Survivors – Grim Reality TV
No not Survivor the rubbish reality TV show that went down well US of stateside, I mean Survivors. Created by Terry Nation in the 70s and assigned to that dumpbin of all things telly: the “cult classic”. Recall TN was Mr Blakes 7 and claims to have invented the Daleks, but it does have a lot more going for it than that would imply. Listen.

The SciFi setting is modest and a lot more compelling, simple and well thought-through than Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids (another BBC cult show in the following decade). Plus it’s cheap to film. Briefly: 99% of humanity wiped out by a careless (and significantly Asian-looking) scientist unable to hold on to round-bottomed flasks, but with a better grip on his rapidly-stamp-filled passport. As the cities fester with corpses, the action is stuck in the countryside, and the remaining survivors set about rebuilding a society.

The show initially appears obsessed with technology: various characters point out repeatedly that they were over-reliant on technology (yes even in the 70s) and lived within an infrastructure based on the division of labour and specialisation. However there is a more fundamental issue to survival. When none of the people around you are either friends or family, trust and the social contract are a fragile thing. This is where the drama comes from of course.

After a few episodes to bed-in the initial premise we can get to the juicey stuff about watching how these strangers interact. In other words, it’s Big Brother. A small group of people cut-off from the outside, the arguments, alpha-males butting heads, the forced jollity of a party with an acoustic guitar, the trading of extreme views, the flirting. Plus no incidental music until, at the end of each ep, the theme music swells up underneath the action and dialogue and then the credits cut in. It’s better than BB though, because it has i) no geordie voiceover ii) no “i got a third” telly psychologists, iii) the prospect of terror sex. And they shoot the [20 years later sensitivity edit] one with a mental disability. Brilliant.

My advice to the producers of BB for next year: let the house mates take in shotguns. That’ll get things going.

Survivors is available on VHS if you look very hard on eBay and the internet