July 28, 2017

Sharknado and Z Nation: When Bad is Kinda Good


Do you ever have evenings where you want, no, need to watch a bad tv show or movie? I hesitate to admit watching and liking such low-brow fare, but I’m coming clean. Friends recommended Sharknado 2 which they said would have me laughing at the dialogue, the acting and the cheesy production values. Being the thorough person I am, I first watched the 2013 made-for-tv satirical disaster film Sharknado 1 with a mixture of horror and delight. John Heard makes a brief but memorable appearance as a barfly in the Fin Bar, owned by ex-surfer Finley Shepard played by Ian Ziering. Tara Reid (American Pie, Scrubs) plays Fin’s ex-wife. Sharknado became a cult success for SyFy which prompted them to order a sequel, Sharknado 2: The Second One.

Word was out that this concept was such a bad idea that it was actually kinda good, encouraging celebrities to sign on for the second ride. Vivica A. Fox joins Reid and Ziering as shark-fighters. Cast members in bit roles include Kelly Osbourne, Robert Hays, Judah Friedlander, Andy Dick Billy Ray Cyrus, Downtown Julie Brown, Perez Hilton and Richard Kind. The estimable Judd Hirsch plays, what else, a New York taxi driver. Kelly Ripa, Stephanie Abrams, Al Roker and Matt Lauer play themselves. (The Today Show, The Weather Channel and Syfy are all owned by Comcast.) The CGI (computer generated imagery) is amateurish and the script consciously hyper-dramatic, but I found myself laughing with glee over the unrepentant badness of it all. Sharknado 3 is already in the works, I might add.

You might not think that zombies have anything to do with sharks, but the tv series Z Nation, with Syfy yet again to blame, has rolled out a post-apocalyptic horror drama that piles on the violence and gore with operatic badness. Kellita Smith as National Guard member Roberta Warren even references Sharknado as zombies get the cyclone treatment in this 13 episode first season. Harold Perrineau (Lost) plays a Delta Force member along with Tom Everett Scott as National Guard Sgt. Charles Garnett. It’s a tiny spoiler alert to say that most characters are “disposable.” Creators Karl Schaefer and Craig Engler are quoted as saying their series “puts the fun back into zombies.” This show is much more graphic than The Walking Dead, so it might not be for the weak of stomache. It’s also way funnier. Z Nation is like a a video game that should only appeal to teenage boys, but has curious and guilty allure to adults as well. Be forewarned: Season 2 has been ordered.

If you are tempted to wallow in a little cultural mud, spend an evening with sharks or zombies, your pick.

Sharknado, Sharknado 2: The Second One, and Z Nation, all on Netflix streaming.

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