Dead Set (TV series)

Dead Set (TV series)
Dead Set
Dead Set.png
Format Horror, Thriller, Drama, Satire
Created by Charlie Brooker
Directed by Yann Demange
Starring Jaime Winstone
Andy Nyman
Kevin Eldon
Davina McCall
Riz Ahmed
Beth Cordingly
Kathleen McDermott
Composer(s) Dan Jones
Country of origin United Kingdom
No. of episodes 5 Episodes (List of episodes)
Editor(s) Chris Wyatt
Running time 65 min. (Episode 1)
35 min. (Episodes 2-5)
These running times include advertisements.
141mins DVD feature.
Original channel E4
Picture format 1080p (HDTV)
576i (PAL)
Original run 27 October 2008 – 31 October 2008
Related shows Big Brother (UK)
Big Brother Series 9
External links

Dead Set is a critically acclaimed BAFTA-nominated horror drama created by English writer Charlie Brooker.

The series takes place primarily on the set of a fictional season of the real television show Big Brother. Dead Set is a production of Zeppotron, part of the Endemol group of production and distribution companies that produces the actual Big Brother.

Dead Set first aired on Britain's E4 channel starting on 27 October 2008, just six weeks after the end of the real Big Brother series 9 on that same channel. The five episodes, aired over five consecutive nights, chronicle a zombie outbreak that strands the housemates and production staff inside the Big Brother House, which quickly becomes a shelter from the undead.


Production details

Although the real Big Brother House is in Elstree Studios, Borehamwood, the house featured in Dead Set is a purpose built set on a former military base in Virginia Water, Surrey, owned by QinetiQ. This site has also housed other productions including Holby Blue, Primeval and Echo Beach. Filming for the series took place over the summer of 2008. Pippa's eviction was filmed outside the real Big Brother house during Belinda's eviction - in front of a real Friday night eviction audience - leading to a small continuity error as the Big Brother series 9 logo was visible instead of the fictional version.[1]

According to the DVD, scenes featuring the undead Davina McCall were filmed in one day, and the bodies lying around the corridor during the scene were created with SFX dummies (besides Eugene Sully's, which McCall is seen feasting on). McCall stated that she was covered in bruises the next day, due to hammering on the door in several scenes. She based her zombie-running style on the T-1000 from the 1991 film Terminator 2: Judgement Day. As she was restricted to only one day's filming, a dummy of McCall was used in some scenes for which she was unavailable.[2]

Filming of the series was found to be difficult, due to budgetary constraints. Some extras were redressed to play different zombies due to the cost of the contact lenses used as zombie eyes; and the scene in Episode 2 in which Alex and Riq's car breaks down was originally meant to be an explosive car crash.[2] Many of the zombies featured in the crowd scenes - including the final assault on the house - were volunteers recruited through Dead Set creator Charlie Brooker's Facebook group.[citation needed]

A map for the Borehamwood region, the site of the real Big Brother House, was added to the Urban Dead MMORPG - with a competition to win a copy of the DVD as part of the promotion of the series.[3]

A Swedish version of the show, called "Den Sista Dokusåpan" (The Last Reality Show), is currently in production and is expected to air on TV6 (Sweden) in early 2012. [4]

Website and DVD release

Dead Set logo

The website was launched on 17 September 2008. The website contains pictures, videos and competitions relating to the show.[5] There is also a viral marketing site called

The entire series was released on one DVD on 3 November 2008. The running time for the DVD is 141 minutes. The DVD extras included interviews with the director, writer and cast, behind-the-scenes and special effects featurettes, and a selection of deleted and extended scenes, including:

  • Pippa's eviction in full (featuring scenes shot from inside the actual Big Brother house staircase)
  • A segment from a fictional episode of 8 Out Of 10 Cats
  • A scene featuring Patrick discussing "recycling" Grayson's body
  • An extended version of Patrick mocking Veronica over her relationship with Marky
  • Pippa's death in the final episode at the hands of her undead mother.

