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Review

'iZombie' is smart, scary and fun

Robert Lloyd
Contact ReporterLos Angeles Times Television Critic
Comic book series 'iZombie' comes to the small screen in a CW show about an undead young doctor/detective

It seems like you can't spit without hitting a supernatural crime fighter nowadays. But there is the herd, and there are those who stand out from the herd; there is the mainstream, and there is that funny little pond over there, full of its own kind of life.

The smart and sparky "iZombie," which premieres Tuesday on the CW (home of "Supernatural," "Arrow" and "The Flash"") concerns Liv Moore — pronounced "live more" — a recently zombified young woman passing for alive, or at least not undead.

It takes its title, main character, basic concept and Pacific Northwest location from a comic book series of the same name by Chris Roberson and Michael Allred; its graphic origins are preserved in the titles and bumpers, which Allred has designed.

The series was created by Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero, who worked together on the Thomas-created "Veronica Mars," and the heroine they've developed here is very much in that mold, young and independent, derailed by circumstances from one life into a less appealing other, losing status, alienating old friends, going her own difficult way. Rose McIver, who plays Liv, is not a million miles from "Veronica" star Kristen Bell in looks or presence, but, like the show itself, is very much an individual.

Also like Veronica, Liv is a detective, if not a licensed one. A doctor with a bright future before the zombie attack that left her undead and condemned her to a life of using bronzer to look halfway normal, she has taken a job in the coroner's office for easy access to human sweetbreads.

The brains she eats fill her own head with the memories and abilities of their former owners, which proves useful when there's murder involved. By the time the pilot is done, Liv will have formed a tight little Scooby Gang with medical examiner Ravi Chakrabarti (Rahul Kohli), who has guessed her secret — and want to study and possibly even cure her — and detective-in-need-of-a-break Clive Babineaux (Malcolm Goodwin), to whom she passes herself off, unconvincingly, as psychic.

Police work gives her a renewed sense of purpose, missing since her resting heart rate slid down to 10 bpm — suffering from "post-traumatic ennui, post-traumatic defeatism, post-traumatic what's the point," she breaks up with her fiancé, watches a lot of TV. Watching TV is never a good thing on TV.

Her friends and family are concerned; they know that she survived a horrible attack, but not the nature of the attackers — the zombies in this story keep it on the down low; this is not "The Walking Dead," and that's just fine.

The show has a nice sense of detail and a comic puckishness that every zombie police procedural needs. At times genuinely scary in the way it's meant to be, it's also moving in the way it's meant to be — like "Veronica Mars," it's a story of ongoing human relationships, which a lack of human life can totally complicate.

"I can't refuse to be dead," says Liv, but "I can choose to be a decent person." Words to almost live by.

robert.lloyd@latimes.com

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'iZombie'

Where: KTLA

When: 9 p.m. Tuesday

Rating: TV-14-DLV (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 14 with advisories for suggestive dialogue, coarse language and violence)

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