End-Times TV


Global warming and nuclear war are two issues worthy of examination, but ABC News' Last Days on Earth special last night didn't so much examine them as try to get us to rubberneck at their possibility. "

Throw in biological warfare and the ever-present danger of a huge asteroid smacking into us and you had the recipe for sensationalism rather than enlightenment.

Hosted by Elizabeth Vargas in funereal black, or at least funereal charcoal, I couldn't tell, the show was a series of doomsday scenarios accompanied by threatening music, stock mushroom cloud footage, and breathless warnings and descriptions of what would happen to us all, which was basically that we would all die horrible deaths, bleeding everywhere or immolated in a flash of purple-hot cosmic happenstance..

There was one scene in which the silhouettes of people were seemingly consumed by a hoard of cockroaches. That was enlightening.

Then there was an "Inconvenient Truth-Light" segment on global warming featuring Al Gore, which was the least sensational, hence the most frightening.

All in all, I applaud giving over two hours of prime time to world issues–I think it was two hours, but I missed the first part and at least one of the cataclysmic scenarios.

But this smacked of alarmist TV for the purpose of drawing eyeballs. Given the current state of the world, getting hit by an asteroid should not be high on anybody's priority list of worries. Plus, it has been so done. In fact, is there anyone who doesn't know of the threat of nuclear war, and the ginned-up nonthreat of an asteroid hit.

Nuclear war and global warming, yes. But I am not sure the "Bogie man" theory of presenting it breathlessly as the Last Days on Earth, and teasing it at the breaks with invitations to see how horribly you will die in the next scenario is news, even in a looser sense of the word than I am used to using.

It said "ABC News" on the icon in the corner of the screen, but I did not see many ABC newsfolk actually reporting on the issues.There was lots of stock footage of bombs, though, and graphics of asteriod hits. At least they didn't include clips from 1950's sci-fi flicks with death rays and giant creatures with tails capable of leveling cardboard cities with a single swing.

Come to think of it, I would have liked to see that.

Actually, what I would have rather seen is a rerun of  The Day After. That was the strictly entertainment show, though in a guarded use of that term, ABC aired more than two decades ago showing the aftermath of a nuclear strike on the U.S.

Following that, there was a straight news take on it, with Ted Koppel hosting a discussion on the actual likelihood of the scenario, including with Henry Kissinger.

Personally, I prefer the separation. Entertainment treatment as discussion-starter, news treatment for the discussion.

Last night's special blended the two uncomfortably. But hey, maybe it's just me.

By John Eggerton