The benefits associated with a fragmented TV landscape include the freedom for the occasional series to be just flat-out weird. Enter “You, Me and the Apocalypse,” a darkly comic look at an extinction-level event, crash-landing on NBC by way of the U.K. Rob Lowe, Jenna Fischer and Megan Mullally lend Yankee credibility to this decidedly offbeat Sky co-production, which, over its five previewed episodes, is never particularly convincing, but oddly fascinating in its strangeness nonetheless. So while it’s hard to imagine the show having much of a future, there are a few reasons to check out “Apocalypse” now.
The story opens in a bunker, where the sad-sack Everyman Jamie (Mathew Baynton) is uncomfortably sitting with a small group of people, waiting for an asteroid to strike Earth and effectively end life as we know it. “Are we really the future of mankind?” he thinks to himself.
Flash back 34 days to Slough, England, where Jamie – still mourning the disappearance of his wife seven years earlier – is about to learn of the pending cataclysm, along with a lot of other disjointed souls scattered across the globe. They include Rhonda (Fischer), who is serving a prison term in New Mexico on the charge of hacking into the National Security Agency, and her white supremacist fellow inmate (Mullally); Lowe’s Father Jude, a chain-smoking, potty-mouthed Vatican priest, who enlists a wide-eyed young nun (Gaia Scodellaro) to assist him in weeding out those considered for sainthood; and of course the response in the White House, where a general (“The Leftovers’” Paterson Joseph) confers with the President about contingency plans, while seeking to prevent wholesale panic.
Created by Iain Hollands, this is not, admittedly, an uplifting premise, and the way people react to the news isn’t always believable. The early episodes, moreover, are too chaotic and scattered (the Wachowskis’ Netflix series “Sense8” comes to mind), even with the framing device of the month-long countdown to impact.
Stick with it, though, and the series begins to throw in some peculiar twists, starting with why Jamie might be drawing interest from government investigators, and how he wound up in that bunker, anyway. And the sheer audacity of the concept has a way of dragging one along, wondering how anyone possibly thought there was a viable series in this – and when these disparate storylines might actually intersect.
Practically speaking, NBC has a gap to fill in its lineup with “Heroes Reborn” having finished its run, and the shared parentage with Sky in “Apocalypse” has surely mitigated the network’s financial investment in the show. If nothing else, it’s also something of a relief to see an NBC drama that isn’t another “Blacklist” knockoff and doesn’t have “Chicago” in the title.
With its unwieldy moniker, off-putting subject matter, hard-to-classify tone, and the sheer leap of faith required to reach the stage where the show finally begins to take shape, “You, Me and the Apocalypse” looks like a long shot to attract much of an audience. But given the network’s likely low profile on the project, if it doesn’t work, it’s not like it’s the end of the world.