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

Cornea, Christine (2013) Post-Apocalyptic Narrative and Environmental Documentary: The Case of 'Life After People'. In: Dramatising Disaster: Character, Event, Representation. Cambridge Scholars Press, Cambridge, pp. 151-166. ISBN 978-1443842419

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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.

Item Type: Book Section
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Film and Television Studies (former - to 2012)
Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Art, Media and American Studies
University of East Anglia Research Groups/Centres > Theme - ClimateUEA
UEA Research Groups: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Research Groups > Film, Television and Media
Depositing User: Katherine Humphries
Date Deposited: 14 Jan 2013 09:55
Last Modified: 21 Jul 2023 08:57

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