‘Life After People,' Tuesday on History

by Verne Gay

Newsday (MCT)

21 April 2009

'LIFE AFTER PEOPLE,' THE SERIES - 10 p.m. EDT Tuesday on History 

REASON TO WATCH: Because you were one of the nearly 5.5 million viewers who made the original special a smash hit.

WHAT IT’S ABOUT: When more than 5 million tuned into the “Life After People” special in January 2008, you could pretty much count the days (or months) until a series was developed. And here it is.

In the original, History producers imagined what would happen when humans were no longer around to keep the great monuments of Earth’s civilization intact. Think “post-apocalyptic”-meets-CGI; it was both awful and glorious.

Tonight, the apocalypse continues (for a total of 10 weeks). The series begins on a morbid track, wondering about what happens to bodies - frozen or mummified - but “Life After People” is not one to tarry.

The episode moves quickly onto the fate of the USS Constitution, Sistine Chapel, city of Boston, Astrodome, Lenin’s body and much more. It also visits Hashima Island off Japan - once a thriving city devoted to coal-mining, abandoned 35 years ago and now a wasteland. We also learn that the Space Station will crash to Earth eventually, which will doom an unusual store of DNA onboard - including a piece, presumably hair, of Stephen Colbert! (You can’t make this up.)

The big question: You were asking, how can this stretch into a series? According to a History release: “Each episode is a more detailed exploration of the world we’ve built the survivors who try to take our place - how will certain breeds of dogs evolve,” for example. Also, “Every episode includes a visit to a real location long void of people - Tyneham, England ... Angkor Wat, Cambodia.”

BOTTOM LINE: Those who didn’t fall asleep in high school English class will remember that line of poetry from Shelley’s “Ozymandias” about the ruined colossus in the desert: “... Round the decay of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare, the lone and level sands stretch far away.” This remarkable program is dedicated to that simple proposition: We humans will not outlast our mighty works, and our mighty works will not outlast weather, time or pigeon droppings. This is the anti-history show on History, but what an amazing, enjoyable and educational ride.

//Mixed media