The saying “One cannot serve two masters” is as true for storytelling as it is for anything else.
The Asylum, the production company that brought viewers Sharknado, is back with an attempt to take on the zombie apocalypse horror sub genre with Z Nation. I saw a screener before it premiered, but wanted to hold off judgment on the show until I saw the final broadcast version just in case there were any last minute changes.
Having checked it twice now, I feel I can safely state objectively what I think of Z Nation. While it may seem unfair to compare it to The Walking Dead, I am going to. Both are primetime basic cable TV series. Both are inspired by other works that came before it and both are trying to get rabid zombie fan as viewers. The differences are obvious; The Walking Dead, from the start, was a superior drama with genuine characters that made us care. Of course the talent involved with The Walking Dead is truthfully better than what the Asylum is offering.
Yet I do not fault The Asylum for not having the same caliber of talent in front of and behind the camera because they are up against KNB Effects, one of the best makeup effects providers in the business. Plus the zombies look okay for the most part. The dialogue and acting on the other hand is serviceable at best even with Harold Perrineau in a guest-starring role. Outside of that the only other cast members of note are Tom Everett Scott and DJ Qualls. The rest of the cast appears to be largely unknown, which is fine.
What doesn’t work in Z Nation: the show does not know whether it is to be taken seriously as drama or simply enjoyed as schlock. That is where the two major problems comes into play. You can have a comedy with moments of great drama like MASH and you can have a drama with moments of light comedy as with Ally McBeal. However, you have to define exactly what one is and as far as I can tell, The Asylum wants Z Nation to be both a drama and schlock at the same time. As a result it fails as both.
There is nothing new to see here. Cast members look out of place at times as though they don’t know how to play off the material. Right from the first episode, the series seems to ignore the basic rules it sets up for cheap nonsense. As a result I neither liked or disliked Z Nation because the show doesn’t even inspire enough interest to make me care. It is neither fun or gripping. It just feels limp and aimless. You can’t be Zombieland and World War Z at the same time. You have to choose an approach and stick with it or else you risk alienating audiences for both.
Z Nation is unfocused and if it doesn’t decide what it is fast then I think viewers should show “mercy” to quote a term used on the show and skip watching it.