Last month, The CW announced that the pandemic drama “Containment” would not return next season. This was not only bad news for everyone employed on the series, it was bad news for the Survival Industry.
But while “Containment” plays out the remainder of its season, it still has an important role to play. That’s because any television show introducing younger generations to the preparedness and self-reliance mindset is good for the culture, and business.
The CW is a young network that targets young audiences, and when it joined the crowded field airing apocalypse-themed prime time television shows, it sent another signal that Hollywood recognizes a legitimate movement in preparedness, self-sufficiency and concern about threats to our society.
In fact, the show’s creator, and The CW’s top producer, Julie Plec (“The Vampire Diaries,” “The Originals”), clearly had typical Survival Industry themes on her mind when she launched “Containment.”
“I leaned into my fears that I’ve always had, whether they’re merited or not,” Plec told Variety. “We all sit around and worry about what’s going to happen when the earthquake hits, or if there’s a dirty bomb, or the zombie apocalypse. We all ask ourselves those questions, so this is a way of exorcising that story that I’ve always told in my head.”
In many ways, Tuesday night’s “Containment” is as formulaic as every other popular show on The CW. The main characters are beautiful people and the drama often feels like a soap opera. But if the viewers see it as more than eye candy, then a new generation, which Forbes counts as 80 million people with $200 billion in annual spending power, can join the conversation.
Based on the Belgian series “Cordon,” the American version is set in the heart of Atlanta. When a deadly virus breaks out in a mid-town hospital and quickly spreads to anyone who comes in contact with the infected, officials are very quick to blame a Syrian refugee as the cause.
Unfortunately, the flu-like virus results in a bloody death that spreads as fast as it kills. and things quickly spiral out of control.
The show’s writers don’t hesitate to pile on. One day beautiful people are going about their business, and the next they’re caught up in a deadly disease, political intrigue, drug gangs and a suspicious government response.
To deal with outbreak, the Centers for Disease Control, conveniently headquartered in Atlanta, sets up a multi-block quarantine area in the heart of the city. No one gets in, and no one gets out.
Somehow, within 24 hours, the local police department manages to fence off and quarantine the center of a metropolitan area home to 5.5 million people. Somehow, 11 cops get caught in the cordon without their knowledge. And those 11 cops are left behind to manage 30,000 other people trapped inside without back up or supplies.
How this could happen, and how individuals would respond, are the kind questions and conversations The CW wants its viewers to consider.
The network leadership “wants to make programming that gets people talking, whether it’s comedy, whether it’s horror, comic book, whatever feels relevant to the world,” Plec explained to Variety. “This fits right into that. It’s certainly a conversation piece, and it does not fit their brand, and yet it can expand their brand in a way that could be really great if people watch it.”
On its own, “Containment” is as powerful as it is immature, just like the Millennial Generation that watches The CW. And if the network is truly interested in generating productive conversations to reflect the mindset of its leadership, the failure of “Containment” should be chalked up as a genre-rookie mistake that paves the way to other survival shows geared to Millennials.
Regardless, Plec and The CW demonstrate that their own fears and the resulting conversations are relevant even in the make-believe world of Hollywood. And if the Survival Industry wants to continue to grow, it will take advantage of this opportunity before “Containment’s” final curtain call.