Five episodes were provided prior to broadcast.
It’s hard to go in blind to any television show nowadays, with all of the coverage, behind-the-scenes, and spoiler chat that seem to be the cornerstone of marketing campaigns for any series with a hashtag and Twitter account. When you get that rare opportunity, having no idea what you’re about to get yourself into, it’s exciting not knowing what’s coming your way. This surprised, in-the-dark feeling is thematically apt given the subject matter of You, Me and the Apocalypse — humanity has 34 days to live thanks to an eight-mile-long comet hurtling towards the planet that’ll bring along a few earthquakes, tidal waves, acid fog, and essentially wipe the microbial floor with our remains.
Thanks to NBC’s weird-in-retrospect marketing, I went into the British-American series with the preconceived notion that You, Me and the Apocalypse was a quirky half-hour sitcom about survivors of the end of the world. I was wrong; it turns out, the new series is an hour-long dramedy about a tangled web of interconnected individuals across the world trying to tie up their respective loose ends before the 34-day-long doomsday clock strikes midnight (oh, and the entire thing already aired in Britain). The show is delightful and dark, sprawling and intimate, a high-concept trip whose definitive end does nothing to kneecap the interpersonal woes of its diverse cast. In other words: I haven’t been so happy to be proven wrong in a very long time.
Created by Iain Hollands, the show’s main focus is Jamie Winton (Mathew Baynton), a schmuck of a bank manager whose roommate Dave (Joel Fry) has taken upon himself the monumental task of removing Jamie from a seven-year self-pitying rut after the disappearance of his wife. Jamie is in Slough, England and, as the show’s opening lets you know, 34 days later he makes it into some kind of a bunker to watch the apocalypse on the telly.
At the Vatican, the show introduces Father Jude Sutton (Rob Lowe), the Catholic church’s actual Devil’s Advocate, and Sister Celine Leonti (Gaia Scodellaro) who feels stifled by life in a far-away convent. He’s an expert on denouncing the canonization of new saints, so in a post-comet world they team up to tackle the clown car of false prophets that come out of the woodwork claiming divine knowledge. As Jude himself puts it, he’s “the ecclesiastical turd in the swimming pool.”
Then there’s librarian Rhonda McNeil (Jenna Fischer), who finds herself in a maximum security prison in New Mexico after being caught hacking the NSA. In actuality, she’s just covering for her hactivist son Spike (Fabian McCallum) and trying to field threats from swastika-emblazoned white supremacist leader Leanne Parkins (an unrecognizable Megan Mullally). That’s not even mentioning a group of white hats in Washington, D.C. (Kyle Soller and Paterson Joseph) who are scrambling to conceive of a plot to save mankind, and the mysterious doppelgänger of a main cast member who appears to have nefarious plans for one of the heroes.
If you think all of that reads like some kind of early-era Michael Crichton novel, you’re not entirely off target. The show’s pilot is one of the best I’ve seen post-Lost, introducing all of these seemingly disparate stories without losing a hint of its charm, adding on a decent helping of what-the-hell mystery with glimpses 34 days into the future of the folks who actually make it into that humanity-saving bunker. It’s dense in regards to its subject matter, and not afraid to show the violent side of its characters, but unquenchably charming and totally fleet-footed in fluid motion.