12. “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”
Apocalyptic Premise:Well, depends on who you believe. According to the Reverend Wayne Gary Wayne (Jon Hamm), the reason that he trapped Kimmy (Ellie Kemper) and three other women in a bunker for years was because he wanted to protect them from the vengeful Gosh raining destruction down upon the sinful outside world. (Why invite no other men? He didn’t want the bunker to be “a sausage fest,” natch.) The Reverend Wayne was lying, of course, but his followers believed him for years — to varying degrees, at least.
So, How Brutal Is It? When Kimmy sees the outside world for the very first time in 15 years, she’s clearly elated. But over the course of Season 1, it’s clear that even if the Reverend Wayne’s prophecy was a lie, the experience had a profound impact on her. Thanks to some pretty intense PTSD, Kimmy’s sunny outlook on life is met with daily challenges, and just because she was able to confront Wayne about what he’d taken from her, the fact is that even a personal apocalypse can be pretty brutal when you’re living it. Actually, sometimes that might make it even harder to deal with it.
When’s It On? Season 2 premieres April 15 on Netflix.
Apocalyptic Premise: Get just a glimpse of this near-future Los Angeles, and things don’t look that bad… until you notice the drones buzzing overhead, the red beret paratroopers marching down the streets and, of course, the giant walls splitting a once-free city apart. In the first few episodes of the new USA series, we don’t get any clear answers on what, exactly, has the world under its thumb (but to quote “Starman,” they “aren’t from around here”). What matters is that our heroes are trapped in a society that is very far from the freedom we currently enjoy.
So, How Brutal Is It? While there are still vestiges of normal life around, totalitarian regimes tend not to be loving, kind places to live — whether you’re an average civilian or a person-of-interest to the authorities. In the world of “Colony,” there’s a promise made that the current state of things is “temporary,” but real hope comes in the form of a resistance movement that’s not afraid to take action against both the unseen authorities and their human collaborators. Plenty of blood will be spilt in the ensuing struggle, but things could be a whole lot worse.
When’s It On? Season 1 is now currently airing Thursdays on USA.
10. “The Last Man on Earth”
Apocalyptic Premise: A virus of some kind eliminated every single person on Earth…save one. Okay, two. Okay, there’s actually quite a few people who turned out to be immune from whatever deadly plague swept the planet. While “The Last Man on Earth” is rather vague about what exactly happened to create the scenario on which the series is based, thanks to some inquisitive journalism, we do know the virus disintegrates the corpses of those it infects. (Though let’s call that more of a theory.)
So, How Brutal Is It? Not brutal at all! Okay, well, the pilot episode does bring our protagonist, Tandy, to the point of suicide, but other than that it’s quite light. These people don’t dwell on the past. They focus on the future, which helps make this comedy pretty darn funny and not at all horrifically depressing (especially in Season 2, when Tandy stops being such a jerk).
When’s It On? Season 2 is currently on hiatus, but will return to Fox on March 6.
9. “The Strain”
Apocalyptic Premise: Take “The Walking Dead,” but swap zombies for vampires and make the vampires into total dicks — and also take your time. “The Strain” began its run with the promise of showing an apocalypse unfold in slow motion, and so far things have gotten increasingly worse over the first two seasons, with society slowly shutting down (quarantines, looting, dwindling food supplies) as the vampires — okay, they’re called “the Strigoi,” but c’mon, vampires — take control.
So, How Brutal Is It? For our ostensible hero Ephram (Corey Stoll), life just gets worse and worse and worse (a brutal death at the end of Season 2 means that at the very least, he’s down multiple allies). But while civilization in general is on the decline, “The Strain” has a while left to go before the show hits full-on apocalypse territory — which is actually fascinating as a show construct, but hard to measure against other series.
When’s It On? No set date has been confirmed, but Season 3 will likely return this summer on FX.
8. “The Last Ship”
Apocalyptic Premise: While a military vessel went out to sea under a communications blackout for a few months, it probably never guessed that when it rejoined the outside world, most of it would be dead thanks to a “red flu” virus that has left the remaining 20 percent of the planet in turmoil.
So, How Brutal Is It? Nothing fun about a flu epidemic of this scale — especially one that tears the world apart like a Tom Clancy novel that don’t give a hoot — but the end of Season 2, last year, actually brought a bit more order to the chaos of the status quo. This season thus might see the world regain some of its lost control. Then again, who can predict a virus?
When’s It On? No set date has been confirmed, but TNT will likely premiere Season 3 this summer.
7. “12 Monkeys”
Apocalyptic Premise: James Cole (Aaron Stanford, not Bruce Willis) travels back in time from the year 2043 to stop the release of a virus that will wipe out 93.6 percent of the world’s population. Helping him out in his loopy quest are a virologist babe (Amanda Schull, not Madeline Stowe) and a bonkers mental patient with mad maths skills (Emily Hampshire, not Brad Pitt).
So, How Brutal Is It? Considering we spend most of our time in the present day before the virus is released, it’s honestly not that bad. Sure, in the future, what’s left of the world is forced to live underground and our hero isn’t exactly living it up. But that’s just motivation for him to handle his business in the past — and to enjoy it while he’s back there.
When’s It On? Season 2 premieres April 18 on Syfy.
