Dead Set

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Dead Set
Created byCharlie Brooker
Written byCharlie Brooker
Directed byYann Demange
ComposerDan Jones
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original languageEnglish
No. of series1
No. of episodes5
Executive producers
  • Angie Daniell
  • Chrissy Skinns
CinematographyTat Radcliffe
EditorChris Wyatt
Camera setupSingle-camera
Running time142 minutes[2] (total)
45 minutes (ep 1)
25 minutes (ep 2-5)
Production companyZeppotron
Original release
Release27 October (2008-10-27) –
31 October 2008 (2008-10-31)

Dead Set is a British zombie horror television miniseries written and created by Charlie Brooker and directed by Yann Demange. The show takes place primarily on the set of a fictional series of the real television show Big Brother. 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.

Dead Set is a production of Zeppotron, part of the Endemol group of production and distribution companies that produces the actual Big Brother. The series first aired on E4 starting on 27 October 2008, just six weeks after the end of Big Brother 2008 on the same channel.


Cameos by former Big Brother housemates[edit]

Housemate Big Brother series
Helen Adams Big Brother 2
Paul "Bubble" Ferguson Big Brother 2
Eugene Sully Big Brother 6
Kinga Karolczak Big Brother 6
Makosi Musambasi Big Brother 6
Saskia Howard-Clarke Big Brother 6
Aisleyne Horgan-Wallace Big Brother 7
Imogen Thomas Big Brother 7
Brian Belo Big Brother 8
Ziggy Lichman Big Brother 8


No.TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air dateUK viewers
1"Outbreak"[7]Yann DemangeCharlie Brooker27 October 2008 (2008-10-27)1,465,000
317,000 (+1)[8]

During an eviction night on Big Brother, riots occur in several cities across the UK, with emergency services struggling to cope and the military being called in, and the live show may be bumped for related news. Producer Patrick tries to maintain control, issuing orders to the runners and his assistant Claire, while former seasons' housemates Aisleyne, Imogen, Helen, Bubble, Brian, Kinga, Eugene, Makosi and Ziggy are having a reunion party in the studio green room and presenter Davina McCall prepares for the post-eviction interview. The current housemates, Marky, Veronica, Grayson, Joplin, Angel, Space, and Pippa, get ready for eviction. Runner Kelly and co-worker Danny flirt in an outer office until co-worker Chloe interrupts, making frank accusations about Kelly and Danny's activities. Meanwhile, Kelly's boyfriend Riq is stranded at a railway station after his van is stolen. Another runner, Sophie, travels to the studio with Pippa's mother and their driver, who is bitten by a zombie on the way there. They reach the studio as he dies and reanimates, killing both women and biting a security guard. As Pippa's eviction is announced, the guard stumbles into the crowd of fans, dies, reanimates, and begins infecting 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 and sees a news report of the zombie outbreak. Meanwhile, Patrick hides in a toilet cubicle after sacrificing Claire and a disabled man to save himself; then, he finds Pippa in the Big Brother green room while trying to escape from zombie Davina.

In the morning, the housemates are bickering, oblivious to the situation and wondering why Big Brother seems to ignore them, with only Space realising that something is wrong. Kelly kills Danny by stabbing him in the head with a knife. She 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 entering the house via the Diary Room's fire exit door. Most of the housemates believe that she is a new contestant, and she tries to explain that there is a zombie outbreak and that something is behind the two-way mirrors, with Space the only one to believe her initially. Marky opens a door to taunt her, and the cameraman bursts into the house, biting Angel before Kelly smashes his head with a fire extinguisher.

Cast : 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
2"Can the Housemates Keep Angel Alive?"[7]Yann DemangeCharlie Brooker28 October 2008 (2008-10-28)1,038,000
336,000 (+1)[8]

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. While Riq struggles to fix the car, Alex yells at him, angrily revealing that she had to shoot her zombified best friend dead to survive. The sound of them arguing attracts many 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; they begin to argue as they try to defend themselves from zombie Davina as she prowls the corridor outside, making the occasional attempt 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 to which Kelly has the keys. Several zombies, including Claire, chase Kelly, Space and Marky, who barely manage to escape, though Marky injures his arm while leaping into the back of the van.

Cast : Davina McCall
3"Live Feed"[7]Yann DemangeCharlie Brooker29 October 2008 (2008-10-29)842,000
360,000 (+1)[8]

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. 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 zombie Angel chases after Veronica until Grayson pushes 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 cannot escape the pool, they conclude that zombies have little intelligence. Kelly declares that the living will win the day because they can still reason, then fatally shoots Angel in the head with 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.

