Must See (Post-Apocalyptic) TV

Dude. YOU GUYS. You're going to love this.

So I've seen advertisements on the Discovery Channel for awhile now on a new show called THE COLONY. The Discovery Channel calls it a "social experiment" but it's basically reality TV at the end of the world. Seriously. They grouped together seven everyday people (a carpenter, a model, a teacher, an inventor, a construction worker, etc.) and put them in an area that's been burned out and decimated. The scenario is that a "nuclear flu" has wiped out most of the population--can they survive? This means finding their own food, treating their own wounds...and fighting off other (possibly contaminated) survivors for their hard-won supplies.

I went into the show a little skeptical. To be honest, I was mostly watching it for YOU. I figured this was something I needed to see so I could report back to you on the latest in reality-TV-dystopia.

But it's actually pretty freaking awesome.

It's clear that the producers are trying to make this as realistic a scenario as possible, and I think by the end of the first episode, the survivors realize this. All the actors start with a 72-hour long isolation period where they are waiting "quarantine." At the end of this time--in and of itself psychological, let's be honest--they emerge to a set that is very realistic--burned out building, broken glass, and about a week's worth of supplies. They pick beans off the ground and start a water filtration system.

It's interesting to see how they solve problems. Fire is made by sparking off a tractor battery. A metal railing becomes a grill. Makeshift netting isn't productive at fishing...but plastic storage containers quickly becoming rain collectors.

It was also interesting to me to see the personalities clash. Within the first episode, you can already tell who the lazy jerk is going to be...and it made me wish this was a zombie scenario so they could use that guy for bait.

But I don't think anyone--the survivors or the viewers at home--expected this show to be very realistic until other survivors show up. These are people the producers have hired to be opposing forces--but they are treating it very real. In the first contact, three "others" ask for food and water. Our survivors are scattered in their response. One man, a Christian, wants to give food and water. Other oppose him, telling them they only have so much. Some go to the supplies and fetch a hand-out for the "others"...quickly tipping off the others where the supplies are kept. Things turn bad when the others demand more--and there's a "fight" that isn't much of a fight.

At this point, my husband looks at me and says, "This is going to suck. It's all staged."

At the end of the episode, though, the first group of survivors have brought friends--15 to 20 members of a survival gang whose goal is to steal medical supplies and whatever else they can. They have pepper spray, metal pipes, and other make-shift weapons. Our group of survivors have no weapons. Three or four are at the front of the building, a few others are inside. They know a confrontation is going to happen, but they're trying to be calm, negotiating--

Then the first one gets maced.

Chaos ensues. Our survivors, for the most part, jump into the fight. They're fighting for real now. One picks up a metal pipe and beats down one of the others. They aren't holding punches--and they're not afraid to punch. In the first fight, it seemed almost as if the survivors were looking at the cameras going, "Really? I can hit him?" But now, it's as if the cameras are gone.

That's all it took. Three days. Two fights. And they forgot about the cameras. They fought for real. They believed in survival. Even the original kind-hearted man who wanted to be generous to other survivors was brawling in the street, defending himself and his friends.

I know this is a set-up. A television show engineered to create a situation. But like all good TV (and good books and movies and stories) it made me wonder what the world would be like the end...and how quickly we'd all dissolve.

This is the second season of the show--I missed the first season which apparently featured different people in a different scenario and location. I am definitely not missing any more!

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Tez Miller said...

They'll be okay, as long as they can walk to the Twinkie factory in Natick ;-) (Thank you, Family Guy, for this post-apocalyptic survival tip...)

Anonymous said...

Your prayers have been answered...Project Free Tv does online streaming, I love it.

It has Season 1 AND Season 2 of the Colony - hoorah for you and for me!

Anonymous said...

I was really looking forward to reading this post when I saw it in my Google Reader and then it disappeared? I'm glad you republished it.

I wonder if the producers of the show had to go through a lengthy ethical approval/legal process to get permission to do this. Scientists who conduct their experiments for the good of mankind can't get ethical approval for things like this. Somehow this TV show got approval for ENTERTAINMENT purposes??? I find this a little hard to believe.

This leads me to question exactly how real it all is. Is it like Kid Nation where they made it look like the kids were cooking and caring for themselves when in actual fact they had a behind-the-scenes chef, first aid officer etc? Have the 'survivors' signed wavers detailing just how physical they are allowed to get? I mean in a real dooms-day scenario this would be a matter of life or death, people could get killed. One punch can kill.

I'll have to check it out. I'm skeptical. Very skeptical.

Unknown said...

I loved the first season! Though, that one guy was kind of a pain in the patootie. Season 2 is locked and loaded on the DVR. Can't wait to watch.

Eric said...

I saw the preview for this thing, but honestly I can't say I'm hyped for it. Don't get me wrong, I like these scenarios just as much as anyone (in books, that is). The problem is that these people still know that it's all fake, that the world hasn't really ended. The problem with this type of scenario is you really can't act it out. If you really had to deal with the world being gone and knowing that there isn't a crew off camera who will help if you develop an infection from a wound for example, then your choices and decisions would be vastly different. It's like survivor. They aren't truly "alone" out there, which invalidates the whole idea of really surviving. It's always been too hard for me to believe in these types of shows because of that fact.

Jemi Fraser said...

I've never heard of this show before - thanks for the tip - I'll check it out :)

Unknown said...

Eric and Doc,

I totally understand. That was my EXACT sentiments when I saw the commercials, and honestly, I'd never have bothered watching the show if I didn't go in it expecting write a report (positive or negative) for this blog. But give it a try--watch just an episode. It really surprised me how involved I got in the show.

There are still times when I think everyone involved--survivors, actors, etc.--are aware that it's not really real. But for the most part, I think they maintain a decent level of involvement in the production.

Lenore Appelhans said...

That sounds crazy! Wish I could watch...

Angie Smibert said...

I watched a little of the first season but this one sounds far more interesting.

Jeff Hirsch said...

Been seeing commercials for this everywhere. I'll definitely check it out!

Anonymous said...


I'll take your word for it and have a look :)

I still don't understand how stuff like this can get approval when research can't... *sigh*

Elana Johnson said...

I cannot believe I didn't know about this?? How could life get any better? I mean, I adore reality TV! My husband would be like yours though. ;-)