Drop dead quite funny: an Irish zombie comedy for teenagers

TV review: RTÉ’s new comedy features Pauline McLynn, fart jokes and undead parents

Drop Dead Weird: life’s unfair, but having undead parents isn’t always the worst

Drop Dead Weird: life’s unfair, but having undead parents isn’t always the worst

 

Life would be hard enough already for the three kids who have moved from Australia to Ireland in Drop Dead Weird (RTÉ 2, Monday, 5.30pm).

First there’s the obvious culture shock of discovering that the B&B in Tubbershandy, to which they have relocated, is a dead ringer for that imposing grey priests’ house on Craggy Island.

The uncanny Father Ted feeling only intensifies when the first caller we meet is Pauline McLynn, arranging her animated features into scowls of Mrs Doylean suspicion that mark her as the show’s troublemaker, while her easy-going son, David Rawle’s Dermot, realises – with adolescent mortification – that he has been brought along as his mother’s wingman.

That Lulu’s parents are slavering zombies, holed up in the basement, must rank somewhere on the scale of teenage cringes, but it’s hard to say where

Embarrassments abound: the teenage Lulu (Sofia Nolan) quite fancies Dermot but can barely understand her precocious, constantly punning younger sister, Frankie (Adele Cosentino), her preening would-be YouTube celebrity brother, Bruce (Jack Riley), or her doddery grandfather (Maeliosa Stafford).

That her parents are slavering zombies, holed up in the basement, must rank somewhere on the scale of teenage cringes, but it’s hard to say where. Life is unfair, but having undead parents is not necessarily the worst.

Drop Dead Weird: David Rawle and Pauline McLynn
Drop Dead Weird: David Rawle and Pauline McLynn

An Irish-Australian coproduction, Sally Browning and Dean Cropp’s comedy for young audiences makes a spry gag of Antipodean inversions, for which self-sufficient siblings must care for stumbling parents who can’t control sudden changes in their bodies.

Everyone else, though, has some degree of adult sass and advanced media savvy. Lulu gets to address the camera, which otherwise has the skittish motion of the mockumentary Modern Family; Bruce addresses his imagined followers on his phone; McLynn uses the ancient form of the video blog to record her schemes; and, as animated notes swirl around Frankie’s scientific zombie-cure experiments, everyone exists in a very mediated world. Zombies may gnash and flail in pursuit of one thing (placated here with tomato soup), but the show clearly has the necessary brains.

The keenest moment comes when the two teens aim their smartphones at each other like duelling pistols, then slowly agree to put down their weapons

Its writers, Stephen Abbott and Warren Coleman, pursue a broad spectrum of humour for the first episode, from the exasperation of a put-upon teen (“Are you kidding me?”; “I bet you thought your parents were weird”) to culture clashes (trapping his father in a circle of Vegemite, Bruce reports, “Don’t worry. He’s Irish. That stuff works like razorwire”), slapstick and straight-up fart jokes.

Yet the keenest moment comes when the two teens aim their smartphones at each other’s make-up-mangled faces like duelling pistols, with the promise of mutually assured destruction on Instagram, then slowly agree to put down their weapons. Maybe maturity is contagious. Maybe the zombies don’t have to win.

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