Debate of the Day: Why Can’t We Have Good Apocalypse Shows?

I’ve been trying to get myself into Falling Skies on TNT, the aliens invade drama that in theory sounds like something I’d love, but I just can’t manage to do it. The show is so slow, the characters so vanilla, that there’s nothing hooking me into it. There seems to be a problem with this genre where it just seems like we can’t really make good shows about the apocalypse, despite it being an incredibly interesting subject.

Another example would be Jericho, from a few years back. I loved the concept of a nuclear war that decimates America, but the final product left a lot to be desired. The characters were pretty flat, and the damn thing was being led by Skeet Ulrich, which could have been one of the worst casting decisions in history. But the show kind of failed to evolve, and wasn’t engaging enough to keep viewers interested, and so the second season was only a third as long as the first. The central mystery? I still never quite understood why exactly the country blew up.

Now we come to The Walking Dead, a fan favorite, but one that still has its issues. I think the fact that a gory, zombie apocalypse show even EXISTS is enough to keep us interested, and it kind of blinds us to the fact that the show itself isn’t quite as amazing as it would seem. If they gave us longer than a six episode first season, I might have more space to judge, but as it stands, I can only be wooed by the visuals and central concept to a certain degree. I’m not exactly onboard with the group of survivors yet, outside one or two characters, and episodes likes the bunker detonation one seemed pretty rushed through.

My favorite apocalypse show? Dollhouse, because when it started, you didn’t even know it was about the end of the world. The two epilogue episodes are perhaps the most creative visions of the apocalypse I’ve seen, but I’m not sure the show as a whole counts in the genre.

So, am I wrong about these shows? Have I missed any better examples?

  • BoomShakaLaka

    I think the problem with Apocalypse shows is that… It’s the Apocalypse. You really only have two options, either show everyone fighting till the apocalypse comes and show a few survivors. Or show after the apocalypse and see the survivors fighting to… er.. um.. survive.

    On paper it can sound fun and amazing, but when you get to a movie/tv show, everyone knows what’s up, it gets linear and repetitive. I love The Walking Dead, but I fear for it’s future, because it feels like eventually it’ll become like Smallville and just have a villain of the week and it’ll go down in flames:-(….

    And I hope I’m VERY wrong about that last line..

  • chris

    Disagree about Falling Skies. I think it’s going well. Also, don’t forget Jeremiah, the Showtime series from a few years ago. That wasn’t bad at all. If you want to add Outcasts to the mix, you bump the average up quite a bit.

  • MarvinGardens42

    Long time reader, first time commenter.

    I must say, the only reason I watch Falling Skies (I find is mediocre and full of plot holes) is that I get together online with the folks from and play the Falling Skies Drinking Game. You must imbibe every time:

    — There is a “history lesson”
    — Someone says “Ben”
    — Someone says “kids”

    If you really want to punish yourself, add “skitter” to the must drink list.

    Maybe this will be the hook that will get you into the show.

  • silly_sad_machine

    I find it amazing that Dollhouse made it onto any of your “favorite shows” lists at all, whether apocalypse or not. I wouldn’t even put it on my list of “I hate this show” shows. Dollhouse BLOWS, and I find it interesting that no one has mentioned yet how telling it is that you not only like such a show, but actually rate it as a favorite.

    Really? Dollhouse? That show is God-AWFUL. Just painfully bad.

  • trashcanman




    That is all.

  • jerichoan

    JERICHO was an awesome show — brilliantly acted by everyone (except the blond eye-candy). It was one of only a handful of shows that people fought to bring back — for good reason. I would wager that 2/3rds of the people who fought to get it renewed were Skeet Ulrich fans first, and Jericho fans second. It was an EXCELLENT show and considering it was on network tv which is limited in budget and how dark they can make the dialogue, it was still compelling.

    Falling SKies is dull and a far cry from Jericho. BSG was also one of the best shows ever to air on tv.

    If you couldn’t figure out why the US blew up, then you really didn’t watch the show. It wasn’t that hard to follow……

  • Brian

    A really good apocalypse show that I found (and has since been cancelled) was BBC’s Survivors, which is based on a fatal epidemic. Just a really good look at the breakdown of society and does a good job of seeing how its characters change with their situation. It’s on netflix.

  • As trashcanman wrote, Battlestar Galactica showed us what kind of awesome drama you can have in a post-apocalyptic show. And in that show the apocalypse wasn’t only on one planet, but on 12 at the same time.

  • I never thought about Battlestar as a post apocalyptic show, but yeah, it definitely is. Good call.

  • chelsea

    i very much agree with you on falling skies. i’m trying really hard to like it, but it is just not good.

    it’s missing cliffhangers and characters you care about.

  • Nick D Pags

    I really don’t expect much from The Walking Dead next season.
    The writing situation is ominous.
    And there were already problems.

  • Bandit

    I think that Falling Skies is taking its sweet ass time building up characters, situation, environment first. THEN will start pushing the situation plots a lot faster.

    At least I hope it is……….

  • Willie McCoy

    I agree that falling skies isn’t nearly as good as it could have been, and last episode I realized my problem with it. It throws all believability and intelligence out the window so everything in the show can revolve that damn family. And my best example is from last episode when the black guy who was a cop before the aliens invaded was taking orders from that damn 16 year old kid. Also the age difference between the dad and his only son seems really off and doesn’t seem convincing.

  • Jason

    I totally agree about Dollhouse. It would have been fantastic to see it go for another couple seasons, completely transformed into an apocalypse show.

  • Evil Taco

    Wait, bashing Jericho but saying dollhouse was good? You, sir, need a reality check.

    also, Buffy. That whole series was one giant apocalypse.

  • John Fakename

    The problem that all apocalypse shows suffer from is that the story never seems to go anywhere. It’s the just the survivors scavenging for supplies, hiding from badguys, having supply-shortage related drama, rinse, repeat. The thing that suffers the worse from this is the Walking dead comic, in my opinion where a lot happens but the characters don’t really have any goals so they are just sort of aimlessly wandering the whole time.
    Also I disagree about falling skies, I am enjoying that currently.