Bunker Mentality: TV’s ‘Doomsday’ Denizens Prepare for the Worst

Doomsday "prepper" Pat Brabble on NatGeo's "Doomsday Preppers" (Photo: National Geographic Channel)

OK, I get it — we’re all doomed.

Or maybe we’re not. The thing is: It’s awfully easy to believe we’re doomed and, even worse, woefully unprepared, when you watch TV’s competing reality shows in the burgeoning doomsday category — National Geographic Channel’s “Doomsday Preppers” and Discovery’s “Doomsday Bunkers.”

It’s a peculiar paradox of these gloom-and-doom shows: They’re really all about the worst possible things that could happen to mankind and the planet we all live on, at least in theory — catastrophes including nuclear armageddon, cataclysmic solar flares (supposedly capable of knocking out the world’s electric power grid), asteroids, military attacks, earthquakes, tsunamis and other sources of mass destruction either real or imagined. On the other hand, the shows give you a kind of hope, but only if you’re willing to adopt the mindset of these dedicated doomsday preppers and arm yourself to the teeth, construct concrete-reinforced underground bunkers, stock up on canned food, raise your own livestock, horde fuel and somehow generate your own electricity.

As both shows reveal, doing all of that is not easy. It takes focus and commitment. It also takes a lot of drilling and rehearsal. Recently, on “Doomsday Preppers” (or was it “Bunkers”?), one family located in the boonies way out west rehearsed for the possibility of abandoning their home by loading up specially equipped school buses and heading caravan-style to a new, undisclosed location they had already set up just in case they had to bug out.

How elaborate are these doomsday shelters? Check this one out, seen on “Doomsday Bunkers”:
[iframe http://xfinitytv.comcast.net/tv/Doomsday-Bunkers/175344/2207955228/Sample-Bunker/embed 580 476]

In another profile seen recently, a dad in Maine lives as if doomsday is already here, wearing clothes he made himself from buckskin (like a latter-day Daniel Boone), collecting roadkill and cooking it for his family, and training his children to recognize when birds in the area are distressed — a “natural” warning signal that danger is approaching.

Like other reality TV shows that introduce us to unique or unusual lifestyles, both of TV’s current doomsday shows (and there will probably be more) take us to places we would otherwise not go ourselves, and show us ways of viewing the world (in this case, holding strongly to the belief that the world’s about to end) that we had not considered.

I’ve long held that that is one of the true purposes of TV generally, and both of TV’s doomsday shows fulfill it perfectly. They happen to be fascinating, though I’ve developed a slight preference for “Preppers” on NatGeo, which happened to be first.

Trends in bunker security: What’s new in the doomsday biz? Watch this:
[iframe http://xfinitytv.comcast.net/tv/Doomsday-Bunkers/175344/2207953726/Bunker-Defense/embed 580 476]

That’s another thing I love about the doomsday trend, if it is one: I love when one network introduces a show and another one — in this case, Discovery, which happens to be located on the channel right next to NatGeo here in New York City — suddenly introduces its own show on the exact same subject.

Will there be more? Well, maybe — all I know is: They’d better hurry up if they want to get on the air before doomsday!

National Geograpic Channel’s “Doomsday Preppers” airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. (8c). Discovery’s “Doomsday Bunkers” airs Wednesdays at 10/9c (repeated at other times during the week, including tonight — Saturday, March 17 — at 8 and 9).

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The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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