As a change from my recent hell-bent pursuit of recapturing my own youth, I decided to take a stab at recapturing someone else’s.
For the past few years, much of our fine American entertainment has been outsourced to New Zealand. Yes, Australia’s Canada has provided its lush landscapes, moderate climate, and non-SAG actors to such US-targeted productions as Farscape, Xena:Warrior Princess, Hercules: The Legendary Journies, Power Rangers, and Lord of the Rings. But did you know that New Zealanders also make their own television programs, featuring local non-SAG actors who don’t have to pretend they have American accents? Why, they even have their own culture and lifestyles which you or I might find strange and incomprehensible. Unless, of course, you are yourself a New Zealander, in which case, you probably find my Saturday Morning Cartoon-esque Mighty Whitey approach to your culture kind of insulting, unless, of course, you’ve got a good sense of humor. I suspect New Zealanders have a good sense of humor, because they call themselves “Kiwis”, after a kind of delicious fruit with the mouthfeel of a cat’s tongue and a kind of flightless waterfowl. Flightless waterfowl is the most ridiculous thing known to nature, so I have to assume that Kiwis have a pretty good sense of humor.
Anyway, one of these shows which I keep hearing about all the time (Except by “all the time”, I mean “two or three times,” which is a lot by the standards of New Zealand Television, as the list of all shows I have ever heard about on New Zealand television consists of: this show) is called “The Tribe”. It’s a show from the early part of this century with shades of Lost, Lord of the Flies, and… Um… Well, I haven’t watched that much yet, and I was planning to rattle off a long list with something silly at the end, but the truth is, it’s basically just every “The whole world is a post-apocalyptic hellhole” show you’ve ever watched.
The story is this: A plague has killed all the adults, and it has therefore gone all Lord of the Flies in New Zealand with kids forming little miscreant tribes and the more sociopathic kids preying on the less sociopathic ones and so forth.
I’m one episode in, so I haven’t really made much sense of it all yet, but given that the plot is Post-Apocalypse+Parental Abandonment+Photogenic Youngsters+Angsty Science Fiction, it’s basically like this show was made by taking the eigenvector of my taste in television. All it’s missing is giant robots (Though I gather a reasonable percentage of the cast went on to be Power Rangers).
Now, remember, this is television aimed at kids. And it’s produced by a country whose primary export, unlike the US, is not entertainment, and if British television and Japanese television and Canadian television is any indication, the rest of the world believes that spending actual money on the production of television is a shameful extravagance. And it is to some extent a soap opera (So I’ve been told. It’s kinda hard to tell the difference between a soap opera and a character-driven story with substantial plot arcs, though. Especially since sci fi fandoms are dominated by high-functioning crazy people who call anything with any kind of character development “soap”, insist it’s for girls, who are gross and slimy and have cooties, and why doesn’t anyone like me when I am so clearly a superior intellect in every way? And hey, give me back my lunch money!), so I’m guessing that it’s going to be a little rough.
Which is why you’re coming with me. Here are my observations on episode 1…
- This is the 80sest vision of the future since Max Headroom. Only when Max Headroom was on, it was the 80s. This show is ca 2001
- In the event of apocalypse, I wonder how long it would take me before my priorities shifted to include giving myself a weird Beyond Thunderdome makeup job.
- In every street scene, there has been a car on fire. Exactly how long after the apocalypse do cars stay burning?
- In this dystopian future, food and gum are valuable commodities. Weird 80s-style punk rock hair dye and makeup are apparently not in short supply.
- It has not yet been made clear how long after the apocalypse this show is set. It can’t be long, since a bunch of unattended prepubescent children are still alive on their own just sort of wandering around, and none of the people who were young enough to survive the plague have grown up yet. But it’s long enough that food is no longer readily available, and all the good stuff has been looted. I’m fairly sure that if production stopped dead tomorrow, it’d take a heck of a long time for the surviving population, which appears to be something in the neighborhood of 50, to loot everything.
- The bad guys, the “Locos” are a tribe that drives around in a police car, led by a kid who appears to be playing sort sort of Nazi version of Alex from A Clockwork Orange. It this is the near future, and he’s, let’s say, 16, it’s kinda inconceivable that he’d have seen A Clockwork Orange.
- The good guys, whose names I have not managed to learn yet, consist of a couple of random groups of kids who have all happened upon each other, and then stumbled upon a kid who’s fortified a mall. They’ve also captured this small gang consisting of two reasonable people (aside from the makeup and dye jobs. Seriously, in a desperate struggle for survival, everyone has time to keep up their dye jobs?) and their unreasonable boss who pisses off the Locos for no clear reason other than that he’s a punk. I suspect they will become the loveable-but-untrustworthy-antiheroic foils to the rest of the tribe.
