Picture this: There's a viral pandemic quickly sweeping across the globe.
Wow, you pictured that really quickly, good for you. Now add a wrinkle: The cast of a reality show (Big Brother) has been sealed off from the world for almost the entire ordeal. They have no idea what's going on, but they're about to find out. While their isolation was a condition of their participation in a silly TV show, it has also served to protect them from the spread of a lethal contagion and kept them oblivious to the tremendous changes unfolding in the world around them. While they've been sheltered away, society has somehow very quickly approached the brink of collapse. Will they even believe it when they find out how much has happened? Will it seem like just another twist in the "social experiment" of reality TV?
If that sounds exactly like what just happened to 14 unsuspecting housemates on Germany's Big Brother, congratulations on keeping up with entertainment news while a global health crisis destroys civilization—must be nice. It's true that the cast of the current season of the German version of Big Brother (much like Jared Leto) had been kept in the dark about the developing COVID-19 pandemic since their isolation in early February—and found out in a live televised event Tuesday night on German network Sat.1. But if you just think the whole concept sounds kind of like the plot of an episode of Black Mirror, that's because you haven't seen Dead Set.
Dead Set was a miniseries that aired on E4 in the UK in 2008. The brainchild of Black Mirror creator Charlie Brooker, its plot matched the current situation almost perfectly. While the cast of Big Brother (in London in this case) has been sealed up in their panopticon home, a virus has rapidly taken over the world outside, and it's at last reached the point where they're going to find out. The main difference is that, rather than the coronavirus, the outbreak in the miniseries is spread through biting, and causes its hosts to take on aggressive behavior and a corpse-like appearance… Okay, they're zombies. It's a zombie show about the world collapsing while Big Brother housemates are cut off from the world—with all the confusion, drama, and gore that implies.
It's also streaming on Netflix now, so if you've already watched Contagion five times, and you need some new escapist/masochistic viewing, the entire run of Dead Set is two-and-a-half hours of pandemic horror-prophecy.