That usually means: amateurish actors, no production values, shot with camera phones from shaky hands and no budget.
“American Blackout” (National Geographic Channel, 9 p.m.) is all of those things and worse. It tarnishes the century old brand by pretending to be real but being fake, a “War of the Worlds” scenario on a network where people usually see actual documentaries of the wondrous world, beautifully filmed. This instead, is a lie, terribly filmed.
More cynical than that, it’s meant to tie into the season return for “Doomsday Preppers,” the channel’s big hit, which exploits the paranoid like other networks exploit hoarders, for our voyeuristic entertainment and laughs, while people prepare for events that are either very unlikely or already disproven.
In “Blackout,” it’s very serious, as a handful of never introduced characters find themselves suddenly in the black and find the best use of the remaining juice on their cell phones, like a Refurbished iPhone, is best used by doing video selfies describing the action and attempting to show their fear.
One family has their bug out bags packed and heads out to their bunker in the woods, only to be confronted by neighbors who want some food. The affrontery! They are met with rifles. A third family has to deal with an impending birth.
A NewsCorp company, Nat Geo naturally uses Fox identified news anchors to sloppily tell the details of the outage — the news outlets still with power apparently, the anchors unflappable after three days of the outage, not even removing their sports coats.
Just as in the first cut of CBS’ “Under the Dome” last summer, producers stole from a President Obama news conference about the Sandy disaster for their fictional purposes, irresponsibly feeding the fire of those dumb enough to think something this badly done could be actually true.
And while CBS came to its senses and cut the Obama press conference from its premiere, saying it “had concerns about using actual audio in this specific fictional context,” “Blackout” uses it freely anyway.
Cable TV has been a hotbed of bad movies, but even “Sharknado” had a shred of humor, or the self-awareness of what it was doing was schlock. “Blackout” is a puppet show meant to scare, and to encourage Prepper mentality.
That was clear from the oddly lavish world premiere party at Nat Geo headquarters last week, organized by Dee Dee Meyers’ public relations company and featuring survivalist stations, of people doing civil defense, handing out prepper handbooks and outside, cooking S’mores on open fires. Because when power goes out, all we’ll have are S’mores.
With a bar and buffet, it was obvious they were spending more on the party than they had on the movie. Nevertheless, they closed the film for those still remaining with a panel discussion not about the movie, which most participants chose to ignore, but on the possibility that cyber attacks could cause a nationwide power grid failure.
Among the panelists was former head of the CIA and NSA Michael V. Hayden, who got in the headlines not for anything he said at the event, but for blabbing freely on his cell phone on the train back to new York, such that a reporter tweeted his conversation all the way back. With action like that, clearly there are things to fret about in our country. “Blackout” is not one of them.
ABC: Dick Cheney, Sens. John Barrasso and Joe Manchin, Howard Dean. CBS: Rep. Darrell Issa, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. NBC: Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Rep. Peter King, Rick Santorum. CNN: Reps. Mike Rogers and John Fleming, former Obama administration health policy adviser Ezekiel Emanuel. Fox News: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Reps, marsha Blackburn and Xavier Becerra.