Stories of the apocalypse and its aftermath have been around since "The Epic of Gilgamesh," so it isn't any surprise that apocalypse TV shows are popular. These shows usually only get a short run before television execs give them the ax, but there are occasional breakouts that keep us on the edge of our seat for more than one season.
"The Walking Dead"
Currently the most popular post-apocalyptic show on television as well as one of the highest rated cable shows ever, "The Walking Dead" tells the story of a small group of survivors in the south trying to make a new world for themselves after zombies overrun everything. The show's first season lasted only six episode, but kept viewers coming back to break cable television records. The second season slowed down a bit to add some characterization to the script, but the second half of the season brought the action-horror back in full force. The upcoming third season is one of the most highly anticipated premiers of the fall.
The little alien invasion series that could, fans of "Falling Skies" have helped keep this cable darling afloat strong enough that it recently picked up a third season order. Starring Noah Wyle, Moon Bloodgood, and Will Patton, the story centers around one small division of freedom fighters trying to keep their civilians safe while finding a way to fight back at the insect-like aliens that have taken over Earth. Steven Spielberg lends his creativity to the series as a producer and alien style consultant, which certainly can't hurt.
What did Jessica Alba do before she was famous? She starred in a post-apocalyptic series set in Seattle. One of James Cameron's few forays into small screen media, "Dark Angel" told the story of a genetically enhanced soldier and her search for others like her. Although Jessica Alba got nominated for a Golden Globe and the series won a People's Choice Award, the ratings weren't strong enough for a network show so it got killed after two seasons. Too bad it wasn't on cable.
Although "Jericho" was a fan favorite, it was pulled from the air by CBS after one season due to low ratings. Fans banded together to get a truncated second season on the air, but this cult classic still only saw 30 episodes. A third "season" was released in comic book form, and a fourth is planned with a rumor that producers are watching the comic series sales with the hope that there's enough of an audience to greenlight a film. Even if a film is never made, the 30 episode run of this post-apocalyptic series is already considered a classic of the genre.
"Fist of the North Star"
Although live-action apocalyptic television has usually gotten the short-shift, this popular Japanese cartoon ran for 152 episodes before adding films, video games, and spin-offs to its resumé. The story tells of a post-nuclear world where the strong dominate the weak. The hero, Ken, is well-trained in a martial art used for assassination and he takes it upon himself to clean up the trash that has taken over. Although extremely violent, the series is one of the best-selling anime series from studio Toei.
Perhaps the most successful American post-apocalyptic television series to this point, "Battlestar Galactica" starts off in the far future, after billions upon billions of humans have been killed by the evil Post-apoctalyptic purists may argue that since "Battlestar" takes place in space it shouldn't count, but the episode where the crew finds Earth to be a burned-out wreck should change their minds.