The FFG on TV: National Geographic’s Doomsday Preppers

Does Doomsday Preppers Have What It Takes To Supplant Storage Wars?

I don’t know who the first cable network executive was who discovered the truth of basic cable programming. What “truth”? That there is little value in attempting to create “appointment television” when you can create cheap reality shows that people can watch when they are just flipping through the channels with some time to kill. You know what kind of shows I’m talking about. Shows like Myth Busters, Hoarders, Dirty JobsHouse Hunters (truthfully, everything on HGTV), Chopped (and everything else on The Food Network), Extreme Couponing, Ghost Hunters, Man vs. Wild and a ton of other shows that are wholly contained episodes of TV, that you don’t need to have seen before to get what’s going on and that no one knows when new episodes premiere because it doesn’t matter. We don’t watch these shows like we do Mad Men or Homeland or Game of Thrones or whatever your favorite show is that you know what you are doing for that hour on Sunday night, we watch them when nothing else is on. I don’t mean that as an insult to these cable reality shows, frankly they are one of the things that make TV great because they are interesting and they are always on, so you can always find something to entertain you.

This type of show seemed to have hit its apex in 2011 when A&E launched Storage Wars. Storage Wars had everything you could possibly hope for in this kind of show, including:

  • Minimum time investment (it’s a 30 min. show)
  • Fake competition (I can totally imagine when I was younger sitting in my apartment with a handful of buddies and wagering on who would turn the biggest profit on each episode)
  • Weird things
  • A world you didn’t know existed
  • Constant airings (what percentage of A&E’s daily broadcast schedule is taken up by Storage Wars? 20%… 30%, the show is ALWAYS on)
Does anyone know what night “new” Storage Wars episodes come out? Does anyone care? Storage Wars is the perfect “not quite ready for bed but don’t want to start anything” TV show. It is the perfect “not feeling well on a Saturday but I want the TV on in the background while I fade in and out” show. It is the perfect filler show but those very things that have made it perfect open a window for something new. As much as I love to watch Brandi henpeck Jarod, or Daryl make up values for stuff off the top of the head (that the show counts in its tally which would only make gambling on it that much more fun), or Dave be the world’s biggest d _ _ k, or Barry just not take any of it seriously there is no getting around that I have seen everything the show has to offer. It has served me spectacularly well for the last year, but it’s spot as my #1 fall back show is in jeopardy. I didn’t even realize Storage Wars was in any danger of falling until my wife was laying on the couch this weekend, fighting off a cold and discovering Doomsday Preppers on The National Geographic Channel. It took less that half an episode to get us hooked.
What’s A Prepper Anyway?
Preppers are people who are convinced some form of armageddon is on the horizon and they are preparing for the worst. The show visits these preppers to finds out what particular form of armageddon they are convinced is on the way and then looks at what they are doing to prepare themselves for it. This isn’t having a food supply in your cold storage in your basement, this is people with bunkers designed to withstand nuclear attacks and stocked with supplies to last years. This is arsenals, weekly training exercises with the whole family and hidden supply stashes miles away from home. This is “bug out” plans and fortification preparations. These are lives committed to preparing for the worst (check out Doug and his spider holes below). And it is amazing to watch.
Each episode looks into the plans of two or three preppers and after looking into their theories and preparations tells them where their holes are in their respective stockpiles and plans and also tells the audience how likely (or unlikely) the feared armageddon is (one family was convinced their was an eminent potential small pox outbreak and the show pointed out that since the disease was eradicated decodes ago their are only two strands left, one in a lab in the US and another in a lab in Russia and that the US keeps more than enough vaccine on hand to treat everyone possibly infected by an outbreak).
So, It’s A Show Where You Laugh At Other People
Well, it doesn’t sound very nice when you put it that way, but yea that is a huge part of the fun of watching Doomsday Preppers. What is really interesting though is that the broad strokes for most of their ideas makes sense, they just take it to an extreme that is almost unbelievable. A man who lives with in 30 miles of four nuclear power plants recognizes, after what happened in Japan in the wake of the tsunami, that he should make some preparations for his family if any of those nearby plants should suffer some kind of a melt down. Leaving aside the obvious “why don’t you just move” question the concern is justifiable and that that concern would lead to some preparation is more than reasonable. However, when he is training his 6 year old daughter to shoot a .22 rifle because he believes the melt down will lead to mass riots and marshall law, that is when you start to loose me as someone who views you as reasonable and reel me in as someone who finds you immensely entertaining as a viewer (honestly, watching this guy get into full camo gear so he can sneak up on his own house at night to show his family that they are ill-prepared and in the process scaring the crap out of his baby had me disturbed and laughing all at the same time).
Conclusion
I’ve watched just three episodes of Doomsday Preppers and I have already seen an underground bunker big enough and stocked well enough to support over 500 people, families with arsenals bigger than most police stations, reinforced school busses designed to go through basically war zones and more water filtrations systems, gas masks and EMP field inhibitors than I could have imagined. I have heard people talking about earthquakes and outbreaks. I have heard of the potential of attacks from Iran, Korea and China. I have learned about solar flares and EMP weapons. I have seen the end of the world and in seeing it I have learned a very important lesson, apparently NBC basically got it right on Revolution.
But hey, what do I know? I’m fat.