Follow TV Tropes


Series / Dead Set

Go To

Pippa: Is that Davina?
Patrick: ...Sort of.

How many of you have watched Big Brother and thought, "This is the beginning of the apocalypse"? Well, it seems you're not the only one.

Dead Set is a British horror miniseries whose premise presents the not-so-predictable crossover of "Big Brother meets the Zombie Apocalypse" (particularly the fast plague-zombies of 28 Days Later). It was created and written by Charlie Brooker, of then Screenwipe fame and eventual Black Mirror fame; it's about as satirical as you might expect. It aired its five episodes on E4 over five consecutive nights from 27 October to 31 October 2008, premiering just six weeks after the end of Big Brother 2008 on the same channel.

After a Zombie Infectee staggers into the crowd at an eviction of a fictional series of the real Big Brother show, the disease spreads rapidly through the studio, leaving just one safe place: the heavily protected house in the middle. The remaining housemates then try to survive inside the house as the infection spreads and the remaining zombies search for flesh. Problem is, when everyone in the house has been cast specifically because they create tension and conflict with each other to boost ratings, that's easier said than done...

The series was adapted by Netflix in 2020 as Reality Z with the setting updated to Rio de Janeiro; Brooker served as executive producer.

This show provides examples of:

  • Action Survivor: Kelly spends her first few hours of the apocalypse crying, but recovers and becomes the de facto leader of the group. Alex, from what little we know about her, appears this way. And Riq managed to stay alive in the outside world, too. Granted, they all died in the end...
  • Anyone Can Die: And then come back and make the other characters die, too. Which happens to the entire cast by the end.
  • Anti-Hero: Kelly. Being caught in a zombie apocalypse would kind of force someone into this.
  • Author Avatar: The sneering, cynical producer Patrick bears some resemblance to the show's sneering, cynical creator. Could also be said of Joplin, who voices many of the creator's views, sometimes verbatim quoting him. This being Charlie Brooker, the king of Self-Deprecation, these two are respectively the most loathsome and most pathetic character in the show.
  • Biting-the-Hand Humor: Made by a subsidiary of the Big Brother production company, broadcast on the Big Brother channel. It even uses portions of the actual filming of Big Brother 9.
  • Black Dude Dies First: A twofer. Out of the main cast, the black woman Angel and the gay man Grayson are the first to die.
  • Bolivian Army Ending: We see Kelly make an attempt to escape, one of the only survivors at that point... only to make a Smash Cut to her, now a zombie, on a TV screen on the live Big Brother broadcast.
  • Breaking Speech: Patrick uses this on Joplin in the final episode. It succeeds and costs everyone their lives.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: The internal fourth wall is broken twice by Kelly.
    • First time, she has her phone on ringer while in the camera run.
    • Second time, she breaks into the house itself when a zombie manages to make it into the house through the camera run.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: Riq dies in Kelly's arms after being shot by Patrick.
  • Dirty Coward: Patrick pushing a man in a wheelchair into the path of a zombie chasing him places him squarely as this.
  • Dirty Old Man: Joplin, better known to his anti-fans as "Gollum".
  • The Ditz: Pippa. Veronica also has her moments.
  • Divided We Fall: In typical Big Brother fashion, they find it difficult to get along and agree. They all die.
  • Downer Ending: London has fallen and everybody is either dead or undead.
  • Dumb Blonde: Pippa.
    Patrick: Do you even understand what is going on here, or is the whole world just colours and shapes and the occasional noise in your head?
  • Fake Shemp: Davina McCall was restricted to only one day's filming, so a dummy was used in some scenes for which she was unavailable.
  • Flowery Insults: Patrick sometimes likes to fire these off.
    I didn't say it was going to be a genteel parlour game, you titted fucking idiot!
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: Blink and you'd miss it, but the entire list of contestants for the doomed version of Big Brother are visible for a few seconds under one of the screens.
  • Gorn:
    • Especially during the death of Patrick, who gets the slowest, goriest death in the series.
    • Patrick rants while he hacks the flesh off Grayson's body to use as bait to distract the zombies outside.
    • Subverted during some character deaths - some of them, such as Kelly and Pippa, die off-screen.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Patrick manipulates Joplin into freeing him by telling him how much everyone secretly and not so secretly loathes him and views him as a joke. This leads to Joplin becoming more or less suicidal and he makes a last ditch effort to survive, ramming the gates open and letting the zombies in. Everyone, including Patrick, is brutally killed.
  • Hostage Situation: In the final episode, Patrick takes Kelly hostage, holding a gun to her head.
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    Marky: Or we could chop his Achilles tendon in the back of the heel... turns the feet into dead plates, even if he wanted to use 'em, he won't be able to operate the pedal...
    Space: Where'd you learn that from, man?
    Marky: Saw Jack Bauer do it on the telly.
    Veronica: No! S'not real life, is it? No! If we're doin' this, we're smashin' his ankles like in that film... "Mystery".
  • Idiot Ball:
    • The Big Brother compound is amazingly secure... until one of the security gates has a car full of zombies arrive.
    • Joplin. Ramming a van through an iron gate and countless zombies, in hope that it will carry you to a safe place? Risky. Opening the gate before in hopes of getting to the van on time? Absurdly, flat-out unbelievably stupid.
    • Marky shooting at Riq screaming "I'm normal!" not because he thinks Riq's a normal human who's a threat to their safety, but a zombie that's just screaming at him.
    • Grayson untying Angel despite being warned not to by Kelly, only for Angel to turn and tear his throat out.
  • Inspector Javert: The two policemen, especially the one that is not a fan of Big Brother.
  • Ignored Vital News Reports: Patrick. Well, not entirely ignored - he just wanted to know if the next bulletin would interrupt Big Brother.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Despite his behavior Patrick isn't wrong to lash out when the group discussed leaving him (and Pippa)in the central control room.
