocked reaction.
Scenes featuring McCall as a zombie were filmed in one day, and the bodies lying around the corridor during the scene were created with SFX dummies (besides Eugene Sully's, which McCall is seen feasting on). McCall stated that she was covered in bruises the next day, due to hammering on the door in several scenes. She based her zombie-running style on the T-1000 from the 1991 film Terminator 2: Judgment Day. As she was restricted to only one day's filming, a dummy of McCall was used in some scenes for which she was unavailable.
Filming of the series was found to be difficult, due to budgetary and time constraints. Some extras were redressed to play different zombies due to the cost of the contact lenses used as zombie eyes; and the scene in Episode 2 in which Alex and Riq's car breaks down was originally meant to be an explosive car crash. Brooker cited similar constraints as the reason for the elimination of his original concept for the final episode, which would have been set six months after the outbreak. Many of the zombies featured in the crowd scenes - including the final assault on the house - were volunteers recruited through the internet.
Charlie Brooker himself also has a brief cameo as a zombie in the second episode.
A map for the Borehamwood region, the site of the real Big Brother House, was added to the Urban Dead MMORPG - with a competition to win a copy of the DVD as part of the promotion of the series. A website for Dead Set was launched on 17 September 2008. There also was a viral marketing site at UnseenScreen.com which had a clip which was “edited out” of the Big Brother live feed. The website would ask for your name and date of birth to make sure you are 18 or over. This clip shows Production runner Kelly trapped in a destroyed Diary Room screaming for help. She then writes “Help me (Name)” on the wall. Advertisements for the show were aired on E4 and its parent, Channel 4, with a final trailer appearing on YouTube on 27 October.
The series launched on E4 on 27 October 2008, and concluded on 31 October 2008. All five episodes were broadcast consecutively as a Halloween feature length (2.5 hours) version on E4 on 31 October 2009. Dead Set was repeated on Channel 4 from 6 to 8 January 2009, reformatted into three-hour-long episodes.
|Australia||SBS One||9 November 2009|
|Brazil||Multishow||15 October 2009|
|Spain||Canal +||25 July 2009|
|South Africa||Dstv BBC Entertainment||3 September 2009|
|France||Ciné+ Frisson||17 and 18 October 2009|
|Poland||BBC Entertainment; Cinemax, Cinemax 2||28 October 2009|
|United States||IFC||25 through 29 October 2010|
|Italy||MTV Italia||12 November 2010|
|Sweden||TV11||20 February 2011|
|Bulgaria||AXN||7 August 2012|
|Israel||HOT V.O.D||4 July 2013|
|The Netherlands||OutTV||31 October 2013|
|New Zealand||The Zone||28 January 2015|
The entire series was released on DVD on 3 November 2008, and again in a repackaged format on 19 October 2009. The running time for the DVD is 142 minutes. The DVD extras included interviews with the director, writer and cast, behind-the-scenes and special effects featurettes, and a selection of deleted and extended scenes, including:
- Pippa's eviction in full (featuring scenes shot from inside the actual Big Brother house staircase)
- A segment from a fictional episode of 8 Out of 10 Cats
- A scene featuring Patrick discussing "recycling" Grayson's body
- An extended version of Patrick mocking Veronica over her relationship with Marky
- Pippa's death in the final episode at the hands of her undead mother.
Dead Set has been acclaimed by critics and the public alike. Metacritic assigned the series a weighted average score of 77 out of 100, based on 6 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". In 2009, it was nominated for a BAFTA for "Best Drama Serial", but lost out to Criminal Justice.
Simon Pegg, a co-writer and star of the zombie comedy film Shaun of the Dead, commented on Dead Set for The Guardian. While generally praising the series, he expressed dismay at the move away from the traditional slow zombies of the Romero films to the modern 'fast zombie' used in Dead Set which were akin to the infected from 28 Days Later or the zombies from the 2004 Dawn of the Dead remake. Brooker responded that this was due to a variety of reasons, including budgetary constraints, the fact that Dead Set had to differentiate itself from Shaun of the Dead, as well as the plot requiring that the infection could put the entire country out of action before the producers had time to evacuate the studios. He also cited two George Romero films in which the zombies behaved non-traditionally, including a scene in the original Dawn of the Dead where two zombie children run.
In 2013, Brooker confirmed that the Big Brother 14 production team sought his approval (which he granted) of a "quarantine" task inspired by Dead Set, which saw housemates being subjected to a fictional viral outbreak.
Steve Greene of IndieWire, reviewing the series in 2017, noted similar themes in Dead Set and Brooker's later series, Black Mirror. He described the former as "an analog precursor to the digital-themed entertainment" featured in the latter.
The COVID-19 pandemic, which saw contestants of Big Brother around the world being isolated from news of the pandemic before being released back into a world under lockdown, drew comparisons with Dead Set.
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