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Best Post Apocalyptic TV Shows

Celebrate the end of the world with the best post apocalyptic TV shows.

By Stephen HamiltonPublished 8 years ago 8 min read

Portrayals of what life may be like after a world catastrophe have always been present in art. However, after the creation of nuclear weapons, the possibilities for the end of the world likely became much more interesting to writers and creators. After all, it’s much easier to think about the apocalypse when one wrong conversation between world leaders could lead to a nuclear end for the rest of us. Such appears to have been the case in entertainment for the past 20 years, where various post apocalyptic TV shows, movies, comic books, and novels appear every few months. Below is a list of some of our favorite post apocalyptic TV shows.

First airing in 2014 on Syfy, Z Nation is your somewhat standard zombie apocalypse series, with the added conflict that there is one former convict who actually harbors the cure for the virus that caused the apocalypse. The series stars Kellita Smith, Keith Allan, Russel Hodgkinson, Nat Zang, Anastasia Baranova, Pisay Pao, DJ Qualls, Matt Cedeño, and Michael Welch. The series unfortunately has only a 53 percent critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes but a super high 79 percent audience score, suggesting that what it lacks in critical acclaim it makes up for in entertainment value. Or, as IndieWire’s Ben Travers states, "While there's plenty to laugh at—like Sharknado, Z Nation knows it's bad—Syfy's latest original series doesn't take the creative leaps to surprise an audience already too familiar with how to kill zombies."

Another Syfy apocalypse series ordered in 2014, Dominion sets itself apart from the typical apocalypse story by focusing on a fantasy narrative. Based loosely on the film Legion, the series follows the fate of the Earth after God vanishes. Unfortunately, archangel Gabriel begins to wage war with humans, blaming them for God’s absence. Humanity’s only seeming hope against Gabriel’s group of lower angels is archangel Michael, who has chosen to help the humans until a prophesied savior appears to reconcile the situation. The series stars Roxanne McKee, Christopher Egan, Tom Wisdom, Luke Allen-Gale, Anthony Head, Kim Englbrecht, Shivani Ghai, Carl Beukes, Alan Dale, and Simon Merrells. Like plenty of other Syfy series, critics remain unimpressed, but with an 81 percent audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, it was definitely entertaining enough to warrant two seasons. Unfortunately for those fans who truly enjoyed it, Syfy did not order a third season.

Premiering on BBC, Outcasts follows a more environmental post apocalypse story. Specifically, the series follows the conflicts between the arrival of the last transported humans from Earth and those humans who settled on Carpathia for 10 years. The series stars Liam Cunningham, Hermoine Norris, Amy Manson, Daniel Mays, Eric Mabius, and Ashley Walters. Unfortunately, critics and audience reviews of the series are largely negative. It would appear that while Outcasts tries to embody the philosophical nature of Lost, it doesn’t quite get there. Rather, as Matt Roush of TV Guide asserts: "Talky and grim, and more than a little bland, Outcasts almost entirely lacks humor, wonder, and engaging characters."

Based on the critically acclaimed 90s movie, this series is follows the story of a time traveler tasked with stopping the release of a devastating virus that will eventually lead to the death of over 90 percent of the world’s population. The series stars Demore Barnes, Aaron Stanford, Amanda Schull, Barbara Sukowa, Kirk Acevedo, Noah Bean, Emily Hamshire, Andrew Gillies, and Tom Noonan. As with any adaptation, there may be the tendency to want to compare the series to the movie, but according to NY Times critic Neil Genzlinger, the series warrants plenty of merit on its own: “Anyone too invested in the original is in danger of being consumed by the urge to compare. A little of that is fine, inevitable even, but too much of it might cause you not to see that this is a well-made TV show with a lot to recommend it.”

