108213_briandead02411bCBS’ newest Summer series BRAINDEAD premieres tonight (10/9c) and I’ve spent the past week or so trying to put into words my feelings on the show.  What have I been telling friends who ask?  “It’s absolutely insane.” They often push for more detail by saying, “Is that a good or bad thing?”  And I have to tell you, friends, I think it’s a great thing.

The show, from THE GOOD WIFE creators Robert and Michelle King, tells the story of Washington, D.C. in crisis mode after a government shutdown (ok, totally plausible…)…and the alien bugs that eat the brains of the very politicos involved (ok…less so).  Mary Elizabeth Winstead is pitch-perfect as Laurel Healy, documentary filmmaker and sister to Senator Luke Healy, Senate majority whip, played with relish by Danny Pino. With the documentary film funding not coming in as easily as the Melanesian choir subjects may like, Laurel is forced to join her brother’s team as his Constituent Caseworker. When a constituent brings her the case of her “not-quite-the-same” ship’s captain husband, Laurel slowly starts to unravel some really WEIRD stuff going down in the District.

Luke’s main opposition comes in the form of a drunk and “over it” Red Wheatus, played by one of the best in the biz, Tony Shalhoub. There’s a startling shift in his character that comes as a direct result of his bug to ear interaction. A highlight to watch the character embrace what he possibly was always meant to be, before the alcohol got in the way.  His Chief of Staff is played by Aaron Tveit, set up as an adversary and romantic interest before he even mutters his first line.  His Gareth has been subtly manipulating Red in his own interests, but by the time The Cars make an appearance, he might be losing that bit of control. Worth noting: Tveit and Winstead have an easy-going chemistry that makes their tête-à-têtes pop.

As the question of “What’s Eating Washington?” (the show’s tagline) continues to be explored, the show embraces the satire, absurdity, goofiness, you name it, while never letting a viewer feel completely comfortable with one tone or another.  Shifting from serious to wacky to dangerous, and then right back to romantic and ominous from minute to minute, it’s almost impossible to describe exactly what this show is (and one could argue that the premise is a little thin: “Bugs attacked DC but are they good or bad and how do we defeat them and keep this going for years?”), other than to say that it’s unique, insane, and absolutely delightful. A science fiction political satire with smart writing, beautiful production design, and a cast that seems to be loving it – I’m calling it must see!