'iZombie' Casts 'One Tree Hill's Robert Buckley, But Will It Ruin The Story's Kooky Plot?"
If you spent the mid-2000s mainlining CW dramas like I did, then you probably remember Robert Buckley as Clay Evans on One Tree Hill — or, "that guy they brought on in Season 7 when Chad Michael Murray quit." Though no one could truly replace Murray's signature squinty brooding, of course, Buckley certainly had his fair share of sidelong glances and mournful monologues as he weathered plot lines only a teen soap like Tree Hill could sustain: amnesia, a stalker, a shooting — you know, standard post-collegiate fare. Now, though, Buckley is returning to The CW as the male lead of iZombie, the forthcoming pilot from Veronica Mars creator Rob Thomas — and at first, his casting seems right on point. The role of Major is billed as, to quote The Hollywood Reporter, "a former college football player-turned-environmental engineer who is extremely likable." Right down the middle for Buckley's square-jawed, blue-eyed (if slightly wooden) stylings.
The thing is, the premise of iZombie skews a bit, well, left of center: The show will revolve around Liv, a medical student-turned-zombie, who finds employment at the local coroner's office after she discovers that eating murder victims' brains allows her to absorb the corpses' memories. So, she assists on homicide cases as a form of penance for her cannibalism. "Extremely likable" Major is Liv's ex-fiancé, who is struggling to continue a relationship with his undead crime-solving former-paramour. No, you didn't read that wrong.
News of this show raises a number of questions, to be sure — mainly in terms of its derivative nature, as iZombie does seems a little too plainly "Medium meets Warm Bodies" (the supernatural lady detective, the "brain-eating memory transfer" gimmick), lumped in with a "CSI is popular, right?" rationale. Plus, you've got to wonder about our culture's impending and inevitable zombie fatigue — just when the walking dead will lose the pop cachet that's had them plastered over every mainstream media type for years now.
But the top-bill casting of All-American Buckley brings up yet another pressing query: Is it possible they're planning to play this one straight? That the world's campiest premise is going to be weighted with the same angst-rock gravitas of One Tree Hill? If Warm Bodies had a saving grace, it was its ability to play on the sheer ridiculousness of the "zombie with an inner life" idea — a form of constant parody that seems at odds with iZombie's proposed plotline. ("Har har, murder and penance and ex-fiancé complications, har har!")
Of course, it's worth noting that director Thomas's much-beloved Veronica Mars is, like iZombie, a quirky detective show featuring a female lead — which ended up being so compelling it was resurrected into a movie by sheer fan love. However, it's also worth noting that female lead was alive at the time. I mean, it's entirely possible that Thomas will wizard it all into working and Buckley will surprise us with a choice tongue-in-cheek turn. But personally, I now actually kind of hope iZombie stays true to The CW's drama roots, with earnest scenes of conflict played between a zombie and her onetime love — that is, line deliveries that aim for any greater cogency or pathos than the ending of Shaun of the Dead. Because if so, that is going to be one remarkably bonkers episode of television.