- There’s two other folks who started out somewhere pleasant, then ventured out into the wasteland for unclear reasons. They haven’t interacted with anyone else yet.
- Seriously, this show has the look and feel of something that was made by PBS, except that it’s not educational. And is instead making me feel dumber. I keep expecting Video Toaster special effects (Which I am learning to identify on sight, by the way. That’s kinda cool.) I’m vaguely reminded of an old show set on a post-apocalyptic earth about the Dewey Decimal system. It was called “Tomes and Talismans”, which I mention here because from time to time I forget the title and have a hell of a time finding anything on the internet that reminds me of it.
- The credits list this show as having a Story by … Based on an Original Idea by… I assume the “Original Idea By” guy is the guy who wrote “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome”
- At least this show has an excuse for the post-apocalypse looking like the outback.
Episode 2 hooks up the other two with the tribe, along with the revelation, unless I overlooked it in the previous episode, that Trudy, that’s the girl of the other two, is about thirty seconds away from childbirth, which, I guess, can give us a ballpark figure for how long it’s been since civilization collapsed.
- In Episode 2, Clockwork Orange Guy holds a book burning. Just to prove that the Locos are evil. Because only evil people burn books.
- As predicted, the Gang-of-Three has been allowed into the Tribe. Bad Dye Job Girl seems to be on the frindge of being a good person, whereas their evil leader Lex Luthor is a dick, and let two of their gangmembers get captured by the Locos. I can’t seriously believe the idea that the Locos actually murdered the fallen gang members, being, fundamentally, a bunch of unruly children (After all, if they were that kind of crazy, they’d be doing something more evil than burning books. Like burning babies or something. So I’ll assume that they instead lost half their GP and were sent back to the last save point.
- Lex Luthor really is kinda stupid. His whole argument seems to be “Let us out of this cage, or we’ll hurt you when we get out of this cage which we can only ever do if you let us out!”
- New guy, the one with the pregnant girlfriend Trudy, gains their trust in about three seconds, then steals their food, then comes back with his pregnant girlfriend, and a bunch more food. Did I miss a step in his logic here?
- Trudy is bothered when the girl who Wikipedia tells me is named Amber doesn’t use her name when she asks about letting them stay. Trudy is nine months pregnant and the world is kind of a shithole. I think she could be a bit more gracious.
- Also, Trudy’s hair is half black and half blue. Even pregnant and on the run, she can keep up her dye job in this post apocalypse.
- The cars are still on fire. Are Kiwi cars all made of thermite? (Fun fact: Once you start thermite burning, there is no way to make it stop until all the thermite has been consumed)
Episode 3 centers around the debate as to whether or not to let Trudy and her boyfriend Bray join the tribe. Lex Luthor is against it for reasons which entirely make sense but which don’t count because it’s obvious that he sees Bray as a threat to his becoming the alpha male, while Amber is for it because she quite clearly wants Bray to tell her about this earth-thing he calls “Heavy Petting”, until the final scene where she does a face-heel-turn and decides to kick them out. Also, Lex Luthor forces unwanted smoochies on the two-tone-hair-girl from his own gang (Her hair is half red and half blue, so that we can keep her separate from Trudy. She also looks a bit like a girl I went to college, enough that I kept glancing up at the screen and saying “Hey, what do I know her from?”) in order to cement our belief that he’s a total douche.
- Cloey, the weirdly shell-shocked little girl who led Amber and whoever it was she started out with, let’s call him Shortround, to the rest of the children, spends this episode dangerously wandering off unattended to follow a cow into Loco territory. Someday, TV writers may realize that viewers can only stand so much of cute childlike characters who unthinkingly lead everyone into danger, like the kids who go playing in the zombie-filled wastelands in zombie movies, or the kids who sneak off to get a good look at the ghost and get captured, or Gilligan.
- Bray and Trudy get voted off the island. It’s Lost, it’s Survivor, it’s Mad Max, it’s all this and more!
- The frakking cars are still on fire. The Locos apparently all stick together and patrol the city in an orderly fashion, so who the frak is tending all these fires until they get there?
- Every time someone refers to Bray as the father of Trudy’s baby, Bray and Trudy look away. It’s obviously supposed to be a big surprise when we find out he’s not, so don’t spoil it for anyone.
- It’s not possible in TV for pregnancy to lead to anything but a sudden screaming birth at the worst moment possible, so you bet your sweet ass that Lex Luthor doesn’t even have time to extinguish her torch after voting her off the island that Trudy goes into labor
- Fun fact: In New Zealand, Macaroni and Cheese comes in a can.