Life After People: The Complete Season Two – DVD Review

I’ve always believed that life without people would be rather boring, and season two of this History Channel series only confirms my belief.

I don’t want to use the word nihilistic, because I think it’s far too overused, but a certain nihilistic streak permeates this show. Each episode basically boils down to “let’s watch human civilization crumble!” In the show the amazing buildings we’ve constructed, the monuments to history, the beautiful places of worship weather and decay thanks to computer-generated magic, and with it any physical evidence that, to paraphrase Harlan Ellison, for a brief time we were here, and for a brief time we mattered. You get a certain base thrill from watching it, but after a while it just becomes depressing.

One episode in particular really bothered me. “The Last Supper” explored what would happen to supermarkets and other places where we store food. To give a sort of human aspect to the episode, the show followed the story of a seeing eye dog. To backtrack just a moment, one of the basic conceits of the show is that humankind disappeared suddenly, so this dog was suddenly, inexplicably left alone. I have a huge soft spot for dogs, so it broke my heart to see the little guy lost and alone. I hadn’t been that sad since the last time I saw the Futurama episode “Jurassic Bark” which, not coincidentally, had a dog that was suddenly, inexplicably left alone. But I digress.

The bleak attitude of the show would be bad enough, but what makes it worse is that it comes from very broad, very unscientific speculation. Bring out all the experts on building materials and architecture you like, but the fact of the matter is that no one knows what would happen if humans suddenly disappeared from Earth. This is science fiction—a future history bereft of the thing that would make it interesting: people. And it’s bad science fiction at that.

Each episode is presented in fullscreen with the audio in Dolby Digital Stereo. Closed Captioning is provided for the hearing impaired. For all my faults with its premise, the show does look and sound well, save for the rather subpar computer graphics.

There were no special features in this set.

Intellectually, I can understand the appeal of this program, but that’s all. Needless to say, Life After People falls flat for me. For all of its many, many faults, humanity has accomplished amazing things in the scant time we’ve walked this planet, and seeing the incredible things we’ve created crumble to dust is depressing, maybe even insulting to the noble spirit that drives us to create, to say to an empty, cold universe that we’re here and that we’re important. Not recommended.

A&E Television Networks presents Life After People: The Complete Season Two. Narrated by James Lurie. Running time: 7 hours 50 minutes. Rated NR. Released on DVD: July 27, 2010.

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