What's the premise? This is a ten-episode comedy-drama taking place during the 34 weeks before a five-mile wide comet crashes into the earth and destroys mankind. HA-HA-HA? The story focuses on a variety of people from around the world (well—the UK, the U.S, and Italy), dealing with a literal countdown to doom...
Who's in it? Mathew Baynton (Horrible Histories, The Wrong Mans) is playing another everyman type in Jamie Winton, a boring bank manager from Slough who's wrongfully-arrested for cyber-terrorism. The real culprit is Jamie's hitherto unknown twin brother (also Baynton), who absconded with Jamie's missing wife Layla. Rob Lowe is the show's biggest name, playing rebellious Father Jude Sutton at the Vatican. Gaia Scodellaro plays innocent Sister Celine, a nun sent to the Vatican to interview for a research position alongside him. Jenna Fischer (The Office) appears as Rhonda, a mild-mannered librarian imprisoned for a crime she didn't commit (they love the idea of milquetoasts getting into trouble with the law on this show!) Megan Mullally plays Leanne, a veteran convict who takes Rhonda under her wing. Pauline Quirke (Broadchurch) and Joel Fry (Game of Thrones) round out the core cast as Jamie's mother and best friend, respectively. Paterson Joseph (Peep Show) and Kyle Soller will also be appearing next week onwards.
What are your first impressions? I was excited by the concept behind You, Me and the Apocalypse (henceforth YMATA), so it was a crushing blow to me that episode 1 felt awfully flat. Its various storylines fell into immediate clichés and there wasn't much sense of invention and originality to anything happening or with the type of "jokes" being made. It felt like I'd seen most of these characters and their subplots many times before, too; not helped by Baynton essentially reprising his Wrong Mans role with Joel Fry as James Corden's replacement. Father Jude's involvement was the only real spark of originality here, but his scenes were by far the dullest.
More importantly than a lack of invention, YMATA's premiere just wasn't that funny. I'm hoping many of its problems are because the drama and humour of the story is going to come from how these characters cope with the approaching apocalypse, as the comet's existence wasn't announced to the world until near the end of this scene-setting hour. And this is admittedly the kind of show that will take time to warm and bond with the characters. If its various plots go to unexpected places and dovetail towards a surprise conclusion for everyone, it's easy to imagine a funnier show evolving from such an inauspicious start. Basically: I'm perfectly willing to accept YMATA could quickly get a lot better very quickly, so I'll definitely be watching a few more.
But I still do have to question a number of creative decisions made by creator Iain Hollands; like why the show begins with Jamie and a handful of other survivors (including Rhonda and his mum) sitting inside an underground Slough bunker before the comet lands. These 10 episodes are being told as one long flashback, which means we already know those three characters are safe from harm. Where's the fun in that? I want to feel gripped by where all this is headed and have a lot of questions swirling around my head ("Will the comet really hit? Who will survive if it does?") But starting at the end and jumping backwards worked against that. Unless the journey to the YMATA's finale is considerably more entertaining and amusing than this hour suggests, it's going to be a long few months.
And while the production values are certainly good, YMATA is still one of those shows with an unmistakable smell of a British show perhaps biting off more than it can chew. Poor American accents float around everywhere (exacerbated by those mixing with Fischer and Mullally's genuine twangs), and the budget doesn't quite seem to be big enough to do YMATA's concept full justice.
What's the prognosis? I think this will be a moderate success for Sky, but it definitely won't be 'water cooler' conversation the next day. But maybe Sky they just want something that's easily devoured on their NOW TV streaming service, because at least binge-watching reduces the impact of problems more apparent with weekly gaps between episodes.
But for linear-TV watchers right now, there's stiff competition from BBC1 drama Doctor Foster that will be hard to beat on Wednesdays. And my Twitter feed was conspicuously absent of #YouMeAndTheApocalypse tweets when this went out. Heaven knows what American audiences will make of this when NBC show it (with the marketing inevitably skewed towards Rob Lowe's involvement), but I know it won't be troubling Emmy voters!
When is it airing? Wednesdays on Sky 1. In the U.S, this will premiere on NBC in the New Year, but keeping the original title You, Me And The End of the World that was dropped here.