Live Through This
Like most of TV-view-ing America, I tuned into Lost last week. I did so reluctantly. I am not agog. I know I'm supposed to be – at least according to popular culture rags like Entertainment Weekly. I stubbornly hold on to the hunch that the show's creators are really winging it. But I have to say, I was not as annoyed by the show as I've been in the past. Or maybe I've just given in. Time travel, reincarnation, good vs. evil entities, that giant stone foot from Monty Python, an underground ratchet to change the order of the world? Sure. I'll watch that. But thank goodness something else has come along that also starts with a disaster scenario but stays clear of the smoke monsters, philosopher name-dropping, and all the other hinky things that I don't quite swallow on Lost. The series is called Survivors, and it premieres this weekend on BBC America.
Not to be confused with the reality competition series on CBS or even its BBC precursor that ran in the 1970s for three seasons (this version has been updated to reflect our dependence on technology), the new Survivors starts with a bug. It's a virus so virulent it nearly kills off the entire human race in a matter of days. Those who are spared or miraculously survive the disease are left in desolation: Everything looks normal, but with no one to push the right buttons or haul or deliver or do the thousands of other unseen chores that must be done to keep a basic infrastructure going, the world quickly falls into a preindustrial state – no electricity, no running water, no TV or radio, and no visible law enforcement. Everyone is left to fend for themselves.
The survivors are a core group of characters who meet by accident. Chief among them is Abby Grant (Julie Graham), a mother who is desperate to find her son, who was away on holiday when the virus broke out. Abby withstood the disease and now holds on to the hope that her son inherited her sturdy constitution. On the road, she literally runs into Greg Preston (Paterson Joseph), a former systems analyst who was already set on trading in his demanding job for a simpler way of life. Greg is a loner but can't help but be drawn to Abby's pluck. He invites her to join him on the road trip, his goal being to look for a small farm to start anew. They soon run into Anya (Zoe Tapper) and Tom (Max Beesley). As a doctor, Anya saw the devastation firsthand. Shell-shocked and guarded, she discovers Tom on the side of the road, injured and in pain. As she tends to him, Tom explains that he fell in with the wrong crowd. Unbeknownst to her and everyone else, Tom may be more dangerous than anyone they can imagine.
In the meantime, party animal Al (Phillip Rhys) is drowning his despair with booze. He's careening down the empty streets in his sports car when he meets 11-year-old Najid (Chahak Patel). Al is loath to be responsible for an orphan, while Najid insists he does not need anyone. In spite of their immense differences, they become fast friends, bound by a shocking, unexpected moment when Al steps forward to protect the boy.
They meet other survivors along the way, but Abby, Greg, Tom, Anya, Al, and Najid are the core members of the group, each with various skills, secrets, values, and needs. As polar opposites, the matriarchal Abby and the impassive Tom spark the requisite – but never labored – discussion about the nature of humanity in this new, altered world in which they find themselves. Abby is pro-common-good and working for the best. Tom knows firsthand the evil man is capable of and goes along with the group as long as there is something in it for him. Whether Abby will reform him, whether the emotional land mines each character carries will be set off, and whether any of them will truly come to terms with the loss of their cell phones is what keeps this tightly woven series a must-watch for its 12-episode run.
Survivors premieres Saturday, Feb. 13, at 7pm on BBC America.
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E-mail Belinda Acosta at firstname.lastname@example.org.