While it’s not unusual for movies and TV shows to be set in post-apocalyptic worlds, we’re seldom treated to the sight of ours actually coming to an end. That was the conceit, and central challenge, in “You, Me and the Apocalypse,” which wrapped up its run on NBC March 31 with no current plans for more – either from its American host (where the ratings dwindled) or Britain’s Sky. A strange, at times surreal trip, the show deserves points for sheer audacity, but even with a final hour that stopped short of closure, it’s hard to fault anyone for balking at what might come next.
The entire first season, notably, was framed by a flashback device, with the central character (Mathew Baynton) sitting in a bunker, waiting for a meteor to demolish life as we know it up above. The premiere then went back five weeks to the moment when people first became aware of the crisis, crisscrossing the globe to feature an odd assortment of seemingly disconnected personalities, whose ties gradually came into focus as the episodes counted down toward impact.
All that built toward a final episode (and SPOILER ALERT if you haven’t watched) in which two separate groups labored to navigate their way to safety – or rather, to avoid instant oblivion, since entering the bunker meant cozying up to a loony, wealthy matriarch (Diana Rigg) eager to collect compatible donors so she can drain their blood. And in what might be the oddest moment in an extremely strange hour of television, that included Baynton’s Jamie – not to be confused with his evil twin, Ariel – actually parting the Thames, shedding unexpected light on the claim by his adoptive mother, Pauline (Pauline Quirke), that he’s the son of God, while prompting her to dub their possible salvation “a Charlton-bloody-Heston-type miracle.”
“You, Me and the Apocalypse,” alas, left behind some major loose ends, with Jamie outside the bunker as all hell broke loose, after his brother knocked him out, stole his clothes and replaced him. Yet however much one might want to know how all that turns out, the assembled characters simply weren’t compelling enough to provide a strong motivation to revisit the series, especially if a considerable portion of the story would have to be confined to that space, even allowing for flashbacks or other time-bending tricks to widen the lens.
Give series creator Iain Hollands credit for not pulling punches, while garnishing the U.K.-backed project with American actors (Rob Lowe, Jenna Fischer, Megan Mullally), ostensibly to give it more appeal on this side of the pond. But even embracing a level of quirkiness and bleak humor not normally found in most U.S. series — seriously, a white supremacist and a pregnant nun? — this probably should have been pitched as a limited, one-and-done exercise from the get-go.
When forced during the finale to consider abandoning one of their companions, Pauline says (somewhat prophetically, as it turns out), “I don’t mean to seem heartless, but we haven’t got time!” “You, Me and the Apocalypse” appears to have run out of time as well, although on the plus side, NBC at least tried something that fell outside its creative wheelhouse, and while the relatively few folks who became hooked will miss it, life goes on. And that’s apparently more than can be said for this clever idea that, conceptual speaking, ran into a dead end.