Loosely based on the first book of a novel trilogy by Kass Morgan, The 100 follows a group of teens who are tasked with colonizing Earth after a devastating nuclear apocalypse that wiped out almost all life. As one would guess, many problems arise when the teens arrive to Earth, including a population of survivors that the group of remaining earthlings in orbit never expected. The series stars Eliza Taylor, Bob Morley, Paige Turco, Marie Avgeropoulos, Devon Bostick, Christopher Larkin, Isaiah Washington, Henry Ian Cusick, Lindsey Morgan, and Ricky Whittle. Critics and audiences alike endorse this series, calling it sophisticated, despite the usual CW pretty people politics. “The CW's promotional campaign for The 100 seems most interested in its pretty people and its two-faced deer, but in between all of that, Rothenberg and company are sneaking in a surprisingly sophisticated look at a world filled with want,” explains Todd VanDerWerff of AV Club.

Following the trend of viral humanity extinction, The Last Ship follows the story of fictional naval ship the US.S. Nathan James as they try to navigate the world after being the only population of humans left untouched. Specifically, those aboard attempt to find a cure and save humanity. The series stars Travis Van Winkle, Jocko Sims, Eric Dane, Rhona Mitra, Adam Baldwin, Charles Parnell, Marissa Neitling, Christina Elmore, John Pyper-Ferguson, Kevin Michael Martin, Chris Sheffield, and Michael Curran-Dorsano. Sitting at a pretty solid 64 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, it’s safe to say that The Last Ship is certainly worth a look. Or as Jason Tabrys of Screenrant says, “Michael Bay delivers an enjoyable, visually stunning and high octane hour of television that accomplishes its main goal: it makes us want to see more.”

Choosing to focus perhaps on the Y2K fears, Revolution follows the story of a group of revolutionaries who try to overthrow individuals that are posing as the US government after a global electricity meltdown. The NBC TV show stars Billy Burke, Tracy Spiridakos, Giancarlo Esposito, Zak Orth, David Lyons, Elizabeth Mitchell, JD Pardo, Stephen Collins, and Daniella Alonso. Though the show was considered somewhat decent by some critics and fans, it wound up being cancelled after two seasons. Thanks to a fan petition, it was announced in 2015 that a four-part digital comic book series would be released to conclude the story after the cliffhanger from season two. DC Comics released the remaining four chapters with specifically designed covers by artist Angel Hernandez.

Viruses, nuclear fall-out, and black-outs are populous, but alien invasions are timeless. The latest alien invasion story comes from TNT’s Falling Skies, which follows a group of civilians and fighters fleeing devastation caused by the invasion. The series stars Noah Wyle, Drew Roy, Maxim Knight, Will Patton, Moon Bloodgood, Sarah Carter, Connor Jessup, Colin Cunningham, Mpho Koaho, and Seychelle Gabriel. Since Season 1, the series has maintained critical acclaim and solid audience scores on Rotten Tomatoes. As Mary McNamara of the LA Times states, “Falling Skies is very much the serious fun of those long summer days that you and your kid brother spent blowing up the bad guys and saving the world.”

This BBC TV show is another post apocalypse story following a group of survivors of a deadly virus outbreak. Specifically, the series is focused on Abby Grant and her group of followers as they try to navigate the dangers of a society without police, law, and structure. The series stars Julie Graham, Max Beesley, Paterson Joseph, Zoe Tapper, Phillip Rhys, Chahak Patel, Robyn Addison, and Nicholas Gleaves. Unfortunately, the series was canceled after only two seasons due to poor ratings. It would seem that the poor ratings came from the rather predictable structure of the series. Or as The Guardian’s Stuart Jeffries explains, “If this is what passes for intelligent life on public service television now, truly us living license fee payers must envy the dead.”

