You, Me and the Apocalypse is a slice of UK and US gold, or perhaps platinum, a comic look at a catastrophe of biblical proportions. Akin to the theme behind Armageddon and other films where a giant meteor, or in this case a comet, is on a collision course with the Earth and mankind is doomed, the series veers off course from the science fiction “saving of mankind” and instead focusses on a small group of survivors.
The series aired first in the UK and had, presumably, been altered, re-made, re-imagined (insert word of choice here) along the lines of Broadchurch (UK) and Gracepoint (US) over on the FOX network. It does seem to be an amalgamation of the original as it appears that all the main characters are in this NBC version. There is, at this point, at least one name missing from the 2016 credits; Dame Diana Rigg, who plays “Sutton” in the “English” version.
The premiere is narrated by Brit actor/writer Mathew Baynton who plays twins; one evil hacker; Ariel and the other, a bit of a Milquetoast type, Jamie; a bank manager. Baynton, who looks like a real-life version of the cartoon “Roger” from the Disney animated film 101 Dalmatians, is seen first as the comet is just moments away from destroying all. Sitting in an underground bunker under Slough (Why Slough is not revealed in the first episode) he is pondering why the 14 people with him are there.
Rob Lowe plays the literal Devil’s Advocate; Father Jude Sutton, and the man is a foul mouthed and aggressive priest whose job is to sully potential saints. Jenna Fischer is Rhonda; a librarian and mother, who takes the rap for her son, a young man who hacked the NSA, and she is in prison waiting to go on trial for treason.
Megan Mullally is the white supremacist who takes Rhonda under her tattooed wing and (personal favorite) Pauline Quirk plays Jamie’s mum, who has a bit of a secret that has serious ramifications for her son. Newcomer Gaia Scodellaro plays Sister Celine, who ends up working for Jude just as the world is about to end.
The series has been called a dramedy by some but is, in reality, just rather heavy in British humour. You, Me and the Apocalypse is a bit of brilliant comedy that is not afraid to mix what feels like real human behavior; mass panic and looting (in Rome no less) and how everyday things just stop once the news of the comet is made public.
Rob Lowe, who has been “grinding” on another NBC comedy, proves that his comic timing and deft touch are a good fit in any role. In all honesty, it is Lowe’s delivery that makes each utterance a golden comic gem. During the Sister Celine interview he asks the potential assistant:
“Let me ask you, do you find the phrase “Christ on a bike” offensive?”
Pauline Quirk, after portraying a very different character in the seaside murder mystery Broadchurch steps back into light comic mode as Jamie’s mother and is, as usual, a delight to watch. Scodellaro is touching as the naive Sister who decides that she will work for the Devil’s Advocate after all. Sister Celine also has a few amusing lines, not least of which is her amazement at discovering that there really is a Devil’s Advocate:
Father Jude: “So, tell me what you know about the Devil’s Advocate”
Sister Celine: “Honestly, nothing. I thought it was a figure of speech until I saw your door.”
The entire premiere is full of moments like the above interchange. Odd, quirky, funny and all set against the end of the world…via comet.
While a lot of the gags are English versus American, they still work and the ones that may not translate well do not really matter. For instance, the “White Horse” that the police believe bank manager Jamie to be is the logo, or was for years, of Lloyd’s Bank…clever, eh?
Jenna Fischer (The Office, Slither) is great as the woman so far out of her depth who is rescued by the real White Horse because of her “hacking skills.” Baynton is excellent as the almost OCD chap who relies upon his tedious routines to keep his life in check after his new bride; Layla (Karla Crome) disappears in the airport at the end of their honeymoon.
Thus far this UK and US comic offering looks fun and that little bit different. From an irreverential look at the clergy to the meltdown of society by the mainstream populace, the series takes catastrophe and makes it funny amid the chaos.
You, Me and the Apocalypse could just be the icing on Rob Lowe’s cake, proving that he can do much more than be The Grinder on NBC (Although in essence he has already since this series was on UK telly first.) The series airs Thursdays on NBC and all that remains is for Dame Diana Rigg to show up and make this series perfect.
Tune in for the end of the world chaos and the show’s quirkiness and stay for the comedy.