Cast : Davina McCall
4"Running"[7]Yann DemangeCharlie Brooker30 October 2008 (2008-10-30)907,000
299,000 (+1)[8]

Riq decides he must get to Kelly and convinces Alex to leave the safety of the country house with him so they can 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 reluctantly kills her with it.

With Pippa's reluctant help, Patrick kills zombie Davina, and he and Pippa make it to the studio control room. Using the PA system, they 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 they cut up Grayson's remains to use as bait to distract the zombies while they escape in the van. Most of the housemates disagree, but Joplin and a reluctant Kelly allow him to do so. Riq makes it to the studio and approaches the Big Brother house, where Marky shoots the zombies inside the compound with the policeman's assault rifle. Marky spots Riq and starts to shoot at him, thinking he is a zombie.

Cast : Davina McCall, Brian Belo
5"A Way Out"[7]Yann DemangeCharlie Brooker31 October 2008 (2008-10-31)705,000[8]

Marky misses shooting Riq several times before Kelly recognises him and stops Marky from shooting. Once inside, Riq warns that Patrick's plan will not work as there are too many zombies. The housemates decide to stay in the house as long as possible and tie up a resistant Patrick, who later manages to turn Joplin against the others, comparing their situation to Big Brother's changing social-dynamics, and takes Kelly hostage while Joplin carries the bowl of bait. Everyone follows them outside, but in the struggle, the bait is dropped, and Patrick fatally shoots Riq. As a devastated Kelly tries to shoot Patrick in a rage, a traumatised Pippa runs back to the studio's offices, and Space follows. A panicked Joplin opens the gates and is devoured by the oncoming zombies. Kelly, Marky, Veronica and Patrick run for the house, but the zombies, including Saskia, rip Patrick apart.

Space makes it to the control room and communicates using the PA system. Zombies quickly fill the camera runs, and Kelly realises they will easily make it through the two-way glass and fire doors. She urges Space to open the Diary Room – zombie Aisleyne bites him. He opens the Diary Room door just after the zombies force their way into the house. Only Kelly makes it into the Diary Room; Marky and Veronica are eaten alive, and Space sees that Pippa is one of the zombies trying to get into the booth alongside her undead mother. Kelly congratulates Space on winning the series of Big Brother, and tells him to open the outside door to the fire exit so she can fight her way to the van. He refuses, knowing she is vastly outnumbered and will be killed until Kelly reminds him of the advice he gave her to face her fears and seize the day. He relents and opens the door.

The next morning, Joplin, Space, Marky, Veronica and Kelly are seen as zombies; Joplin, Marky and Veronica feast on human remains, Space stares blankly around the control room, and Kelly stares into a camera in the Big Brother house; her zombified stare is broadcast on the Big Brother live feed on multiple televisions in the United Kingdom.

Cast : Aisleyne Horgan-Wallace, Saskia Howard-Clarke



Charlie Brooker said that the basic idea for the series came about in 2004, as he watched the American series 24. He commented: "I'm enjoying this, but these terrorists are just ridiculous. They're like waves of Space Invaders. They might as well be zombies."[9] Following this, he imagined an apocalypse occurring during the filming of Big Brother.[9] He cited the Big Brother House as an excellent place to hide during a zombie apocalypse.[10]

The first draft of the script was written in 2005, during the airing of Big Brother 6.[9] He based some of his fictional housemates on actual former housemates. For example, he cited Maxwell Ward and Saskia Howard-Clarke as inspirations for Marky and Veronica, with Pippa and Space being loosely based on Helen Adams and Kieron "Science" Harvey respectively.[10] For further inspiration, he attended the live eviction of George Galloway during Celebrity Big Brother 4, where he also visited the camera runs that surround the House.[11]

Beyond Big Brother, Brooker noted several examples of zombie fiction that had inspired him, including the Dead series of films by George A. Romero, Zombie Flesh Eaters, 28 Days Later, The Walking Dead, The Living Dead At Manchester Morgue and Zombie Creeping Flesh.[9]

Angela Jain, then head of E4, announced that she had commissioned the series in April 2008,[12] although the true nature of the project was not publicly revealed until August of that year.[13]


