Sunday, August 21, 2011

TV Review: Livin' For the Apocalypse

Article first published as TV Review: Livin' For the Apocalypse on Blogcritics.

Discovery's Livin' For the Apocalypse set to air on Sunday, August 28th at ten gives the viewer an intensive look at four couples who are spending their lives making physical preparations—food and water, arms, shelter-- for an Armageddon they are certain is coming. It may be a natural disaster. It may be a foreign invasion. It may be an economic collapse. It will definitely be the end of the world as we know it. It may even be the end of the world altogether. Wait. . . .Hold that last one: if that happens, there probably isn't much of a need for the kinds of preparation these people are engaged in. On the other hand, if Cormac McCarthy got it right in The Road, these four couples and perhaps their loved ones, these four couples will be ready.

The show begins with a nominally reasonable looking couple who have raised what seem to be seven lovely grown children. They seem like two fairly normal people until they begin to talk and tale the camera on a guided tour through their preparations for the calamity they are sure is coming. Rooms filled with canned goods, dried food and other necessities, a root cellar that can serve as a hurricane or even a bomb shelter at home and another fully equipped shelter in the building that houses the wife's business. If necessary they also have a well stocked mountain retreat from which the man of the house tells us he can hold off an army of invaders with his private arsenal. In many respects this couple, a couple their own children seem to think have gone off the deep end, this couple is the most normal of the people on the show. Their fears have at least some justification as they describe a tornado that just missed their house. Besides they have also managed to parley their apocalyptic fear into what seems to be a budding business opportunity.

Next there is a gun toting chiropractor who calls himself the Survival Doc and his wife. This is a man who hordes silver, raises bunnies for meat to supplement his obligatory cache of supplies, studies martial arts and hosts his own internet show advising others of the survivalist credo: "One is none; two is one." Oh, and sometimes he dresses up like the Scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz. A very nice looking young couple with two young children comes next. They are raising tilapia and vegetables in their swimming pool and composting to grow grubs to feed their chickens. Not only that, but they are teaching their children to get used to full body protective gear including gas masks through a kind of play activity. For the grand finale, we are introduced to an older woman and her transgendered house mate who raise guinea pigs to sell as pets and for food when the time comes. Their house is so stuffed with supplies they have begun keeping things in the bathroom. They even have some home canned beef heart for the rainy day to come.

The documentary takes no specific editorial point of view. There is no commentary by outsiders or experts about what is shown. The subjects are given the floor. They show the viewers what they want them to see and they explain their ideas at length. Although it would appear these people are deadly serious about what they fear and what needs to be done, it is hard for the viewer to take them seriously. The more you see, the more you hear—the more you are convinced that these people have problems. On the other hand you have to remember that old fable about the ant and the grasshopper; come the day of reckoning they may well be standing there telling us cynics: "I told you so."

But then there are those Mayan prophecies about 2012.

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