Episode list

Episode Original air date Guest stars Ratings
1.01 27 October 2008 Marcus Bentley, Krishnan Guru-Murthy, Davina McCall, Aisleyne Horgan-Wallace, Brian Belo, Imogen Thomas, Helen Adams, Paul "Bubble" Ferguson, Kinga Karolczak, Eugene Sully, Makosi Musambasi, Ziggy Lichman 1,465,000
317,000 (+1)[6]
During eviction night on Big Brother, there are widespread riots and the live show may be bumped for related news. Producer Patrick tries to maintain control, issuing orders to his assistant, Claire, and one of the runners, Kelly. Former seasons' (actual) housemates Aisleyne, Imogen, Helen, Bubble, season 7 winner Brian, Kinga, Eugene, Makosi and Ziggy are having a reunion party in the studio green room while (actual) presenter Davina McCall is preparing for the post eviction interview. The current housemates, Marky, Veronica, Grayson, Joplin, Angel, Space, and Pippa get ready for eviction. Kelly and co-worker Danny are flirting in an outer office when co-worker Chloe interrupts, making frank accusations about Kelly and Danny's activities. Meanwhile, Kelly's boyfriend, Riq, is stranded at a train station after his car is stolen.

Another runner, Sophie, travels to the studio with Pippa's mother and their driver, who was bitten by a zombie earlier. They reach the studio as he dies and reanimates, killing both women and bitting a security guard. As Pippa's eviction is announced, the guard stumbles into the crowd of fans, dies and reanimates and begins to infect others. The zombies invade the studio's interiors and attack Davina, the production crew, and the former contestants. Zombie Danny kills Chloe but Kelly manages to barricade herself in an office. Patrick hides in a toilet cubicle, after sacrificing his assistant and a disabled man to save himself.

In the morning, the housemates are bickering, oblivious to the situation and wondering why Big Brother seems to be ignoring them. Patrick finds Pippa hiding in the green room when he ducks inside to escape zombie Davina. Kelly kills zombie Danny and is then chased outside and attempts to escape in a van. She gets the keys but is forced back inside the closed studio, where she escapes from a zombie cameraman, lurking in the camera runs, by going into the house. The housemates believe that she is a new contestant and she tries to explain that something is behind the two-way mirrors. Marky opens a door to taunt her and the cameraman bursts into the house, biting Angel before Kelly smashes his head in with a fire extinguisher.

1.02 28 October 2008 Davina McCall 1,038,000
336,000 (+1)[6]
Riq hides from zombies in a petrol station, where he is rescued by another survivor named Alex. The two set off for the coast in her car, which eventually breaks down. Riq attempts repairs while Alex stands guard, occasionally shooting approaching zombies. The sound of them arguing attracts a large group of zombies, forcing them to leave the car and escape on foot. They take shelter in an abandoned country house.

Patrick and Pippa are stuck in the green room with no means of communication; their already poor relationship deteriorates rapidly. Meanwhile, Davina continues to prowl the corridor outside, making occasional attempts to get in.

The housemates move Angel to the greenhouse in the garden so that she is contained if she turns. Grayson, a nurse, explains that he needs proper medical supplies to help her. Kelly, Marky, and Space plan to use the van outside to fetch supplies from the nearby supermarket. Kelly tells Grayson to stab Angel in the head if she dies. Veronica and Joplin create a diversion, buying the others time to get to the van that Kelly has the keys for. Former production assistant Claire and other zombies chase them, but they make it just in time. Marky injures his arm on a tool in the back of the van while leaping in.

1.03 29 October 2008 Davina McCall 842,000
360,000 (+1)[6]
Kelly, Marky, and Space make it to the supermarket and gather supplies. When they are chased out of the store, two policemen looking for looters shoot the zombies. One of the cops is bitten and then shot by his colleague who explains that those bitten die and turn quickly. Thinking the wound on Marky's arm is a bite, the policeman threatens to shoot him, refusing to believe that it is not a bite. Kelly picks up the dead policeman's gun and shoots his partner in the leg. More zombies appear, and Kelly, Marky, and Space escape in the van, leaving the wounded policeman to the zombies.

