'You, Me and the Apocalypse': Daffy End of the World Comedy

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·Critic-at-Large, Yahoo Entertainment
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If you’ve seen ads for NBC’s You, Me and the Apocalypse, with Rob Lowe in a priest’s collar and Jenna Fischer in a prison jumpsuit, and wondered what the heck that show is about — well, it’s pretty accurately titled. A madcap comedy with tinges of drama about the end of the world, Apocalypse follows a group of disparate people as they prepare for an Earth-killing comet to strike our planet.

Related: Jenna Fischer on Her ‘Bonkers’ New NBC Comedy (And the Co-Stars She’d Call on in an Apocalypse)

You can tell that Apocalypse — premiering Thursday night — is a co-production with Britain: Its main plot features a face little-known to America, Matthew Baynton, whose Jamie is a bank manager in England who wants to find his wife, who disappeared seven years ago. Fischer plays Rhonda, an American woman imprisoned for hacking into government websites — but she’s actually innocent, taking the fall for her teen son. She makes an unlikely, and mostly unwanted, ally in Megan Mullally’s Leanne, a white supremacist convict who helps her escape from jail.

Then there’s Lowe’s priest, Father Jude, whose job at the Vatican involves identifying the coming Antichrist. It’s harrowing work that Father Jude finds so taxing, he self-medicates with booze and cigarettes, filling a baptismal font with his butts.

The entire enterprise, created by Iain Hollands, is whimsical rooted in despair, a favorite sub-genre of British comedy. You can see influences range from the novels of Terry Pratchett to the Carry On comedies of the 1960s, with a little of Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove updated by Orange Is the New Black.

In other words, You, Me and the Apocalypse has a merry fatalism that some viewers are going to find very amusing, while the majority of America will watch a few minutes of and say, “Enough of this stuff.” It’s got the makings of a cult following, if not a terribly long run in this country. How appropriate that Apocalypse airs as a time-period prelude to the Republican debate this evening.

You, Me and the Apocalypse airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on NBC.