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Post-Apocalyptic TV Series and Shows - Enjoying the Apocalypse
The Post-Apocalyptic landscape is one of the staples of blockbuster sci-fi adventure films and, surprisingly frequently, television series, including the most current series, The Walking Dead, which features a zombified post-apocalyptic setting.
I was going to cover both films and tv in this hub, but by the time I finished, I realized that post-apocalyptic tv shows deserve a hub all of their own, so here we go. Let's survey a few entries from the tv landscape of doom and destruction.
Unfortunately, not all of them are available on DVD and it seems to me that the apocalypse doesn't make for happy fun tv watching for a lot of people, so these shows -- with a few exceptions -- tend to be short-lived.
One new thing we are now starting on tv is reality shows based on post-apocalyptic and disaster survival notions. One is called The Colony. This is a reality show much like Survivor, where you are stuck with a group of people and have to figure out how to "survive". I have not watched this show, but I believe everyone is stuck in a warehouse together someplace.
Another show which is sort of related is Surviving Disaster. This is a show that features a former Navy SEAL. Each episode runs through a disaster scenario such as earthquakes, terrorist attacks, avalances, etc. I have not watched it, but the reviews are not awesome.
The Walking Dead
Missed an episode? Catch up with The Walking Dead on Amazon.
The Walking Dead is an AMC series based upon the popular comic book series of the same name. I think it is a very interesting choice for AMC, which tends towards more high brow entertainment like Mad Men. But I think it is a great opportunity for both us and them. After all, if the show is on cable, it doesn't need the same kind of audience numbers that it would need on Fox. So hopefully this means that The Walking Dead will actually last a few seasons. So far, I'm quite hopeful as the first two episodes that have aired were both awesome.
If you are unfamiliar with the series, you should give it a go. At this point, as viewers, all we know is that the world has been pretty much taken over my zombies, aka The Walking Dead. Our hero, Rick, wakes up in a hospital to find things have changed a lot while he was in a coma. And if that sounds like a 28 Days Later rip-off, well yes, it will seem highly familiar at first.
If you are not watching The Walking Dead already, you seriously need to get on that! You can always catch up with the already aired episodes by getting them from Amazon's video on demand service.
Jeremiah opening credits
No More Grown-Ups
One common scenario of destruction that seems to get the most attention from tv writers is the "all the adults have died" virus. No less than three different tv shows have featured a virus that has killed every adult on the planet, leaving only the kids to rebuild society.
First up is Jeremiah, which was a Showtime series that ran from 2002-2004. Starting Luke Perry and Malcolm Jamal-Warner, Jeremiah is set 15 years after the "Big Death" that killed everyone over the age of puberty, so now most of those children who survived are in their 20s. The main story is Jeremiah's quest to find "Valhalla", the location that his parents were headed to when everyone died.
Jeremiah is a fun series with surprisingly good performances from the two leads and Sean Astin joins the cast in season 2. If you like this genre, I highly recommend this show. It was created by J. Michael Straczynski, the guy behind the greatest science fiction series every made -- Babylon 5.
Other series with a similar apocalyptic theme are 2030 CE, a Canadian children's show in which everyone over the age of 30 dies and New Zealand children's tv series, The Tribe, where all the adults were killed during a plague and now the children and teenager's must fend for themselves. The Tribe is one of those exceptions to the life expectancy of a post-apocalyptic tv series. It ran for 5 seasons with 56 episodes in each season! In the uS it frequently re-airs on the WAM channel (part of Encore package).
"Nuts" to the Apocalypse!
So have you heard of Jericho? I'm willing to bet that you have. But I bet you haven't watched it since it is cancelled... again!
Yes, Jericho is the post-apocaylptic tv show that was cancelled, rescued from cancellation by an online campaign by fans to send thousands of bags of "nuts" to CBS, and then cancelled again after it still didn't find an audience during its mid-season turn this year.
Jericho is set in in a small town in Kansas shortly after most of the major cities in the US have been nuked by an unknown enemy. Starring Skeet Ulrich as Jake Green, the prodigal son who returns home briefly only to find he can't leave after the rest of the country gets nuked.
Jericho was actually a pretty decent show with some interesting story arcs that appeared to be developing, but it wasn't nearly as good as either Jeremiah or the next show I'm going to talk about, Odyssey 5, so it doesn't surprise me that it was cancelled. I highly suspect that while we like the post-apocalypse on the big screen, most television viewers don't have a huge appetite for it. The last 7 episodes of Jericho are still sitting on my TiVo unwatched. I was pretty gung ho for it during season 1, but lost interest in the interim between its initial cancellation and comeback. Oh well. Eventually I am sure I will watch them. Probably during the summer when my other shows are on hiatus :)
Preventing the Apocalypse
In movies and tv, in particular, there's a growing sub-genre of pre-apocalyptic storytelling. Generally these are stories that give us glimpses of the results of worldwide devastation and then, through the wonders of time travel, give our heroes the opportunity to prevent the oncoming devastation.
