By Ani Bundel
Netflix’s premiere of Daybreak at New York Comic Con played to a standing-room-only crowd late on Friday. Based on the eponymous comic series by Brian Ralph, the synopsis boasts that it’s a show where “high school isn’t the end of the world… until it is.” One day, a nuke goes off, turning everyone over the age of 18 into a zombie-esque “Ghoulie,” and leaving the child population rather to cope.
What followed was quite possibly the most bizarre one-hour mash-up of genres, starting with a basis in the 1980s comedy classic Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Add in a smash of The Warriors here, some The Walking Dead-like scenes there, and the only thing missing was a touch of an Alien-like gross-out creature to complete this bizarre “everything and the kitchen sink too” series. They even cast Matthew Broderick himself as the principal, because you never go full Bueller without the original Ferris himself.
Check out the Daybreak trailer to see what I’m talking about:
But when the episode ended and the (very large) panel of producers and cast assembled, they revealed the show is not all that it seemed. Executive producers Aron Eli Coleite, Brad Peyton, and Jeff Fierson agreed that the Bueller introduction, with a focus on Colin Ford as the free spirit Josh Wheeler, was a way to bring in the audience. It’s Ferris, introducing the post-apocalyptic universe where he is king, in a familiar way. But it’s not a sustainable premise over ten episodes.
Instead, they have a rather ingenious sounding idea. Josh starts as a loner, searching for missing girlfriend, Sam Dean (Sophie Simnett). But as he goes along, he gathers a group of misfit loners, all of whom are seeking out a family in these post-nuclear fallout times. This band — played by Austin Crute, Alyvia Alyn Lind, Jeanté Godlock, Cody Kearsley, and Gregory Kasyan — are each starring in their own movie, where they are the focus.
To wit, after a couple of Josh-centric hours, the show begins to shift. Each character takes a turn or two as the lead, and with each character’s turn at bat comes a full set of entirely different pop culture references. They won’t be the expected ones either. For example, 11-year-old actress Alyvia Alyn Lind revealed her firebrand rebel pre-teen goes straight Goodfellas when it’s her turn to show the audience the world from her point of view.
But just because the show is an Easter Egg-fest extraordinaire doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a heart. (For the record, I counted somewhere around 42 pop culture references in the first hour alone, or about one a minute.) This may be the most optimistic apocalypse story ever told, with the teenage population realizing that they can reinvent themselves wholesale in a new world. The actors agreed this is a story of found family, but also one of kids trying to rebuild the world without making the same mistakes their parents did. Let’s hope amid nuclear fallout, the kids turn out to be as alright as we always hoped.
Daybreak hits Netflix October 24, 2019.