The Colony

The Colony delivers on a conversation basis and has a tremendously engaging premise that makes the show compulsively watchable just to see what the colonists will do next and what you’d do differently.

So a few months ago my friend Gus gave me the The Colony Season 1 and urged me to watch it, describing it as a science fiction series set in a post-apocalyptic future. Now, Gus has never been wrong when it comes to his film/TV recommendations and has been responsible for turning me on to such hits as Bend it Like Beckham (2002), 51st State (2001), Brother (2000), The Descent (2005) and The King of Kong (2007), among others, so when he tells me I should check something out I indeed give it a glance. For some reason, the idea of a sci-fi series like Earth 2 (1994) combined with Mad Max (1979) just didn’t push any buttons for me and I am behind on so much stuff (really, you’d be embarrassed) that I decided to give it a pass. Fast forward to last Monday. Good friend Zane Duncan and I were looking for something to end the evening on.  We’d had our fill of The Six Million Dollar Man (1974), we’d gone through all the Magnum PI (1980) I had laying around and it was during a quick perusal of the television that we saw an and for The Colony, debuting July 27th! Waitaminute, didn’t Gus give that to me a few months ago? Did he give us some British one? How is this debuting if I already have the box set?

Questions need to be answered so we figured we’d pop in episode one and check it out; if it was terrible as we expected we could shut it off and not worry about it. It was late anyway and we both had to work in the morning.  Episode one was just intriguing enough that we stayed up later than we wanted and were firmly committed to episode two after work. This was the episode, combined with what we didn’t like about the first one, that would be enough and we would be done and we could move on to something else. Here’s how that went. Neither of us worked on Wednesday so after work  Tuesday we banged out 4 episodes, 4 Wednesday and finished the last episode that Thursday after Impact. Not only that but we are both Tivo-ing Season 2 and cannot wait for the new episode this evening. Hence this article.

The Colony does take place in a post-apocalyptic future where a biological agent has wiped out most of the population but rather than a sci-fi series, this show gathers together ten survivors with varying skill-sets (doctor, mechanical engineer, marine biologist, etc) in a ten week experiment to see if they could rebuild and survive.  This premise, ultimately, is what hooked Zane and I and drove us to the end of the series.  He and I, as well as almost everyone I hang out with, are very survival minded individuals.  If you were to drop a zombie invasion right now (hell, vampires, werewolves, Communists, Thugee, Deep Ones, plague victims, aliens – whatever), we already have a plan for survival.  Within an hour of being in a new home I already have an escape plan in case Jason Vorhees comes busting in.  We’re serious.  We also discuss and fine-tune them frequently and that is The Colony’s first hook: it promotes discussion.  The colonists get a huge abandoned industrial warehouse to hole up in with all kinds of supplies and junk with which to make a stand and, because they’re simulating the apocalypse, the area around them was bought up and cleared of living things but plentiful in abandoned buildings littered with supplies.  Within ten minutes (numerologists take note!) of the first episode, after we’d taken a look around and they conveniently flashed a floor plan we could pause on, we had a plan of how we would fortify our surroundings, where we would hide our food, our living arrangements and a course of action for day two – water supply and filtration, power and more fortifying.  Day three is foraging and a thorough search of our surrounding area.  This whole conversation and the fun we had with it wasn’t even a quarter of the way into the show!  So already, The Colony delivers on a conversation basis and has a tremendously engaging premise that makes the show compulsively watchable just to see what the colonists will do next and what you’d do differently.

The colonist’s plans deviated from our three day plan quite a bit.  Day one they looked around the warehouse and went to bed.  They did set up a battery bank for power and set up a pretty clever water filtration system but didn’t fortify their surroundings until week 8 or so and foraged for stuff two times in the whole series, once for like a half hour and  they take 3 weeks to decide to raid a hospital, even with a doctor and nurse on roster (maybe due to the fact they never forage and have no idea about their surroundings) and then lose the doctor. Clever or not, their idea of needing supplies is “hey, we’re out of supplies. We need to get them.”  Shameful. They built a shower day three though.  This is because the cast was riddled with idiots.  This is The Colony’s second hook: the cast.  We hated almost every one of them.  They would all die miserably and the fun to be had watching these fools and discussing their eternal failings and bizarre priorities (especially marine biologist Amy, who is a study in worthless and fail all on her lonesome but put her in a group with her “skills”  and either you’ll kill her or she’ll kill you all within the first week i promise you)  is incredible but to be fair there were four standouts in this group of morons.  Mechanical engineer Vlad was likable and fairly knowledgeable but was too much of a “please everyone” guy who would get you all killed so, though we thought favorably of him he’s down the list.  Handyman Mike we hated on personality alone but stood behind him because everything he said was true, he was on the right track with his survival ideas, they would not have made it without him because everything useful they needed to do he did and he was the first to realize he was surrounded by failures and they hated him.  Inventor John C, minus two lapses of stupidity, was far and away awesome, coming up with tons of useful ideas and gadgets (ozone water purifier? Wood gasifier?  Man, there’s some ideas to file away) and was a generally fun guy to watch.  Our dark horse favorite was contractor Joey, the brains behind the shower.  For the first two-thirds of the season he was as worthless as the remaining six unnamed cast-members (except Amy.  She’s so stupid she gets called out) but by episode nine straight up on camera says, “I’ll fulfill my obligation and see that they get out of here but the first chance I get I’m abandoning these choads because they are a hindrance.”  Goddamn right!  He does, too.  Oh, and he’s been to prison for drug trafficking.  He’s good in a conflict and he’s got a “dangerous” temper (by week nine of these goofs I would also).  Hours more conversation and fun abound watching this Special Olympics of survival.