6. “Fear the Walking Dead”
Apocalyptic Premise: Technically, “Fear the Walking Dead” is pre-apocalypse rather than post-apocalypse: The whole hook of the show is to see how the not-so-good people of “The Walking Dead” got into the situation they’re presently in, so this prequel series starts off just a few days before the outbreak took control of the world. But don’t worry. It doesn’t take long for the zombies to start biting people.
So, How Brutal Is It? While it’s not as nasty as its older brother, “Fear the Walking Dead” is certainly harboring a mean streak; one that’s likely to come to fruition in the upcoming Season 2. Still, pain and suffering are standard for this zombie drama, so it’s far from a picnic for its participants. Well, not the kind of picnic any of the living want to attend.
When’s It On? Season 2 premieres April 10 on AMC.
5. “Z Nation”
Apocalyptic Premise: Zombie takeover. You know the drill, but here are a few specifics: The world was taken over by the undead because of a virus (standard), but there’s one zombie bite survivor who may be carrying the secret to a cure (only slightly less standard).
So, How Brutal Is It? “Z Nation” is a rough pill to swallow for its citizens because of the typical zombie reasons, but a little less so considering the series is largely a spoof of “The Walking Dead.” Its absurdity may be largely lost on its characters, but it’s still present within the story. But don’t get us wrong — this is a situation no one is envious of. Okay, well, almost no one. The rest of the people in the shows below might swap places.
When’s It On?Season 3 has been commissioned and should premiere sometime in 2016.
4. “The Leftovers”
Apocalyptic Premise: Two percent of the world’s population disappears on October 14. Sure, that may sound better than the reverse — especially when compared to so many stories where 80-98 percent of the world dies — but it’s the survivors who are really struggling in “The Leftovers” (hence the name). As the world tries to understand why they were spared or left behind, individuals are driven mad with not knowing, or go equally bonkers while trying to repress their true reactions.
So, How Brutal Is it? It’s pretty darn brutal! Much was made about the dour tone of Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta’s HBO drama when it launched, with many viewers finding the complex emotional trauma too real to cope with on a weekly basis (let alone a binge). People started to come around in Season 2, but the relentless nature of “The Leftovers” never let up, and the raw conflict of a society torn apart by faith (or a lack thereof) remains one of the most unsettling (and resonate) apocalyptic scenarios ever written.
When’s It On? The third (and final) season has been greenlit, for hopefully a 2016 premiere on HBO.
3. “You, Me, and the Apocalypse”
Apocalyptic Premise: With only 34 days left until a comet collides with Earth, there’s nothing anyone can do to stop it. So everyone reacts to the cataclysmic news in their own unique way, leading to strangers colliding in the strangest of fashions. A priest, ex-con, cyber terrorist, librarian, bank manager and white supremacist all find themselves interacting in one way or another, with a charmingly bizarre combination of comedy and drama.
So, How Brutal Is It? Considering the news is far graver and absolutely final when compared to the various scenarios outlined above, the people surviving in “You, Me and the Apocalypse” aren’t that flummoxed. Sure, they’re all about to die, but some don’t believe it. Others cling to hope. Still more have short-term priorities that steal their focus. Ultimately, they’re all screwed, so it’s a pretty brutal show. Luckily, you don’t have to suffer along with them while watching.
When’s It On? The series premieres Thursday, January 28 on NBC.
2. “The Walking Dead”
Apocalyptic Premise: Allow us to let the Cranberries speak upon our behalf (see above).
Now on its sixth season (and if only based on ratings), “The Walking Dead” is television’s current crowning achievement in telling stories about the end of the world. While the premise is familiar, it does include a few novel twists (like the fact that anyone still alive in this world is infected with the virus and will become a Walker after they die, which has a way of changing a society’s burial rituals). More importantly, at this point it’s secured its status for decades as one of the gold standards in making genre television an insanely popular favorite.
So, How Brutal Is It? Weirdly, the most brutal thing in recent “Walking Dead” memory was its dragging out the reveal that it didn’t kill a longtime fan favorite character in the first half of this season. Let’s put it like this: At the end of Season 1, all those years ago, multiple characters actively chose a fiery death over continuing to live in this world. And it’s not like things since then have gotten better. That said, there are always glimmers of optimism to be found in this series, especially the notion of a cure. The show is a brutal portrait of humanity, but it does its best to find hope along the way.
When’s It On? Season 6 resumes the fun on February 14.
1. “The 100”
Apocalyptic Premise: At the beginning of the series, as far as the people living spacebound, on a ramshackle “ark” made of decaying spaceships knew, nuclear war had made the surface of the Earth uninhabitable for a century. Two seasons later, the status quo has changed dramatically and now everyone’s planet-side. Has that made the conditions on Earth any easier? NOPE! While it turns out that various pockets of humanity did make it past the tougher years planetside — thanks to underground bunkers or a more savage approach to creating society — that just means a number of different factions are all scrambling to save themselves a scrap of real life.
So, How Brutal Is It? So. Crazypants. Brutal. It’s not so much that the apocalypse itself was bad (though certainly it can’t be said to have been a good time), but that every choice every character has had to make since it happened tends to be legitimately heartbreaking. Every once in a while, a proper villain shows up on this show, but for the most part it’s a series about how desperate survival makes us all. The protagonist of “The 100” might at this point have the show’s highest body count to her name. Which is why the apocalypse proves so scary — because we know what it might do to us all.
When’s It On? “The 100” Season 3 is currently airing Thursdays on the CW.