On Friday, according to some predictions based on the Mayan calendar, the end of the world will arrive. As it turns out, those who've been watching a lot of TV might just have an edge on survival.
There's been a ton of apocalypse-oriented TV in the last decade or so, and especially in the last couple of years. You can't swing a remote these days without hitting a zombie horde or a virulent plague. End times make for crowd-pleasers, as far as TV executives are concerned -- given the success of "The Walking Dead" and "Revolution," don't expect the barren wastelands on your screen to give way to more carefree fare any time soon. There's money in electricity-free pessimism, assuming TV networks are around past Friday to monetize it.
But it's not as if every disaster scenario is created equal. I asked "Conan" staff writer Rob Kutner, the author of the amusing and useful survival manual "Apocalypse How" about the dos and don'ts for a would-be hit end-times TV show.
"Beautiful ruins" are key, Kutner said. "Mere crumbling storefronts don't say 'apocalypse'; they say 'Queens.' You want them landscaped, with wisteria and kudzu, like it's an episode of 'While You Were Out Being Blown Up.'"
What do the next "Walking Deads" want to avoid? "Loud, screechy violin music," Kutner replied. "Hey, thanks, Yo Yo Ma -- the upended Statue of Liberty head now being used to barbecue stragglers wasn't enough to inform me something was 'off.'" (Of course, "The Walking Dead" itself has a terrific score from post-apocalypse-TV veteran Bear McCreary, who also wrote the music for "Battlestar Galactica").
So what's the practical information these post-apocalyptic shows have imparted? You're busy, especially as the holidays approach, so we've broken down what you'll need in your go bag when the apocalypse (Mayan or otherwise) approaches.
What to Pack When the World Has Ended:
Want more intel on what to expect when you shouldn't expect anything good? Check out our Rate That Apocalypse slide show!
2002, Fox The post-war 'verse that Mal Reynolds and his posse traveled was dangerous, unpredictable and cruel, and despite the reach of the oppressive Alliance, it was often as lawless as the Wild West. Yet in typical Whedonian fashion, the rag-tag "Firefly" survivors formed an ad-hoc family whose adventures reflected all our struggles for faith, connection and community. -- Mo Ryan Rating: Five out of five mushroom clouds
2000-2002, Fox James Cameron's futuristic sci-fi series saw Jessica Alba as a genetically engineered super-soldier trying to live a relatively normal life in post-apocalyptic Seattle while evading the government agents trying to recapture her. The short-lived show launched Alba's career and also featured "NCIS'" Michael Weatherly and "Supernatural's" Jensen Ackles in supporting roles. -- Laura Prudom Rating: Four out of five mushroom clouds
2012-Present, NBC Clean, intriguing plotline AND copious Apple product placement – who could ask for more? -- Rob Kutner Rating: Three out of five mushroom clouds
2010-Present, AMC Any show that makes you care this deeply about what happens to rednecks must be doing something right. -- Rob Kutner Rating: Four out of five mushroom clouds
2003-2009, Syfy Sexy robots trying to kill us, kickass space battles, and characterization deeper than the crags in Edward James Olmos’ face? Moore, please. -- Rob Kutner Rating: Five out of five mushroom clouds
2006-2008, CBS Fine-grained look at a realistic apocalypse hitting small-town America, defended only by the power of Skeet Ulrich’s scowl. -- Rob Kutner Rating: Four out of five mushroom clouds
1983 movie, ABC Gave me the creeps for years decades - mostly from the sight of Steve Gutenberg in a bald mask. -- Rob Kutner Rating: Five out of five mushroom clouds
2008-2009, Fox We put this "Terminator" spinoff on our apocalist based on the fact that it was partly set (and derived from) the blasted future John and Sarah Conner tried to prevent. In any case, this intermittently swell series was proof that there’s no reason the end of the world can’t also look like a rock video. -- Rob Kutner Rating: Three out of five mushroom clouds
2011, Fox Perhaps this wasn't technically an apocalyptic drama, but the premise was similar: Lack of technology, a brave new world, unusual dangers. It proved that an attempt to be too sunny and family-friendly is the often death of genre-tinged programming. -- Mo Ryan Rating: One out of five mushroom clouds
2012-Present, NatGeo Apparently those most devoted to preserving their life are those without one. -- Rob Kutner Rating: Two out of five mushroom clouds
2011-Present, TNT After a inconsistent first season, "Skies" came down like thunder in Season 2, delivering solid and often satisfying stories about what happens after our alien overlords take control. (Spoiler alert: Nobody gets a puppy or a cupcake.) -- Mo Ryan Rating: Four out of five mushroom clouds
2002-2004, Showtime We'll make a confession, we haven't seen this one (though Mo's a big fan of J. Michael Straczynski's more well-known TV show, "Babylon 5"). However, it involved a deadly plague and starred Luke Perry and Malcolm Jamal Warner, so odds are it's pretty decent. Rating: To be determined number of mushroom clouds
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