First Look: The Colony is Just Another Senseless "Social Experiment"

Why is Hollywood so obsessed with the destruction of the world? Maybe it's because post-apocalyptic societies are fun for the special effects crew. Think about it: They get to engineer over-the-top explosions and large-scale disasters, and the makeup artists get to have a field day. Or maybe it's because end-of-the-world scenarios allow the actors to explore uncharted emotional territory. After all, no one knows what would really happen in a global emergency. But we've already dealt with nearly every known natural disaster on either the big- or small-screen, and recent films like Children of Men and Wall-E have addressed human extinction and pollution, respectively. So where does that leave us? What has Hollywood forgotten? Oh, right. A reality show.

The Colony is Discovery Channel's newest reality show, or "social experiment," as they like to call it. Cameras observe 10 people as they settle into a simulated post-apocalyptic world (created by "experts in homeland security!") near the Los Angeles River. Said "world" -- which has been devastated by a viral outbreak -- is pretty much a huge warehouse that conveniently contains a fixed amount of semi-dilapidated supplies and canned food.

The colonists begin their stay with no drinking water, no running water, no light, no electricity, no heat, no security, no nothing. Good thing they happen to know some really useful skills! One is an electrical engineer, one is an ER nurse, one is a contractor, one is an aerospace engineer, and so on. They're all completely capable of making the world sanitary, comfortable, and livable -- though they do have to deal with the occasional "marauder," sent in to bully them and steal their supplies. But the marauders have been told not to harm any of the colonists, so it's cool. Oh, and if anyone's health or safety is actually threatened, the show can intervene.

And one more thing: The point of the show is to create a working society. That's it. There isn't a prize for the winner or an opponent to beat.

Really, Discovery Channel? Really? Cameras? Food rations? Staged break-ins? A time limit of 10 weeks? Knowledge of the outside world? I'm no scientist, but I thought that too many controls in an experiment was a bad thing. This isn't a lesson in survival -- it's a lesson in acting.

Of course, an acting lesson might prove educational for some people, so it's not -- pardon the pun -- the end of the world for Discovery Channel. Not only will viewers see real survival skills in action, but they'll also get to watch humans interact under stress, which usually makes for good reality TV.

But the premise of the show is simply too hard to abandon. How can the experiment possibly yield accurate results if the colonists know it's not really a global catastrophe? Or if they know they're in L.A., mere miles from urban development? Or if they know they're being filmed? Or if they know they'll be rescued eventually? The real lesson of the show is this: Keep an engineer or a doctor handy at all times. You never know when you might need one.

With this absurdity in mind, the show is actually fairly entertaining. Some of the colonists really submerge themselves in the challenge, and one colonist in particular, Mike, stands out as the self-appointed leader, complainer, and sexist pig. He delegates work to fellow colonists, whines about having to give up cigarettes, and smirks when the women take on laundry duty. He's disgusting, but he's fascinating to watch -- especially among nine other people who don't seem to care as much as he does.

It's been said that in survival mode, people abandon their morals. I'd argue that the same thing happens when you watch a show like The Colony, but sometimes morals must be sacrificed for entertaining television.

Comments (9)
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I see a lot of comment here, reflective of comments I've seen elsewhere. I'm looking into acquiring the rights to continue the program. Like many of you, I really like the show, and yes, there is plenty of room for improvements. Some elements of the show cannot be changed, some can, I'd like to see this series continue. I've contacted several people so far, but as of yet, I haven't located who, where, or how to get the permissions to continue the show. If anyone can assist, it would be appreciated.
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The trumped up drama was poor, but I really enjoyed both seasons. Here is what I didn't enjoy........ the endings. Season 1 ended with a truck driving down the LA river. Season 2 ended with an airboat sailing into the bayou. What I wanted to see was the colonist getting debriefed, getting fed, getting washed, getting reintroduced to those who left or were removed, and then I wanted to see them re-entering society. That would have been a perfect finish to a somewhat interesting show.
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I don't know. I kinda like the show and kind of look forward to it. Beats the other crap on TV. I do wish it was more plausible in scenarios, group makeup, and longer. Ten weeks seems a bit stiff for me... especially getting the premise of everything. I feel it starts out slow the first two episodes and then they throw everything together towards the middle because they know factor in time.
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i could not disagree with you more. i dont usually like reality tv, but this is one hell of an interesting show
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This show would be interesting if it could be plausible
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So, let me get this straight. You want them to actually release a virus that kills the entire population, release dangerous 'bullies' that might severely injure them, and forgo any emergency help by the show staff? Get real. It's a television show to see how people react in an 'end-of-the-world' situation. Not even a true scientific experiment would put people in harm's way.
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Reality Show - All Wrong, that about says it all to me.
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Why do they keep filling space with this "stuff", I hope it gets cancled early and a REAL ( scripted ) show is put in the space.
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I'm actually looking forward to checking out this show. It may push the realm of "reality tv", but it's an interesting premise.

Believe me, there are far worse things on television than this in terms of reality shows. Dating in the Dark? How soon before Celebrity Spin the Bottle hits the airwaves?
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