The Big Brother eye logo featured in Dead Set was described by Brooker as a combination of several of the real logos used throughout the series.[14] The design of the fictional Big Brother set was made to look as authentic as possible – it featured similar cameras, two-way mirrors (which could be angled to avoid revealing the camera crew), astroturf and the actual (albeit slightly modified) Diary Room chair from Big Brother 8.[14] Filming inside the fictional Big Brother set for the first episode was done using Digital Betacam technology, to retain the look and feel of the actual Big Brother series. The rest of the scenes were shot using the Arriflex D-20.[15]

Filming for the series took place over the summer of 2008, mainly at Longcross Studios and the surrounding areas. The eviction of Pippa (Kathleen McDermott) was filmed at the actual Big Brother House in Elstree on 18 July 2008 – the same night that Belinda was evicted. Before she left the house, McDermott was placed in the stairwell of the House and "evicted" in front of the show's live audience. McDermott and Davina McCall had previously shot an improvised "eviction interview".[11][16] In addition, several former Big Brother housemates appeared as themselves. They were filmed chatting to each other as part of a fictional "reunion" before Dead Set's crew members "surprised" them to film a shocked reaction.[11]

Scenes featuring McCall as a zombie 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: Judgment Day.[17] As she was restricted to only one day's filming, a dummy of McCall was used in some scenes for which she was unavailable.[18]

Filming of the series was found to be difficult due to budgetary and time 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 initially meant to be an explosive car crash.[18] Brooker cited similar constraints for eliminating his original concept for the final episode, which would have been set six months after the outbreak.[19] Many of the zombies featured in the crowd scenes – including the final assault on the house – were volunteers recruited through the internet.[20]

In the second episode, Charlie Brooker also has a brief cameo as a zombie.[11]



Dead Set logo

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.[21] A website for Dead Set was launched on 17 September 2008. There also was a viral marketing site at, which had a clip of an interruption to the Big Brother live feed. The website would ask for your name and birth date to ensure you are 18 or over. This clip shows an unknown woman wearing a leather jacket and trousers trapped in a destroyed Diary Room, covered in blood and screaming for help. The sound cuts out for the majority of the video, only her screaming "Help me." and the name entered can be heard. She then turns to the wall behind her and struggles to write "Help me (Name)”, and the date of birth entered on the wall in blood. The video then goes to a card saying "Dead Set Coming Soon" with an address to the E4 Dead Set site. Advertisements for the show were aired on E4 and its parent, Channel 4, with a final trailer appearing on YouTube on 27 October.[22]

Original broadcast[edit]

The series launched on E4 on 27 October 2008 and concluded on 31 October 2008. All five episodes were broadcast consecutively as a Halloween feature length (2.5 hours) version on E4 on 31 October 2009. Dead Set was repeated on Channel 4 from 6 to 8 January 2009, reformatted into three-hour-long episodes.

International broadcasts[edit]

Country Channel(s) Date(s)
Australia SBS One 9 November 2009
Brazil Multishow 15 October 2009
Spain Canal + 25 July 2009
South Africa Dstv BBC Entertainment 3 September 2009
France Ciné+ Frisson 17 and 18 October 2009
Poland BBC Entertainment; Cinemax, Cinemax 2 28 October 2009
United States IFC 25 to 29 October 2010
Italy MTV Italia 12 November 2010
Sweden TV11 20 February 2011
Bulgaria AXN 7 August 2012
Israel HOT V.O.D 4 July 2013
The Netherlands OutTV 31 October 2013
New Zealand The Zone 28 January 2015

Home media[edit]

The entire series was released on DVD on 3 November 2008 and again in a repackaged format on 19 October 2009. The running time for the DVD is 142 minutes.[2] The DVD extras include 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.

The series is currently available to stream in the UK, Canada and the US on Netflix.[23]


Dead Set has been acclaimed by critics and the public alike. Metacritic assigned the series a weighted average score of 77 out of 100, based on six critics, indicating "generally favourable reviews".[24] In 2009, it was nominated for a BAFTA for "Best Drama Serial", but lost out to Criminal Justice.[25]

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.[26] 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.[19]


In 2013, Brooker confirmed that the Big Brother 14 production team sought his approval (which he granted) for a "quarantine" task inspired by Dead Set, which saw housemates being subjected to a fictional viral outbreak.[27]

Steve Greene of IndieWire, reviewing the series in 2017, noted similar themes in Dead Set and Brooker's later series, Black Mirror. He described the former as "an analog precursor to the digital-themed entertainment" featured in the latter.[28]

