I Survived A Zombie Apocalypse: Ep. 2

“It may be that, deadened by information, we are glad of these awful, intent and nameless beings as to whom no information is to be had.”

Elizabeth Bowen

Oh, yes. I’m back in zombieland for more apocalyptic fun. Gods alone know why.

Actually, the second episode was rather more engaging than the first. The “survivors” were given three tasks which kept the tension up nicely and meant that the more Big Brother-ish segments of bickering and group politics were kept, thankfully, to a minimum, even if “going out to check the missing-persons list” feels a bit contrived as a reason for risking your life (even fictionally) in a zombie-infested wasteland.

The main reason this all seems a bit unrealistic, though, is the slightly debonair way in which the contestants are taking this. (Of course, this is inevitable unless, like Derren Brown, you want to traumatise your participants.) It transpires that at the beginning of the second day they have no water and little food left, which seems ridiculous given that they had to drag in a whole crate of the stuff on day one. Their approach to conservation of resources becomes clear later on in the episode, when they finally receive some supplies from a successful mission: “Let’s all have a cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit!” (Incidentally, no-one thought of drinking boiled rainwater until quite some time after it became evident that the water was running out.) It’s absolutely clear that everyone is treating this as a sort of mildly uncomfortable backpacking trip rather than a zombie apocalypse, and no amount of painstaking set construction and fake “death” scenes can change that vibe.

Because when a contestant “dies” (read: gets caught by an actor in zombie makeup), it’s not enough that they leave the show. Oh, no. We have to have a display of prosthetic blood and guts, because otherwise we, the reality TV generation, will not understand that They Have Left. This isn’t, strictly speaking, the BBC’s fault, but I do think it says something unpleasant about our watching habits when scenes featuring a zombie tearing someone’s entrails out manage to filter even into a gameshow. Like: we know this is fictional. The entire set-up is so deeply unrealistic in all of its details that no-one could take it for reality, or even for a zombie drama. There’s no claim for accuracy of representation that the show can make to justify that rather disturbing violence.

Why am I still watching this, then? Well, because it’s on, I suppose, and also because it’s genuinely an intriguing premise, mixing fiction with reality in a way which, if it isn’t quite unique, at least feels fresh. I hesitate to use the word innovative, but I wonder, will we be getting Game of Thrones-themed gameshows soon? Gameshows with alien invasions? If someone made a steampunk gameshow I would be their friend for ever.

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