iZombie’s Got Brains, but it’s No Veronica Mars

izomIf zombies are the new vampires, then perhaps their time, too, is limited. When the first Twilight film debuted in 2008, vampires exploded in the mainstream, earning a rightful, yet tiresome and melodramatic place in our world of pop culture. We couldn’t escape blood suckers if we tried. But once everyone finally latched on to how hip the undead could be, Hollywood battered the shit out of the sub-genre, staking the entire notion of dreamy, dark-eyed, pale vamps straight through the heart. It became a hackneyed cliché just as fast as Bella could say…whatever it is that she whines about.

Thanks to The Walking Dead and despite its worshipping fandom, zombies are starting to decay more and more with every forthcoming Romero wannabe. Alongside the multiplying crop of copycat zombie fare hitting screens lately comes the new CW series iZombie, from the mind…excuse me, brain of Rob Thomas, the creator of Veronica Mars. Although the series does breathe new life into these mindless, reanimated corpses, I’m somewhat indifferent about completely immersing myself into yet another story about the walking dead.

Rose McIver plays Liv, a Type-A medical resident who’s engaged to her beau, Major; she’s a happy-go-lucky young woman who seemingly has it all together. After attending a boat hootenanny where partiers consume a new drug called Utopium, everyone freaks out, becomes zombies, and alas, our straitlaced heroine becomes one herself after enduring a few scratches to the arm. Liv starts navigating through her world with a new blasé demeanor (and blonde dye-job), picking up a new gig as a coroner’s assistant so she can snack on an unlimited supply of her new favorite dish: brains with loads of hot sauce. As she eats, however, she experiences flashes of memories from the deceased, so (un)naturally, she starts helping a detective solve murders.

If that doesn’t sound like 12 shows you’ve already seen rolled up into one, then HOLYRICKGRIMES I don’t know what does!

The series is only two episodes deep, so there’s plenty of time for it to unravel, but at this juncture, I can’t say I’m sold. The part-procedural, part-horror, part-Veronica Mars thing has really got me yearning for some more Kristen Bell. Thomas’s decision to do another series with a first-person narration is a little too close for comfort to Bell’s Veronica, making it a challenge to get a sense of who Liv is as a new character we’re supposed to care about. Her job at the morgue and flashes of memories from those she ate feels very Tru Calling, where Eliza Dushku’s Tru would receive pleas from those on her morgue table, causing her day to rewind with hopes of preventing their death. When blaineDetective Clive Babinaux, a Seattle PD recently transferred to homicide rolls around, everything starts to feel very Bones-y, and if loving procedurals is your thing, you’re barking to the wrong TV fan.

If you’re the Rotten Tomatoes-reading type, the reviews for iZombie have been quite good – the show is currently 91 percent fresh. It’s a little beguiling to me because after two episodes, I’m not sure if I have a good sense of who Liv is yet and what’s going to propel her forward. (Though I also don’t have the luxury of receiving advance episodes like many of Tomato’s critics). Having said that, the show does have inklings of potential that shine through. The writing is super witty and fast-paced, and Liv’s adversary has also been clearly outlined – Blaine DeBeers, the drug dealer-turned-zombie who was the cause of the zombie outbreak in the first place. Played by David Anders (Alias), Blaine is the yin to Liv’s yang – realizing that he can use Liv and her place of work to help advance his own agendas. (And you know…to get fresh brains.) It’ll be interesting to see how their dynamic works going forward. I can’t say my interest isn’t piqued there.

Had one of my favorite writers not been at the helm of this project, would I stay tuned? Not sure. I want to be wowed, but I’m not…yet. With the first season slated for 13 episodes, it’s a safe bet to say I’ll be tuned in for the full season ride, but I hope the show can steer clear of an already-forming zombie-fatigue and find unique ways to create and fuel its own little ‘verse. Maybe by distancing itself from the walkers of zombie lore’s past, Liv can learn to stand on her own two cannibalistic feet.

Grade: B-