By Roxie Morris
One of the more exciting aspects of the Disneyland of audio drama is that there is always something new to be discovered along the way. Sometimes it’s a hit or miss, and sometimes it’s going to stick. Sometimes it sticks like those pieces of zombie flesh flying through the air from “You’ve Got Dead On You”…
This last month I had the stupefying experience of moving to another city while our esteemed editor Dex waited patiently for some vital signs of life from me. Thus I had much time for mental zombie adventuring as I waded through my own series of endless congested highways happily envisioning the apocalypse while hanging out in garishly lit Laundromats decorated with vacant eyed patrons. It was all perfect, for my first review excursion. I had a beautifully blank backdrop for my eyes while I filled my ears and fed my mind with audio drama.
I’ve confessed elsewhere on the web of not being a groupie to the whole zombie film genre, but I have found the audio drama medium be a wonderful place to address all of my issues with it. While some of these issues are self evident, here’s a rundown of my “pet peeve” list: The lack of character development usually inherent in zombie films that rely too much on special effects. the extreme lack of visual appeal and charm of most zombies is another problem, to me anyway. Last but not least, would be either taking the whole apocalyptic vision seriously enough to make it seem a serious threat (as in the excellent “We’re Alive”) or to just relax and have some good campy fun with the whole scenario, as in “You’ve Got Dead On You”. So few zombie stories seem to strike the right balance, in my opinion.
“You’ve Got Dead On You” which was first released in April 2010, is the slowly simmering and happy-go-lucky brainchild of Craig Baird and Jason Hall. These guys discovered over a period of several years that they each shared a mutual love of zombies and wise-cracking one liners. They also (correctly) figured out that the audio drama world was re-animating itself, and it would be a great vehicle for some of their ideas. Although Craig and Jason are technically separated by miles they found the internet could help them solve many logistics problems and the pair went to work developing their two main characters that are, interestingly enough, a dynamic duo called Craig and Jay.
The real Craig Hall and Jason Baird offer such fare as “Shaun of the Dead”, “The Simpsons”, “Arrested Development” and “Flight of the Concords” and yes, even “Dumb and Dumber” as some of their inspiration for the show. The characters of Craig and Jay keep landing on their feet, even as they find themselves knee deep in corpses and in hot pursuit of the ultimate zombie weapon and the perfect one liner. Who knew that You’ve Got Dead On You could be educational too? I mean, did anyone else have a clue what a katovel was before Craig and Jay discovered it? Actually, I’m still not sure what a katovel is. But at least I know it exists.
You’ve got Dead on You personally reminded me of an obstacle ridden film from a few years back called “Harold and Kumar go to White Castle”. Like Harold and Kumar, there seem to be so many detours which lead to adventure and catastrophe as Craig and Jay make the 10 minute drive to their girlfriends house. Thats what makes the journey along the way so much fun.
The website design is so simple even Craig and Jay could figure it out. It’s a white on black blog designed efficiently and to the point. They include all the usual suspects of clickable links to Facebook, iTunes, Twitter and the RSS feed which you can subscribe to, or manually download episodes from the site. The website also has a written synopsis of every episode and each chapter pretty much picks up where the other left off.
The episodes are fairly brief and range from 10 minutes to around 18 minutes and are released every Tuesday. The shortness of some of the initial episodes reminds me a little of the now defunct but brilliant “Two Minute Danger Theater”. There are currently 14 episodes of “You’ve Got Dead On You” already on the site and the team says they plan on a first season of 25 episodes before their hiatus and I presume, several seasons more. “You’ve Got Dead On You” also packs a wallop of one liners into each and every episode and they make every minute count. They have also created some pretty great show titles such as “Zombies Don’t Wear Plaid” and “Not Without My Shovel”, who wouldn’t be charmed and intrigued by titles like these?
The audio quality for You’ve Got Dead On You is a little rough starting out. There are occasions early on when you can hear the mic shut on and off and there are other times Jay sounds like he’s talking through an old transistor radio. They record separately and Craig later edits their conversations together, although they do make use of a web cam to mirror their expressions. But each week addresses these issues, and seems an improvement over the last. It gets better as you go. The acting itself is sometimes hit or miss and may come across, at times, as a little wooden and disjointed. But mostly it does work and is delivered with an apt dead pan delivery, that is often quite hilarious. It’s easy to follow even without the announcer (a.k.a. Jason Hall) teasing you along. The announcer is a show unto himself and is also quite a bit of fun as he offers numerous tidbits of helpful advice and aids to get someone through the zombie apocalypse; such as: “do not use a brick” and “wear a poncho“. Because as we all know… zombie slaying is a nasty, messy business and best done at far range.
The plot itself concerns a zombie apocalypse where everyone is advised to take “necessary precautions” via a newscast forewarning the zombie apocalypse. No one exactly knows what necessary precautions are, which is a great source for debate, but Craig and Jay are unflappable and never skip a beat, taking the whole thing in stride. As an example, Craig talks nonchalantly on the phone with his girlfriend Layla, while Jay takes out their neighbor-turned-zombie with a library copy of War and peace.
From there, the initial mission of Craig and Jay is simple enough… to reach their girlfriends, Layla and Faith’s, apartment (which is a 10 minute drive away) The lovely Layla and Faith are drolly played by Layla Baird and Faith Witherow, who also fill in as numerous other characters as well. Faith and Layla, may not be of the Mensa variety themselves, but are fortunately women who prefer action over words. They also love their accessories (like chainsaws) as most women do.
Craig and Jays biggest problem seems to be that they are easily distracted by pretty much everything. Mostly each other. And, boy, do these guys ever like to debate… “Can zombies make phone calls? Should a one liner be a paragraph? Is a piano leg a better weapon than a golf club? And how does someone get a piano leg?” Can these and other serious matters, ever be resolved? Well, maybe not ever with Craig and Jay.
All in all, I think “You’ve Got Dead On You” has some moments of real brilliance and will doubtless make the most serious minded among us have a chuckle of two. It did me. I see it as lot of fun, and these guys are a talented pair that are obviously having a lot of fun doing it. It’s contagious to hear someone love what they are doing, and do it well. Craig and Jay are also quite interactive and accessible on their fan pages and they are always eager for feedback and any comments on their show. So feel free to jump in and join in the discussion. I see them as serious contenders in the Audio Drama medium and I look forward to hearing more from them. In short, “You’ve Got Dead On You”, sticks!
But don’t go by me. If you haven’t listened already, go give it a listen. And let these guys know what you think…