Grayson tries to comfort Angel, but when she stops breathing he hesitates to stab her and she attacks. Veronica and Joplin, hearing the screams, run to the garden. Grayson stumbles out of the greenhouse clutching his neck, and Angel chases after Veronica. Joplin hesitates inside, watching as Angel tries to bite Veronica. Grayson pushes zombie Angel into the pool just before he dies and then reanimates. Joplin and Veronica trap zombie Grayson with a bed cover and Veronica stabs him in the head just as Kelly, Marky, and Space arrive. Seeing that Angel is unable to get out of the pool, they come to the conclusion that zombies have little intelligence, and Kelly declares that the living will win the day because they can still reason. She kills zombie Angel with a shot to the head from the policeman's gun.

At the country house, Riq turns on the television, and discovers the Big Brother live feed is still broadcasting on E4. Alex hears a French radio broadcast say that a rescue boat has just left, stranding them and any other survivors. Suddenly, Riq sees Kelly and the others on screen.

1.04 30 October 2008 Davina McCall, Brian Belo 907,000
299,000 (+1)[6]
Episode 4 begins to lay bare the true meaning of Kelly's episode 3 assertion that human "intelligence" will decide the outcome of the story.

Riq decides he must get to Kelly, and convinces Alex to leave the safety of the country house and make their way to the studio by boat along the river. Alex is bitten by a zombie while opening a lock gate. Knowing that she will turn, Alex hands Riq her axe and he kills her with it.

Patrick and Pippa manage to kill zombie Davina and make it to the studio control room. Using the PA System they are able to communicate with the housemates and eventually join them in the Big Brother house. Patrick wants to leave the safety of the house and head for the coast, but Kelly shows him the crowd of zombies at the gates preventing them from leaving the compound. Patrick suggests that they cut up Grayson's body to use as bait to distract the zombies while they escape in the van. The housemates disagree but he starts to chop up the body.

Riq makes it to the studio and approaches the Big Brother house. Marky is on the roof, picking off the zombies inside the compound with the policeman's assault rifle. Marky spots Riq and, thinking he is a zombie, aims at Riq and pulls the trigger.

1.05 31 October 2008 Aisleyne Horgan-Wallace, Saskia Howard-Clarke 705,000[6]
Episode 5 completes the exposition of the shortcomings of the intelligence in a Big Brother house when pitted against the mindless zombie masses.

Marky misses shooting Riq several times before Kelly recognizes him and stops Marky from shooting. Once inside, Riq warns that Patrick's plan won't work as there are too many zombies. The housemates decide to stay in the house as long as possible. When Patrick insists on going forward, they tie him up. Patrick manages to turn Joplin against the others, reminiscent of the style used to change alliances between housemates in a non-zombie season of Big Brother. Joplin unties him and carries the bowl of bait while Patrick takes Kelly hostage, heading outside. Everyone follows him but in the struggle the bait is dropped and Patrick kills Riq. Pippa runs back to the studio's offices and Space follows. Joplin panics and opens the gates. He is attacked by the zombies as they flood inside the compound.

Kelly, Marky, Veronica and Patrick run for the house, but the zombies rip Patrick apart. Space makes it to the control room and communicates using the PA system. Zombies quickly fill the camera runs and Kelly realizes they will easily make it through the two-way glass and fire doors. She urges Space to open the diary room and he is bitten by the zombie of previous housemate Aisleyne. He manages to get into the innermost control booth and sees on the monitors that the zombies have forced their way into the house. Only Kelly makes it into the diary room, leaving Marky and Veronica to be eaten. Kelly congratulates Space on winning this series of Big Brother, and tells him to open the outside door so she can fight her way to the van. He refuses until he sees that Pippa is one of the zombies trying to get into the booth, alongside her undead mother. As soon as the diary room door is opened, Kelly screams and the camera cuts to black.

