[show=wokeupdead size=large]Forty-one years after George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead was first released, zombies continue to be big business — across all media platforms. But it’s only recently that we’ve begun to mine the genre for laughs, and with some success: The post-apocalyptic action comedy Zombieland was No. 1 at the box office this weekend. And today Crackle debuts Woke Up Dead, a weekly series from the creators of Gemini Division, told from the zombie’s point of view.
At least he appears to be a zombie. The hapless Drex (Napoleon Dynamite‘s Jon Heder) is having trouble when it comes to breathing and having a heartbeat these days, and is unable keep his oatmeal down. His old college crush Cassie (Krysten Ritter) sees his current condition as a chance for scientific glory, and his best friend Matt (Josh Gad, a terrifying answer to the question “What would happen if someone spliced together Jack Black and Jonah Hill as part of some freakish genetics experiment?”) sees it as an opportunity for profit. But Drex is in extreme denial about his condition, and in an effort to be normal he takes a data entry job in a cubicle farm. The question is thus posed: How different is office drudgery from the lifestyle of the undead?
Woke Up Dead features production values worthy of its professional cast (other recognizable actors from the world of old media include Wayne Knight and Jean Smart), and overall decent writing — though the series could stand more narrative thrust. It takes the first two episodes to fully set up the show’s premise, with an expositional flashback split across the episode break, and while the teaser for next week’s installment promises a bigger mystery, so far it’s a slow start that lacks a strong through line.
The show’s primary sponsor is Kodak, whose Zi6 pocket camera is Matt’s weapon of choice for documenting his roommate’s new state of living; it’s an ongoing trend in online video, the concept of a character filming events within the actual series, and thus doesn’t feel totally out of place. And it doesn’t hurt that Kodak’s praises are sung in clever, non-pluggy moments, such as when Drex pukes up the oatmeal and Matt gives a shoutout to the camera’s splash-resistant coating. (I certainly make all my choices regarding small appliances based on their ability to stand up to vomit.)
However, Matt’s belief that devoting an entire web site to Drex’s condition is the secret to striking it rich is the series’ most unintentional punchline. Zombies may be popular right now (the “new vampires!” as chief Kodak blogger Jenny Cisney says). But while a zombie livestream isn’t the worst idea I’ve ever heard, before Drex quits his office job he should ask to see a business plan first.