They just had to do it. Robert and Michelle King made The Bite, a zombie apocalypse comedy shot in New York City during the Lockdown. The results are… interesting. If you're in the right mood or mindset, you might even find it entertaining. It's an acquired taste. The Bite is a shaggy dog comedy horror series about a doctor (Audra McDonald) and a dominatrix (Taylor Schilling) in New York City trying to solve the zombie apocalypse during the COVID lockdown as the world marches towards doom. Rachel (McDonald) and Lily (Schilling) are neighbours in a swanky Hell's Kitchen brownstone. Rachel is a doctor dealing with her patients, all annoyingly neurotic and self-obsessed New Yorkers, on telemedicine sessions. Lily is a dominatrix still earning money via virtual sessions with her clients while arguing with her book editor about her impending memoir about her job and whether she should publish under her real name. Then Rachel witnesses her patients getting bitten and turning into zombies.
One of Lily's clients turns into a zombie, and she's trapped in her apartment with him. Rachel tries to work with her husband Zach (a wonderfully deadpan Steven Pasquale), stuck at the CDC in Washington D.C. with the scientist he previously had an affair with (Philippa Soo), who both have to watch their backs since the Trump administration is breathing down their necks and insisting they downplay to the public the seriousness of the Pandemic, let alone a zombie apocalypse that's hitching a ride off COVID. Rachel and Lily become the only two competent people in New York trying to find the origin and cure for the zombie apocalypse, but time is running out for the city and possibly the world.
It's hard to say if The Bite is a good show. The one-off 6-episode miniseries makes its intentions very clear as it goes on. It's a snarky horror satire about the Pandemic and the bad political decisions behind the policies that led to the lockdown and continued during the whole period. If you're a producer and a company offers you money to make a whole TV show, you take the deal. Even if you're the creators and showrunners of The Good Fight and Evil. You don't say no to work offers, especially in this day and age. It's nice to be wanted.
The Bite is probably the last of the lockdown TV shows that US and UK TV networks made during the Pandemic. The biggest hit of the trend is still the BBC's Staged, starring David Tennant and Michael Sheen as furloughed actors going nuts while stuck in their homes. The Bite is decidedly not a hit – for starters, it's only on a cable service's exclusive streaming division that not everyone in the US has access to. Critical reaction to The Bite seems to be more about the reviewers' emotional hung-ups and traumas over being locked down in real life than the actual merits of the show itself. The scattershot, satirical, wacky tone of the show is a New York-centric snarkiness that had been around since the 1929s, common in many TV shows and movies during the 1970s and began to die out in the 1980s.
It seems critics born after the 1980s don't know how to deal with that tone and are violently allergic. It's a snarky outlook on the world that doesn't fall on a single square of "serious" or "funny" but likes to straddle both. It's a mindset of being able to hold two different feelings or thoughts at the same time while most critics' brains now are strictly binary. The absurd situations and oddball characters pile up as the show continues. McDonald and Schilling ground the story with the comic desperation of being possibly the last two sane people left in New York City as the world sleepwalks into Hell. This is Schilling's first major TV series since the end of Orange Is the New Black, and she is very, very funny as the resourceful Lily, who uses her social skills as a dominatrix to help Rachel figure out the zombie outbreak.
If you read the reviews of The Bite, including the outraged ones, you might think the Kings had committed some kind of cardinal sin of crass tastelessness, exploiting the mood of existential angst during lockdown. You'd think Robert and Michelle King drowned some puppies and put the video on Tiktok or something. They were just trying to give viewers a laugh, which is a wholly honourable thing to do when everyone is miserably stuck at home with depression and existential angst. Like it or not, The Bite does capture the time it was made in, a pop culture time capsule of that horrible and bizarre year in 2020 where the world was locked down and everyone was forced to put their normal lives on hold and stay at home lest they catch the plague. The hidden subtext of The Bite is that the entire cast is full of New York Broadway actors who must have been relieved and grateful to get to have a show. Actors gotta act and the Kings might have done more for Broadway actors than a lot of other people in the business by employing them in what may be the Last Lockdown TV series, even if it's one that the over-sensitive and rather self-preoccupied critics seemed to hate.
The funniest and most voyeuristic part of The Bite and all these shows shot in lockdown over the last 12 months is we got to see what these actors' houses look like. News flash: they live in houses and apartments that are much nicer than yours! The Bite is streaming only on Spectrum TV now. It might end up on Netflix later.
And since you're here…
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