The Popularity of Apocalypse Programs on TV

No Tomorrow, iZombie, Defiance, You, Me and the Apocalypse, The 100, Doomsday, The Last Ship, Revolution

Has anyone else noticed the plethora of recent TV programs that deal with some sort of apocalypse? Our entertainment likely mirrors current events and also our sense of anxiety over the state of our world. Let’s take a look at this uptick in the various end-of-the-world scenarios currently on TV. Note, not all programs mentioned are showing new content; some have been canceled.

Plagues pre_last-ship-thetif_46

Plagues are nothing new. Population centers are always vulnerable, making the spread of a disease easier due to close proximity of humans and animals. The Black Plague, a bacterial infection which traveled from Asia to Europe in the 1340s is a good example of this, but sadly not the only one. With the advent of modern medicine and antibiotics, bacterial plagues were easier to fight, but viral outbreaks are not affected by antibiotics.

In a program that deals with a plague, you do not always know what starts the infection just that it happens and then the characters are left to deal with the result. This is true for The Last Man on Earth. Everyone is dead and what caused it really is not that important. Other shows such as The Last Ship, Containment, and 12 Monkeys eventually point the finger at a culprit; evil government agency, corporation, person, or even a well-meaning scientist with an experiment gone wrong.

Zombies, Vampires, and Other Supernatural Creatures

iZombie Mr Berserk Episode 10 5

Monsters and supernatural creatures are deeply embedded in our culture and nightmares so it is only natural to expect them to also inhabit our entertainment. From books to movies to TV, things that go bump in the night have always been very popular.

It is important to point out that that some of these creatures are created by viruses or other infections so they could be a sub-category of plague stories. Good examples of this are The Walking Dead, Fear the Walking Dead, and ZNation. An interesting twist on zombie creation is seen in iZombie where an illegal drug is the cause. Then we have other supernatural events, such as the angel war in Dominion, which caused massive destruction and the loss of many lives.


George and Jenn An - No Tomorrow

I do not know when the first end-of-times prophecy occurred, but certainly many of us are familiar with the 2012 Mayan calendar prophecy and the Biblical end-of-the-world texts.

End-of-time stories with no specific cause other than the fact the clock has run down can be seen in such shows as No Tomorrow, The Leftovers, and Aftermath. You do not know why the end is coming so much as that it just is and then the rest of the program examines what happens next and how people survive or don’t.

Natural Disaster

Cast - You, Me and the Apocalypse

Natural disasters, like the asteroid strike that wiped out the dinosaurs, are a real threat. In fact, NASA compiles close approaches of large objects that could cause significant damage should they impact earth. They are something we have no control over which might make them the most terrifying type of world ending disaster.

The only one season program, You, Me, and the Apocalypse, examined such an event, showing humanity in all its flawed glory as people ignored, went crazy, and sought to survive a massive asteroid strike.


Defiance Season 1 Episode 2 Down in the Ground Where the Dead Men Go (4)

The arrival of aliens, much as we want them to be benign, is more dramatic when a threat is posed. Even if there is no immediate danger, concerns regarding motivations and intentions may cause serious consequences such as in the program Defiance. Delays due to Earthling squabbling over allowing the aliens to co-inhabit the Earth resulted in the detonation of a space ship that led to unplanned and uncontrolled terraforming of our planet, making it somewhat hostile for humans and aliens alike.

Other shows such as Falling Skies and Colony feature a more terrifying arrival of an invasion army with much more advanced technology than our own resulting in massive devastation and large casualties.

And then we have the benign aliens, here to help us, not eat us or take our natural resources. The recent mini-series, Childhood’s End, based on the Arthur C. Clarke novel of the same name, featured truly benign aliens here to usher in a new era in human existence. Exactly what that meant was the cause of the strife in the program.

Technology Disaster

Revolution Episode 20 The Dark Tower (4)

Most of us cannot imagine a life without our technology and humans are constantly striving to innovate and produced further advancements. We embrace technology, but we also sometimes fear it for the potential to destroy us all.

This is certainly the case in shows such as Revolution, Fringe, and Battlestar Galactica. In Revolution, the use of technology for destructive purposes was planned, but in Fringe and Battlestar Galactica the apocalypse that results was unintended but possibly predictable.

Ecological/Nuclear Disaster

The 100 Blood Must Have Blood Part One Season 2 Episode 15 01

The Earth’s ecology has been a major news headline for many years, but now more than ever the deleterious effects of humanity are in the forefront of our thoughts. Good examples of this are Wayward Pines and Terra Nova. These programs take us to a far future or far past, where an attempt is made to start over. Of course, the root cause, human beings, is still present, making a fresh start complicated.

Then we have the familiar but terrifying scenario of the destruction of the earth via nuclear weapons as portrayed in The 100. The 100 takes us to a future time after the destruction has occurred, with the survivors fighting against nature and each other.

Scientific Speculation

Doomsday - The History Channel

Another type of programming dealing with end-of-the-earth scenarios is the fact-based show using science to extrapolate the possibilities. The History Channel has just premiered a ten part program, Doomsday: 10 Ways the World Will End, examining possible different scenarios that could destroy humanity.


Do you enjoy apocalyptic programming? I know my list is not comprehensive, nor are the categorizations absolute; there is overlap in the categories. Do you have a favorite apocalypse program that I did not mention? Would you categorize any shows differently than I did? Please share your thoughts in the comments below; I enjoy discussing these ideas with you!