Apocalypse Lite


This week, the National Geographic Channel broadcast “American Blackout,” a fictional story about unknown terrorists blacking-out the U.S.’ power grid. This is a topic that has been covered extensively in science fiction and is the topic of the currently running drama “Revolution,” although the latter involves a world-wide blackout.

This NATGEO production doesn’t know, frankly, what it is doing. After noting that there are 300 million private firearms in the country, none are actually fired during the course of the show. A wimpy liberal first endangers a prepper’s entire family and then, at the last moment, unbelievably mans up and confronts raiders with a rifle (which is never fired) as he saves the prepper (conservative) dad who has, of course, stupidly confronted a dozen raiders single-handedly on his badly-designed compound. Of four people trapped in an elevator, one dies by falling off the elevator, one dies from infection after just a few days, and the remaining two – after cutting their way through a roof grate -- are too stupid to force-open a simple roof door that would lead to freedom. And just as things are coming to a boil, the electric power miraculously returns, ending the crisis in a moment.

The movie shows tasteful bits of blood every now and then rather than the bloodbath that would occur in all major cities. Guns are shown as worse than useless in the crisis; more dangerous to the owners than to violent criminals bent upon murder. Lack of food and water somehow seem more an inconvenience than the disaster their lack would be. Hospitals are shown to be a little crowded and still with electricity rather than the utter chaos of death they would become. About all that is faithfully represented is the utter helplessness city-dwellers would face. One even asks her videocam: “why isn’t anybody helping us?”

Such movies as this can be fun, of course, in the way a Gao’uld invasion can be portrayed on “Stargate.” But tepid attempts such as “American Blackout” add little to the genre or the discussion.