The CW may have renewed all of its currently airing series for new episodes in the 2015-16 season, but the network is hoping there’s still room in viewers’ hearts and schedules for two more offerings.
First on the docket is “iZombie,” which premieres Tuesday, based on the Vertigo comic book series of the same name. It was adapted by “Veronica Mars” creator Rob Thomas and features another witty, sarcastic sleuth, this one played by Rose McIver.
McIver’s Liv is a promising medical student who makes the unfortunate mistake of agreeing to attend a party on a yacht one night, waking up as a zombie after being bitten during a sudden outbreak on the boat.
In order to stay fresh and CW-level pretty, she must consume human brains on the regular, so she takes a job at the police morgue, where she gets visions from the brains of murder victims she eats. Naturally, she decides to use her newfound psychic ability to help a police detective (Malcolm Goodwin) solve their cases.
It’s got genre elements, an attractive young cast, a built-in audience from the comic books, basically all the ingredients needed for a successful show on The CW.
Here are five things to know about “iZombie,” from the creator and cast.
1. It’s pretty different from its source material.
Like many movies and TV shows these days, “iZombie” is based on a comic book. But it will be taking some liberties.
“The best way to explain it is we are more Wanted than Watchmen,” said series star Rahul Kohli, who plays Dr. Ravi Chakrabarti, Liv’s boss. “It has its heart and roots in the comic book, but it’s not shot for shot … I know a lot of people, when they hear their comic is being adapted, want to hear that it will literally be the comic panels on screen. But I think fans of the comic world will still relate to this character they love from the comic book. It’s still there. It’s still intact. It still has that heart. But it’s another version, something to enjoy alongside the comic book, to enjoy both mediums.”
And while Liv (Gwen, in the comics) had ghosts and were-creatures for friends in the original, there is no expanded monster universe in the works on the show just yet.
“We’ll see, but not as of yet,” Kohli said. “I did read a lot of the boards, and, I think it’s because I have a beard, but some of the fans think I’m a were-terrier.”
2. It’s something new for the network.
The CW’s youth-skewing programming tend to be serialized soaps, but with the network trying to expand its viewership, “iZombie” becomes the closest thing to a case-of-the-week crime drama that The CW has ever had.
And it was very much by design, something the showrunners even deviated from the comic book in order to achieve.
“We wanted to do a case‐of‐the‐week show,” Thomas said. “In the comic book, the main character is a gravedigger and that’s how she gets her brains. By making her an assistant medical examiner and putting her in the morgue, it gave us our case of the week that we wanted.”
Series star Aly Michalka, who plays Liv’s roommate Peyton, thinks the format will build a loyal fanbase the way such procedurals have on other networks.
“I think that it’s cool that a show like this is coming to the channel,” she told TheWrap. “I think it’s something people are going to dig because it’s not only dealing with the zombie aspect, but for the first time a procedural aspect. I think those not only do well, but people get sucked into them.”
3. Its leading lady is quite multidimensional.
When Liv eats brains, she not only nourishes herself and keeps her good looks from descending into “Walking Dead” Walker status, she also takes on skills and personality quirks from the person she consumes. In one episode, she starts stealing small items and speaks Romanian after eating the brains of a Romanian kleptomaniac. In another, she’s suddenly a kung fu master.
It’s an aspect of the character that’s proven challenging for McIver.
“I get text messages from [executive producer] Diane [Ruggiero‐Wright] like, ‘Can you do a cartwheel?'” the actress joked at TCA. “And these obscure things. I’m waiting to see what else they put me through.”
4. It’s not “The Walking Dead,” nor is it “Veronica Mars.”
Zombies are so in right now, thanks in no small part to AMC’s massive hit about a small pocket of human survivors facing danger from brainless undead at every turn.
Thomas doesn’t believe there’s any competition between the two very different shows.
“It’s entirely in its own lane,” he said of his show. “She’s sarcastic and painfully self-aware, so she’s really relatable and likable. Then she’s thrown into this completely surreal, fantastical life with zombies. It’s not this constant thing where you’re running around the next corner and holding your breath. There are sweet moments. There are funny moments. Then there are parts where she kicks some ass. It’s awesome because … when she rages out … the stunt work they’re doing is really legit. So, it really hits that tone well, but we don’t do 48 minutes of that. We pick and choose.”
Likewise, he sees some differences between his new show and his old one, the still beloved cult hit “Veronica Mars.”
“Veronica is more hard-boiled, she kind of has that Raymond Chandler worldview,” he said. “Liv in ‘iZombie’ is naturally a softer character. A part of the journey for her is finding her way back to the sweetness of life and the things worth living for.”
5. Liv’s dire situation may not be quite so hopeless.
Liv clearly wishes she could go back to the days before she became a walking zombie who has to keep terrible secrets from her (still living) family and friends. But is the end goal of the series to make her come alive again, literally?
A cure for zombieness is teased on the show fairly quickly, and at TCA, the showrunner teased that a miracle cure would be discovered in Episode 100.
“We wanted to give her some glimmer of hope out there, you know, the possibility that maybe if she keeps plugging away that there could be a future for her,” Thomas said. “I actually think we’re going to have fun with that notion of the show way before Episode 100.”
“iZombie” airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on The CW.
Travis Reilly contributed to this report.