Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Apocalypse Later

You, Me And The Apocalypse premiered on NBC last Thursday.  It's already been shown in Britain, where it was called Apocalypse Slough, a much better title, but meaningless over here. It's a ten-episode hour-long comedy-drama that I think is pretty good, but suffers from one serious problem, perhaps a fatal one.  I'll get to that.  First, a spoilery outline.

The show starts in medias res, with the Earth about to be destroyed, or at least much of the life upon it, by a comet.  A group of people, way underground in England, watch the impending doom on TV.  It appears that these will be the survivors.

Then we flash back several weeks ago to learn how they got there.  In particular, we follow the three characters whom we know for sure are in the bunker (there are fifteen but we don't meet them all).

There's Jamie Winton (Mathew Baynton), whose wife disappeared seven years ago.  Every morning he sends out a message on the computer hoping it'll reach her.  He's a creature of habit until he's arrested at the bank where he works.  The authorities believe he's the mastermind behind Deus Ex Machina, a terrorist organization that's hacking government computers.  Turns out to be a big mistake--Winton is adopted (he didn't know that) and has a twin (he didn't know that either) who, apparently, has been seen with his wife (he certainly didn't know that).  So he sets out on a search to find her.

Meanwhile, mild-mannered librarian Rhonda MacNeil (Jenna Fischer) is going to prison in New Mexico, covering up for her teenage son who broke into NSA files.  Everyone knows she's not responsible, but the prosecutors are making an example of her.  She has trouble dealing with the gangs behind bars until the head of Deus Ex Machina (Mathew Baynton again) breaks her out of prison, and white supremacist inmate Leanne (Megan Mullally) comes along for the ride.

In the third story, beautiful Sister Celine (Gaia Scodellaro) wants something more than an uneventful convent life.  So she takes a bus to the Vatican and applies for a job in the office of the Devil's Advocate, run by the smoking, tough-talking Father Jude (Rob Lowe).  She's put off at first, but he's testing her, and ultimately she decides to work there.

Then, into all these stories comes the news that scientists have discovered a comet will hit Earth in a little over a month.  This leads to riots and pretty much the end of normal life.

These stories all have decent characters and dramatic weight, not to mention some laughs, but that's the problem.  Apparently, the rest of the series will follow these people so we can see how they got in that bunker.  But we already know they're going to end up there, and, presumably, that most of the rest of humanity will be destroyed.  That's where the story should start, not end.  I don't mind an occasional flashback to explain how some people got to where they are, but this entire miniseries ends up being a flashback till right before things get interesting.


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