Next morning and Joplin, Marky, Space, Pippa and Veronica are seen as zombies; Joplin roams outside the studio gates; Marky and Veronica feast on the remains of Grayson; Space stares blankly around the control room. Finally, in the closing seconds, zombie Kelly stares into a camera in the Big Brother house, before the scene switches to a zombie in front of a television in a shopping centre somewhere in the United Kingdom - a rapt "viewer" of housemate Kelly and the Big Brother live feed on E4.

Series Omnibus: 257,000 (213,000 viewers on E4, 54,000 on E4+1.[7]

Series Average: 844,166 (664,833 on E4, 179,333 on E4 +1).

The series was repeated on Channel 4 from the 6th to the 8th of January 2009, reformatted into three hour-long episodes.

All five episodes were broadcast consecutively as a Halloween feature length (2.5 hours) version on E4 on 31 October 2009.[5] This was done again on 30 October 2011.

Cultural references

Concerning the central characters of the story, Brooker has said he based some of them on actual Big Brother contestants. For example, he compared Space to Science from Big Brother 6, and also compared Marky and Veronica's relationship to that of Maxwell and Saskia's from the same series.

Dead Set contains several allusions to other zombie films, most notably George A. Romero's "Living Dead" series. Marky taunts Grayson by calling him 'Barbara', one of the central characters in Night of the Living Dead (1968). When Kelly takes refuge in the Big Brother house and informs the contestants of the zombie infestation, Marky directly quotes the line "They're coming to get you, Barbara!" that opened Romero's film. Later, as Marky and Veronica are clearing zombies from the compound, Joplin remarks that they keep converging on the house because of "some primitive instinct [...] This was like a church for them," paraphrasing a line from Dawn of the Dead (1978).

Patrick's running away to leave his underlings to the zombies is similar to Captain Rhodes's betrayal at the climax of Day of the Dead (1985), and his fate at the hands of the undead is a homage to Rhodes' death at the end of the movie even down to his last words. As Rhodes is torn in half he commands the zombies eating his intestinal tract to "Choke on 'em!"; in Dead Set, Patrick's mortal words are "I've got fucking bowels full of shit - eat it!" Also he has his head torn off via fingers inserted into his eye sockets, identical to Private Torrez (Taso Stavrakis in Day of the Dead). In the first episode, Patrick says that Angel has a face "like a Manchester morgue", a reference to Jorge Grau's The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue (1974). A previous Big Brother quote was also referenced - while in Celebrity Big Brother 2006 Pete Burns said, "I've had insults thrown over me like a bucket of cum.", and the Dead Set character Patrick uses a similar line.


Dead Set has been acclaimed by critics and the public alike. It was nominated for a BAFTA for "Best Drama Serial", but lost out to Criminal Justice.

Advertisements for the show were aired on E4 and its parent, Channel 4. The first episode, at its peak, received just under one and a half million viewers and 8.3% total audience share.

Simon Pegg, a co-writer and star of the zombie comedy film Shaun of the Dead, commented on Dead Set for The Guardian. While generally praising the series, he expressed dismay at the move away from the traditional slow zombies of the Romero films to the modern 'fast zombie' used in Dead Set which were akin to the infected from 28 Days Later or the zombies from the 2004 Dawn of the Dead remake.[8] Brooker responded that this was due to a variety of reasons, including budgetary constraints, the fact that Dead Set had to differentiate itself from Shaun of the Dead, as well as the plot requiring that the infection could put the entire country out of action before the producers had time to evacuate the studios. He also cited two George Romero films in which the zombies behaved non-traditionally, including a scene in the original Dawn Of The Dead where two zombie children run.[9]


Cameos by former Big Brother housemates

International Broadcasts

  • Australia: 9 November 2009 on SBS One.
  • Spain: 25 July 2009 on Canal +.
  • South Africa: 3 September 2009 on Dstv BBC Entertainment.
  • France: 17 and 18 October 2009 on CinéCinéma Frisson.
  • Poland: 28 October 2009 on BBC Entertainment; Cinemax, Cinemax 2
  • United States: 25 through 29 October 2010 on IFC.
  • Italy: 12 November 2010 on MTV Italia.
  • Sweden: 20 February 2011 on TV11.


External links

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