  • Karmic Death: Patrick, who gets the most gruesome, Day of the Dead (1985)-style tribute death. And the surviving housemates in the last episode for treating Joplin like a Butt-Monkey the whole series, causing him to pull a Faceā€“Heel Turn and get everyone killed.
  • Kill the Ones You Love: Prior to her introduction, Alex was forced to kill a zombified friend.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Patrick is shown to be this towards Joplin. However, it backfires and makes the manipulatee suicidally open the gates and let the zombies flood in.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Kelly beating a zombie to death with a fire extinguisher (splattering his brains all over the place in the process) in the first episode.
  • Nobody Poops: Very much averted with Patrick. While he's trapped in the same room as Pippa, he can't hold it any longer and proceeds to urinate and defecate in a bucket.
  • Not Using the "Z" Word: The zombies are never references as zombies, though one person does quote Night of the Living Dead (1968).
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Space.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: These ones are victims of a virus and technically dead, psychotically violent and also capable of running and jumping. They also don't always completely devour someone, just biting them and then moving onto the next target, as demonstrated by Davina's death.
  • Pushed at the Monster: Patrick does this repeatedly to show that he's irredeemable. He locks his own assistant outside of the office to be eaten, abandons his staff, and pushes a man in a wheelchair to the zombies chasing him just to slow them down. Less horrifically, but still earning the disgust of everyone, he grinds up the dead housemates' bodies to use as zombie food.
  • Ratings Stunt: Subverted; the housemates initially think that Kelly is a mentally ill woman added to boost ratings. Joplin comments to the cameras, "I think this is in very poor taste."
  • Regret Eating Me: Patrick yells the famous "Choke on it!" line from Day of the Dead (1985) while being eaten by zombies.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Kelly narrowly avoids being fired on the spot for having her mobile phone ring when she was in the camera run, allowing the Housemates to hear that there is someone there. The only thing that saves her is that, by the time Patrick isn't too busy to fire her, there's more important things to think about...
  • Riddle for the Ages: As is usual in zombie media, the actual origin of the Zombie Plague is never revealed, it is easily excused by the setting, where contestants are Locked Out of the Loop with a media blackout, there is no Television or Radio allowed in the Big Brother House, except for special occasions.
  • Shout-Out: As mentioned above, the famous "Choke on it!" line from Day of the Dead (1985) is uttered, and the famous "They're coming to get you, Barbra!" line from Night of the Living Dead (1968) is mockingly used in the first episode. Additionally, Veronica at one point makes a reference to the film version of Misery (although she mistakenly refers to it as "Mystery") - specifically, the ankle-breaking-with-a-sledgehammer scene - when the rest of the group are trying to decide what to do with a captive Patrick.
  • Show Within a Show: Big Brother, in that a completely fictional season was created just for the drama, complete with previously evicted housemates and its own logo.
  • Smug Snake: Joplin. For all his snark and looking down on everyone else, he ends being the most stupid of all.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Davina McCall has her throat ripped out by a zombie and is left to die to the tune of "Grace Kelly" by Mika.
  • Springtime for Hitler: Joplin claims that the only reason he applied to be on the show in the first place was in order to decry it nationally.
  • Taking You with Me: Joplin's actions at the end may not be Idiot Ball at all. Having joined the show wanting acceptance using the excuse about changing the show from within and failing, and being subsequently rejected by literally the very last of humanity, he in one possible interpretation actually pulls a swerve on Patrick and uses HIM to go through with opening the gates. Even though it is now obvious to Patrick who screams at him to stop - that given the sheer number of zombies involved the move is literal suicide. Perhaps not a case of stupidity but Murder-Suicide.
  • Tempting Fate:
    Patrick (watching Pippa's eviction interview) Urghfff! I cannot imagine... living next door to people like that!
    (Later Patrick flees from a zombie Davina McCall into the Green Room, only to find it's occupied by a hysterical Pippa)
    Patrick: Not you! Fuck, not you!
  • Title-Only Opening: You'd be forgiven for thinking Dead Set is a dramatization of a backstage look at Big Brother, especially on versions without the advert breaks, since the title is only used sparingly, for a similar reason to Ghostwatch, and only on Episodes 2-5. Episode 1 begins with the leitmotif and the Show Within a Show version of the Big Brother eye.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Joplin's escape attempt in the finale ends up getting him and all of the remaining survivors killed...though many viewers regard it as witting, see Taking You with Me.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: The second episode opens with Veronica puking her guts up after witnessing Kelly smashing a zombie's head open with a fire extinguisher.
  • What Happened to Mommy?: A deleted scene shows that Pippa was infected by her zombified mother.
  • While Rome Burns: Pippa reads a magazine while Zombie Davina bangs on the door outside. Marky obsesses about what the papers say about him.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: Firmly in the mold of 28 Days Later.
  • Zombie Infectee:
    • Averted with Alex who, when infected, calmly hands Riq her axe. He knows what he has to do without her even asking him to.
    • Inverted with Marky who injured his arm when diving into the van. This gets him in trouble when a police officer threatens to shoot him, believing him to be infected.
    • Played straight by Angel, who hides being bitten, and Grayson, after Angel attacks him.
    • Also played straight by Space, whom after getting bitten by zombie Aisleyne, manages to hold enough strength and composure to open the Diary Room for Kelly and have one last conversation with her.