As the impending shadow over Dystopia looms over us with; Brexit, Trump: The Movie, ISIS, Zika Virus, the inevitable future re-emergence of MechaFarage and our reality being swapped out for the augmented version available on Pokemon Go, Doomsday Bunkers has arrived on Netflix UK in the nick of time.
Doomsday Bunkers offers a fly on the wall look in to Scott Bales and his Texan based bunker building business, Deep Earth Bunkers. Each of the three available episodes features Scott and his crew servicing a terminally paranoid clientele, that refer to themselves as ‘Preppers’ (people who are preparing for various impending apocalypseseses), by planting fortified metal boxes in the ground.
We get a brief back story for each of these suckers, sorry Preppers, and their prophetic tales of disaster that they are awaiting with a yearning anticipation. The show then makes a half-hearted attempt to justify these delusions via a montage of text graphics made to look like newspaper headlines of things that might happen, but never actually have, whilst utilising some blurry, ancient stock footage of people rioting in the background for dramatic effect.
The structure of the show is similar to that of American Chopper and the millions of others that came before it. The construction of the bunkers is entwined with contrived sub-narratives of dysfunction within the crew, so the audience aren’t just watching a load of blokes welding for forty odd minutes. Typically the crew disharmony reaches a resolution at the end of each episode and its hand jobs all round. Manufactured story-lines in Reality TV are usually painful to watch because they are so very phoney, but in Doomsday Bunkers they add an element of humour in their juxtaposition to the talking head sequences of the Preppers. One minute you have a Prepper describing their dystopian prophecies of how the very fabric of society will disintegrate quicker than Primark denim. Cut to a whimsical sequence of a fork lift driver rampaging round a warehouse and failing to lift various masses of steel.
As a personality Scott Bales is hard to nail down. Sure, he isn’t exactly the most endearing character, as you could accuse him of capitalising on and pandering to the neurosis of his Prepper customers. However, for fans of the cheeky opportunist, he definitely has a scamp-ish twinkle in his eye, like an umbrella salesman that sees Chicken Little heading towards him. His crew is made up of King of the Hill, blue collar types that are barely distinguishable from one another. Amongst them is Jessie, Scott’s son. Jessie is a seemingly quiet, doe-eyed protégé, who is occasionally depicted as a petulant shit-gibbon depending on how keen the show’s producers are to ham up the ‘boss’ son’ angle.
As each episode draws to a close Scott walks his Prepper client around the finished bunker, like a shit Xzibit in an episode of Pimp My Paranoia. The bunkers are far from a thing of beauty. In fact the only entertainment value derived from seeing them completed is watching the Preppers get enthusiastic over what is essentially a glorified outhouse with an interior design best described as Soviet-snuff-film chic.
Ordinarily television that takes advantage of people is deplorable but Doomsday Bunkers may very well be the exception. Initially I had a degree of empathy for the Preppers. It seems perfectly logical to harbour a desire to build protection for yourself if you live in a high risk area of devastating tropical storms and the like. However, the Preppers have such a disdain for the rest of humanity that by the time they’re done rambling, you’re glad that Scott and his boys have helped them unburden their bank accounts. You get the feeling that the Preppers are hoping the end of the world will hurry up and happen so that they can;
A) Say, ‘I told you so’ to the smouldering, radio-active corpses of their neighbours that were stupid enough to spent their income enjoying their life.
B) Actually get to kill someone, as the Prepper mindset seems to be that anyone without a reinforced safe space is a latent cannibal and resources thief.
Point A is perfectly illustrated in episode two (Titled – ‘Kill or Be Killed’ – FFS) by a monotone, mumsnet type called Tanya. Tanya takes the time to descend from her pedestal to convey a strange, passive-aggressive contempt for anyone that doesn’t share her pessimistic world view. In a moment of unbridled bollocks she accuses ‘unprepared’ parents of child neglect.
“They are harming their children, and I feel like they’re not adequately taking care of them if they don’t have plans in place”, Tanya proclaims with a genteel condescension.
Point B is evident in the same episode when a family of rednecks order a booby-trapped, tactical bunker. As Scott demonstrates the custom fitted flame-thrower and metal grid with spikes he designed to slam in to the face of anyone that comes-a-knocking, one can almost hear the frantic scrubbing of his client’s hillbilly sister-mum, as she attempts to remove the stains from their under-gunders left by explosive ejaculate.
For us heinous ‘Unpreppers’ Doomsday Bunkers provides a big fat Hummingbird-sized slice of schadenfreude, as we bear witness to a televised example of the saying, ‘a fool and his money are easily parted’. Who knows? Perhaps the Preppers are correct and the four horsemen are donning their spurs. Personally, I’ll perfectly be content looking out of the ferry window on the River Styx, humming Highway to Hell, safe in the knowledge that I won’t be sharing a scorched earth populated by this shower of pricks.