Post-Apocalyptic Narrative and Environmental Documentary: The Case of 'Life After People'

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The premiere of the documentary "special" Life After People (Flight 33 Productions) on the 21st January 2008 broke viewership records for The History Channel (capturing 5.4 million in the United States) and, following successful broadcasts around the world, spawned a 2-season spin-off series that began in 2009. The "special" also attracted a great deal of press commentary, first in the US and, later, in the UK and Australia. Still, it has received very little academic attention. Certainly this programme presents the media academic with a number of challenges, as it appears to raise more questions than it answers: questions about genre, about meaning, and about purpose. Yet, this is what makes it such a fascinating and useful case study for me, as tackling these questions can tell us a lot about contemporary uses of the post-apocalyptic narrative, about the possible relationships between television programme content and channel identity, and about the role of discursive contextualisation in determining documentary values. With reference to some of the formal and narrative aspects of this programme, as well as coverage in general, specialist and trade press, this chapter looks at the particular significance of Life After People for The History Channel and at how the programme came to be understood in the context of environmentalist discourse.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDramatising Disaster: Character, Event, Representation
EditorsChristine Cornea, Rhys Owain Thomas
Place of PublicationCambridge
PublisherCambridge Scholars Press
Number of pages16
ISBN (Print)978-1443842419
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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