In film, The Terminator is probably the best example of the genre. Then 12 Monkeys. And on tv, we had Odyssey 5 for one glorious season and during 2008 (and hopefully 2009!) we have the Sarah Connor Chronicles. Some might argue that Armageddon may fit into this genre as well, but as we never even glimpse the world in its destroyed state, so I don't think it quite works. Time travel of some variety seems to be a necessary element of the true Pre-Apocalyptic sub-genre.
During a Shuttle Mission, five Astronauts witness the Earth exploding. They are then sent back 5 years in time by "The Seeker" in order to prevent the destruction of the planet.
As they work to prevent the apocalypse, virtually everything they do makes the situation worse and actually speeds up the timeline so instead of knowing they have five years to fix everything, they change events in such a way that they have no idea how much time they really have left.
Starring Peter Weller as Chuck Taggart (my favorite Weller character ever) and Christopher Gorham as his son, Neil -- Odyssey 5 is one of the best sf tv series I've ever seen and, sadly, it barely lasted a season on Showtime. But you can pick it up on DVD and it occasionally re-airs on the SciFi or Spike channels in the US and, I think, on Space in Canada.
We Can Fix All of the Mistakes
The Terminator Series
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
The Sarah Connor Chronicles essentially picks up where Terminator 2 left off, studiously ignoring the theme of T3 which is that the past is fixed and can't be changed. One of the things I love most about The Sarah Connor Chronicles is that we get to see far more of the future after Skynet than we have in any of the movies to date. In the movies we never saw more than teasing glimpses of what the future looked like after the machines turned on us, but the tv show has multiple characters crossing over from the future so we get to see a variety of flash-forwards.
Thomas Dekker stars as a really terrific John Connor. I've been really pleased with how John is being played throughout season 1. He's still a teenager, but starting to think for himself and insisting on making decisions that don't necessarily match what his strong-willed mother thinks is right. Lena Headey plays Sarah Connor. And Summer Glau plays the Terminator sent back from the future to protect John. They are both adequate, but not particularly note-worthy in my opinion.
The real break-out performance is delivered by Brian Austin Green (I can't believe I just typed that) as Kyle Reese's brother, Derek. It's insane just how much energy and excitement he brings to the show and partly it is by virtue of who he is playing, the brother of a much beloved character, but mostly it is simply that Green really delivers a great performance. I LOVE Derek and I love his relationship with John.
I really really hope this show comes back for a second season, but if it doesn't I will be able to console myself watching Christian Bale play John Connor in the Terminator 4 movie *g*
Here's a show I haven't seen, but would love to get my hands on. Survivors was a BBC series that aired in Britain back in 1975 and it ran for three series. Produced by Terry Nation, Survivors is about a group of, ummm, survivors of a plague that wipes out 95% of humanity.
The series has such a cult following that the BBC announced late last year that they are planning to remake it -- so hopefully we'll see something in the next year or two. While, sadly, it isn't available on DVD in the US, you can buy region 2 DVDs of the series from Amazon UK.
I'm pretty enthusiastic about the idea of a remake since I've never been impressed by 70s BBC stuff like Doctor Who, but I sure love the new iteration of this show and suspect the success of Who and Torchwood are probably why the BBC is considering a new version of Survivors.
Updated: Season 1 of the new version of Survivors has already aired and they are now working on Season 2. The series is EXCELLENT. One of the best I've seen in this genre. I highly recommend that you get a hold of it, if possible.
TV Movies of the Week
In addition to the several post-apocalyptic regular series that have run, we've also been treated to a variety of TV Movies of the Week and a mini-series here and there.
Nuclear Attack from "The Day After"
The Day After, Threads and Testament
I don't know what kind of Kool-aid we were all drinking in the 80s, but apparently we were all worried that the world was going to end by nuke because there were several tv movies on the topic and these weren't your light-hearted "plague has killed all our parents, but we can rebuild society" type stuff. Nope, this was certifiably depressing, "I think I'll go kill myself before the nukes come and we all die of radiation poisoning" type stuff.
All three of these television movies were released the same year, 1983, and I can remember watching this crap and crying over it. Threads, in particular, is really just awfully depressing. I actually don't recommend any of these if you're into this genre for the escapism *g*
Check out the Flick Filospher for a great write-up on the three of them.
The Stand Opening Credits
The Stand Mini-Series
I have issues with the mini-series of The Stand, but they got a lot of things right, especially this opening credits crawl with "Don't Fear the Reaper" playing. Hahha! Okay, they definitely got some things right. I particularly liked the casting of Larry (Adam Storke), one of my favorite character's from the book and I think Rob Lowe worked pretty well as Nick. The scenes in New York were great, but I thought the exit through the Lincoln Tunnel could have been scarier. In the book, it is positively terrifying. I think that chapter is only truly terrifying thing Stephen King has ever written.
I think I would like the series much more if they had chosen different actors to play both Stu Redman and Randall Flagg. Neither Gary Sinise nor Jamey Sheridan worked for me at all in either role. Gary just didn't have the right kind of presence for me, and Jamey was neither charismatic nor scary enough to be playing The DEVIL.