The Colony’s third hook are the artificial situations the colonists are subjected to.  Here the producers get real clever and kind of point the cast at some things they might wanna think about (Spoiler: and they don’t.  Not once!) which also furthers the involvement with the show for both them and the audience.  By week two the colonists really believe this stuff is real and to watch them react like they’re still on a show but also make hard choices like it was really happening is priceless.  It starts small.  Day three, at 3am (numerologists, I told you to look sharp) a single man comes to the front door and starts banging on it.  Handyman Mike is up on watch (almost the last time someone watches, btw) and it wakes everyone up and they talk about it forever.  The next day everyone builds a shower and make one trip for water and that’s it.  I believe the producers sent that guy in to prod the cast into thinking about security but noooooo.  They, you, the producers and their hired toughs know there is a 6′ section of gate not covered by razor wire.  Do the colonists take this subtle hint and shore up their defenses?  You read paragraph four: week 8!  They pay for it, too, though we’re told that instructions have been given that the cast will not be harmed (boo) though they don’t know it (indeed, even so the nurse lays the smack down for real at one point).  Same with the water foraging.  They are close to the East LA river so they think they have a gravy train but after repeated encounters they still forage one time every four days or so instead of really stocking up or making multiple trips.  Imagine their surprise when the next time they make a trip they’re cut off  by a group of motorcycle toughs.  The producers are also big on sending people to see if the colonists will let them in, both new cast-members and rotten spies.  There are also groups, ranging from three young men to larger gatherings made up of women and children, seeking food or water.  The colonists must, of course, decide to either help or send them on their way, tough choices when your supplies are finite and the need is infinite.  Lots of induced conflict puts our already priority-challenged bunglers in even more predicaments that they are woefully unprepared to handle, and all these things combined made Season 1 of The Colony one of the best things from television I’d seen in a long time.

Season 2 began in Louisiana this time and a couple things are different.  First, this ten week experiment takes place on 10 acres (ahem) of abandoned neighborhood and all the natural wildlife abounds (I’m talking snakes and alligators, my friends).  They get a tent with cots (a luxury compared to season one), their base is a bunch of dilapidated houses and it seems the rule of “extras will not harm the colonists during encounters” has been thrown right out the window.  This ties in with the things that are the same.  The cast are all idiots except one dude so far, Retired Contractor Robert.  They have given us a hot model, which we are sure to get tons of mileage out of, and Industrial Artist George, who has managed to earn the enmity of his whole crew by being lazy and treating everything like a picnic outing, even though he did forage and find supplies at a strip mall (which they didn’t even come close to taking advantage of) and had some good ideas.  George seems to be this Season’s Amy but there are a lot of contenders.  They refuse to fortify and seem seven steps behind the first set of morons but when it comes to an exhibition of smarts, these guys are world-class.  So a few stragglers come by and beg supplies, which our colonists are dumb enough to give them but walk them off the compound.  When one of the stragglers becomes curious, they shove him away and do their best to begin an altercation.  Later that same day, those dudes come back with thirty or so of their friends armed with pepper spray and sticks to get any medical supplies they can find.  Zane and I were waiting for the usual “will not be harmed” warning and the next thing we know these thirty dudes are beating the ever-loving hell out of the colonists, busting George up (who, by all rights, gave a fair accounting of himself), pepper-spraying and looting to their heart’s content.  They owned our colonists completely and one very savage elbow to the back of the neck was solidly delivered.  It was incredible.  Apparently, we get to see if they fortify tonight.  The screwed up priorities remain the same and we have yet to see if anyone besides Retired Contractor Robert will distinguish themselves in any way other than moronic.  In-fighting this season seems to play a much bigger part so far and and the ramping up of the hostile threat, mixed in with the usual tomfoolery and lack of survival skills you’ve come to loath/crave from Season 1 seems to be what distinguishes Season 2 this time around and is sure to match, if not surpass, the first.

The Colony has surprisingly become must-watch television and I encourage you to the utmost to view Season 1. Not only is it chock-full of stupidity and outlandish mis-prioritization but the premise is loaded, the idea wonderful and it promotes conversation – for sure during the episodes but well afterward and you will find yourself trying to describe it for your friends and immediately go into “and they don’t fortify the first day and then they build a shower,” knowing full-well they have no idea what you’re talking about.  Just think of all the other 40 minute programming you waste time on (hey, I love Campus PD too, but c’mon) and skip it for the surprise hit of the summer television-viewing season.  You’ll be glad you did.

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