“Aftermath” on Syfy
When it comes to apocalyptic visions, it’s hard to beat those of tangerine-hued prophet of doom Donald Trump. According to his 3am Twitter visions we’re on the verge of an American hellscape of invading Muslim jihadists, ruined economies, rape-crazy Mexicans, conspiracy-stoking media manipulators, rigged elections and fat, entirely undatable beauty queens. In comparison, the end-of-the-world scenario laid out in Syfy’s new series “Aftermath” seems rather quaint—and if we’re being honest, a little silly.
“Aftermath” is, like most stuff on Syfy, a cheap Canadian TV series sneaking over the border and trying to pass itself off as American. (Hmm. Maybe Mr. Trump is right.) The maniacally paced cluster-hump follows the lives of the Copeland family, a patently unrealistic clan of random stereotypes living on a farm in North Pasco, Wash. Mom Karen (Anne Heche) is a former Air Force pilot with kick-ass survival skills (a role Heche has a hard time selling no matter how hard she wears those mirrored sunglasses). Dad Joshua (James Tupper) is a “world cultures” professor who drives a hybrid. (Because that’s a totally realistic husband-and-wife pairing.) They’ve got a son (Levi Meaden) and two twin daughters (Julia Sarah Stone and Taylor Hickson). Life around the Copeland farm is difficult—mostly due to the endless earthquakes, hurricanes and meteor showers battering it and every other part of the globe. Also, there are the assorted demonic entities that stop by every once in a while to kidnap family members. Not to mention the “feverhead” disease sweeping through the population, turning people into blood-crazed killer zombies. Cartoonishly self-reliant Karen does her best to poo-poo talk of the Apocalypse. What’s a little fish rain or flesh-eating bacteria to a mom in mirror shades? Meanwhile, everyone else seems to worry more about their cell phone coverage than about the impending end of all life on Earth.
Despite one teenage daughter’s plan to run away and join her online boyfriend at college (a perfectly reasonable plan when faced with tornadoes and killer zombie hordes), the Copelands family up and hunker down at their farm. Huddling safely near a picture window during a Category 5 hurricane, the Copelands emerge unscathed. Heck, leaves aren’t even blown off trees as various low-budget natural disasters attempt to knock off our scrap-happy brood. Their resolve is broken, however, when a supernaturally possessed neighbor (whom Joshua somehow identifies as a “skinwalker”) flies off into the sky with their daughter. Naturally, the remaining Copelands pile into their RV and go looking for her, “Walking Dead”-style. It’s a brilliant plan, setting up the inexpensive road-trip momentum of the show’s first season.
It’s hard to tell if “Aftermath” is trying and failing to make fun of its cheesiness or if everyone involved just gave up as they were shooting it. Syfy’s equally goofy “Z Nation” at least has a sense of humor. Nearly every po-faced character here seems oblivious to the extinction-level destruction unfolding around them. With just a slight tweak in attitude, this could have been the Naked Gun of Syfy shows. Instead, it’s an overstuffed, underfunded mishmash of every apocalyptic scenario Hollywood has ever barfed up.