On 24 April 2019, the production of the Brazilian series Reality Z, which was based on Dead Set, was announced. The show premiered on Netflix in 2020.[29]

The COVID-19 pandemic, which saw contestants of Big Brother around the world being isolated from news of the pandemic before being released back into a world under lockdown, drew comparisons with Dead Set (albeit, with the COVID-19 disease instead of a fictional zombie virus).[30] However, this did not happen with the UK edition of Big Brother, which was the edition of the show that Dead Set is based on. Big Brother UK (which moved from Channel 4 to Channel 5 in 2011) was cancelled in 2018, slightly under two years before the global pandemic began in 2020.[31]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Dead Set – All 4". Channel 4. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  2. ^ a b "DEAD SET [GP 1-5]". BBFC. 9 December 2008. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  3. ^ a b "Kelly –". Dead Set. E4. 2008. Archived from the original on 1 December 2008. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  4. ^ "Riq –". Dead Set. E4. 2008. Archived from the original on 5 December 2008. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  5. ^ "Patrick –". Dead Set. E4. 2008. Archived from the original on 20 December 2008. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  6. ^ "Patrick –". Dead Set. E4. 2008. Archived from the original on 20 December 2008. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  7. ^ a b c d e "Dead Set – Season 1". GoWatchIt. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  8. ^ a b c d e "Weekly top 30 programmes". BARB. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  9. ^ a b c d Brooker, Charlie (18 October 2008). "Reality bites". Culture. The Guardian. Retrieved 28 April 2018.
  10. ^ a b Interview With Charlie Brooker (DVD). Channel 4. 3 November 2008.
  11. ^ a b c d Brooker, Charlie (30 October 2008). "Charlie Brooker ('Dead Set') interview". Cultbox (Interview). Interviewed by William Martin. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  12. ^ Dowell, Ben (14 April 2008). "Brooker to pen horror series for E4". Media. The Guardian. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  13. ^ Conlan, Tara (21 August 2008). "Charlie Brooker's E4 zombie thriller to be set inside the Big Brother house". Media. The Guardian. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  14. ^ a b House of the Dead (DVD). Channel 4. 3 November 2008.
  15. ^ Interview With Yann Demange (DVD). Channel 4. 3 November 2008.
  16. ^ Pippa's Eviction (DVD). Channel 4. 3 November 2018.
  17. ^ Davina McKill (DVD). Channel 4. 3 November 2018. 3 minutes in.
  18. ^ a b "Episode 1". Charlie Brooker's Screenwipe. Series 5. Episode 1. 18 November 2008. 21 minutes in. BBC. BBC Four.
  19. ^ a b Brooker, Charlie (10 November 2008). "Is Obama really president or am I just watching a fantasy? It's almost too good to be true". Opinion. The Guardian. Retrieved 27 April 2008.
  20. ^ Army of the Dead (DVD). Channel 4. 3 November 2008.
  21. ^ "". Retrieved 4 February 2012.
  22. ^ "Dead Set Trailer E4". E4. 27 October 2008. Archived from the original on 21 December 2021. Retrieved 29 April 2018 – via YouTube.
  23. ^ "Dead Set | Netflix". Archived from the original on 5 July 2019. Retrieved 5 July 2019.
  24. ^ "Dead Set Reviews – Metacritic". Metacritic. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  25. ^ "2009 Television Drama Serial – BAFTA Awards". British Academy of Film and Television Arts. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  26. ^ Pegg, Simon (4 November 2008). "The dead and the quick". Culture. The Guardian. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  27. ^ "Dead Set's Charlie Brooker approved quarantine task". News. BBSpy. 25 June 2013. Retrieved 1 May 2018.
  28. ^ Greene, Steve (27 December 2017). "'Dead Set': Charlie Brooker's Reality TV Zombie Series is Ideal 'Black Mirror' Warm-Up Viewing". IndieWire. Retrieved 1 May 2018.
  29. ^ Harig, Bruce (24 April 2019). "Zombie Show 'Reality Z' Set For Netflix Brazil, Local Adaptation of British 'Dead Set'". [[Deadline Hollywood|]]. Retrieved 25 April 2019.
  30. ^ Waterson, Jim (7 April 2020). "Reality bites: Big Brother contestants emerge to a world transformed". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 17 April 2020.
  31. ^ "Big Blagger". Archived from the original on 28 May 2022. Retrieved 4 February 2023.

External links[edit]