Speaking of the dead, there has yet to be a zombie series more popular and critically acclaimed than The Walking Dead. Based on the comic series by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, and Charlie Adlard, the series follows a former sheriff deputy’s struggle to survive upon waking up years after a devastating zombie apocalypse. The series stars Andrew Lincoln, Chandler Riggs, Norman Reedus, Steven Yeun, Melissa McBride, Lauren Cohan, Danai Gurira, Sonequa Martin-Green, Emily Kinney, and Alanna Masterson. While the story for The Walking Dead sounds generic, according to the consistently certified fresh ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, the show is great at spinning genre tropes into something of interest. As Brian Lowry of Variety states, “The Walking Dead draws the audience in almost instantly with its cinematic 90-minute pilot, then incorporates tasty soap-like elements meant to animate the ensuing episodes.”

Taking a turn away from zombies and focusing back on nuclear fallout, Jericho follows the residents of one of the last existing towns after 23 US cities were eliminated in attacks. Specifically, the series explores the attempt to return to normal life and restore power. The series stars Skeet Ulrich, Lennie James, Ashley Scott, Kenneth Mitchell, Brad Beyer, April Parker-Jones, Alicia Coppola, Pamela Reed, and Bob Stephenson. Like some of the other post apocalyptic series on this list, Jericho was canceled after one season, renewed by fan demand, and then canceled again after seven episodes of a second season. Refusing to give up on those dedicated to the cult show, the series was adapted into a comic book series with a season three and a season four as titles.

Taking a turn for the more comedic, New Zealand/British-based TV series The Tribe features the trope of a killing virus, but said virus only affects adults. The series is thus a teen drama about a fictional city inhabited by tribes of children and teenagers. The series stars Caleb Ross, Victoria Spence, Meryl Cassie, Antonia Prebble, and Michael Wesley-Smith. The series lasted for five successful seasons, eventually ending as a result of the cast becoming a bit too old to stick with the original premise. A sequel/spinoff entitled The Tribe: The New Tomorrow was eventually launched that focused on younger audiences. The spinoff ended in 2005.

Another comedic twist on the apocalypse, The Last Man on Earth follows average joe Phil Miller, who discovers that he is seemingly the last man alive on earth after a devastating virus. Unfortunately for him, he soon discovers that he will get more than he bargained for in the form of other survivors. The series stars Will Forte, Kristen Schaal, January Jones, Mel Rodriguez, Cleopatra Coleman, Mary Steenburgen, and Boris Kodjoe. Maintaining good reviews and ratings over two seasons, the series was recently renewed for a third season. Moreover, Matt Brennan of IndieWire states that “credit for the success of this gambit falls largely to Schaal, who manages to transform the rather shrill rule-follower, harping on proper grammar and traffic laws, into engaging, funny company.”

Yet another virus series, but largely before most of the TV shows on this list, Jeremiah follows the lives two men who grew up after the virus had wiped out everyone over the age of thirteen. The series stars Luke Perry, Malcolm-Jamal Warner, Peter Stebbings, Ingrid Kavelaars, Byron Lawson, and Sean Astin. The series was canceled after two seasons due to creative differences between show creator Michael Straczynski and a creative head at MGM. Specifically, Straczynski wound up declaring that he would not return for a third season unless administration was changed.

Rounding off this list (and being the only one on this list to grab two Primetime Emmy awards) The Stand is a mini TV series based on the acclaimed book by Stephen King. The series follows humanity’s last fight for survival after a deadly plague kills off most of the world’s population. The last fight involves a face-off between good and evil. The Stand stars Gary Sinise, Molly Ringwald, Jamey Sheridan, Laura San Giacomo, Ruby Dee, Ossie Davis, Miguel Ferrer, Corin Nemec, Matt Frewer, Adam Storke, Ray Walston, and Rob Lowe. Given the Emmy nominations, it seems that The Stand is necessary viewing for any post apocalypse fan.

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About the Creator

Stephen Hamilton

Definitive movie buff. Quickly realized that it was more financially prudent to write about film than trying to beg for millions of dollars to make his own.

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    Stephen HamiltonWritten by Stephen Hamilton

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