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© 1987-2016
Scott Larson

Building façade in Cannes, France

Extinction-level laughs

I’ve just noticed that a new TV show debuted on NBC last week with a cool title. It’s called You, Me and the Apocalypse. How cool is that for a title? But you know what’s even more cool—to me anyway? I’ve already seen the whole series. That doesn’t happen that often, I mean, where I have seen a whole first season of a TV show before it has even started its run in the US.

Yeah, okay, I have seen quite a few Irish television shows before anyone in the US has ever seen them. But that is mainly because nobody in the US ever sees them or, frankly, would ever want to see them. That’s not really a slam on Irish TV shows or even on American TV watchers. The tastes between the two audiences are, well… different. Except the Irish actually watch all kinds of American TV shows all the time—in addition to their own home-grown stuff. Mostly, though, the American shows they watch tend to consist of Friends reruns and dramas produced by Shonda Rhimes. The Irish also watch lots of British shows and so do a lot of Americans, especially the ones who get BBC America. And let’s face it, the really cool shows always seem to end up being virtually simulcast on both sides of the Atlantic. I’m talking about shows like Game of Thrones, Doctor Who and Sherlock. That’s usually because a lot of those cool shows seem to be UK-US co-productions.

You, Me and the Apocalypse is a UK-US co-production, but for some reason Sky1 showed it over here in the autumn, and NBC is only showing it now. (If you are in America and you read this soon enough and act on it, you might be able to catch the second episode in real time.) Since half of my readers are in the US, I am providing a public service by letting you know about this TV show. You can probably tell by the title alone whether it is something you would like. Yes, it is a comedy with lots of wacky characters, but it has the format of an hour-long drama with no laugh track. It is strangely kind of reminiscent of Lost in that you have a large cast of characters, who turn out to be related or connected in sometimes unexpected ways. And the humor is dark—as you would expect with the end of the world looming. That’s not a spoiler alert by the way. They tell you that at the beginning of every episode. And you even see some of the characters (from different perspectives for each episode) who have made it into a bunker in hopes of surviving the calamity. While it is more of an earth-bound character-driven show than a sci-fi show, the irreverent tone reminds me a bit of that of fanciful outer space shows like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Red Dwarf.

One of the plot strands involves the Catholic church trying to vet candidates for the foretold Second Coming. The series does a lot of teasing (but only teasing) that one of our numerous characters might actually be the Messiah. Also, American viewers will be left to intuit that the mere mention of the name of the English town of Slough (rhymes with cow) is inherently funny, no matter how many times it is uttered. Kind of like the way Rowan & Martin and Johnny Carson always used to get a laugh by mentioning “beautiful downtown Burbank.”

You need reasons to watch? Here are some:

• Mathew Baynton! We know this endlessly amusing English actor from shows that my kid discovered on UK television, like Horrible Histories and Yonderland. He plays dual roles in YMatA and is very convincing as both the hapless dweeb and the conniving sociopath.

Parks and Recreation actors! This is what really drew us in for a look. Rob Lowe (as an irreverent priest) and Megan Mullally (as a strangely loveable white trash racist) are in the regular cast. Nick Offerman appears in one episode as yet another obstinate rural type. Jenna Fischer (of the US version of The Office) is also one of the main stars, playing an unlikely (and innocent) prison convinct.

• Gaia Scodellaro! You probably don’t know who she is. I didn’t either. She’s an Italian actor and she plays the kind of nun who could single-handedly convert whole legions of young men to Catholicism. And she’s gorgeous. (Yes, that’s me being shallow.)

• Diana Rigg! Yes, that Diana Rigg! Mrs. Peel herself! The former Mrs. James Bond is appearing in all kinds of interesting and cool TV series in her dotage, including Game of Thrones and Doctor Who. Here she plays a wealthy American well accustomed to getting her way.

Be advised, things get pretty intense by the time you get to the tenth and final episode. And it’s well worth the ride. Oh yeah, and you will find yourself being very impatient for the second season. Let’s hope there is one.

-S.L., 4 February 2016

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