They’re back! NatGeo has renewed Doomsday Preppers for a second season, and the interweb seems to enjoy my commentaries, so let’s get started.The season premieres with a look at a fellow called ‘Big Al’ from Nashville. The show says he’s a musician (who in Nashville isn’t?), but I’m going to guess that’s code for producer or maybe songwriter. We get to hear a little bit of some modern-country guy singing a novelty song about preppin’ (you can hear the whole thing here), and then Big Al starts on about how in all his studies of Russia, he’s terrified of nuclear war. It’s a valid concern; I certainly don’t want my gross body to be intraconverted into light and energy anytime soon, but I’m not sure we should be looking at Russia in this case. Sure, Putin has the makings of a Mark II Stalin, but if you’re worried about stray nukes, be worried about semi-rogue states with something to prove (Iran, N.Korea, etc.).
Mr. Al says that in his worst-case scenario, the missiles will start a-flying right after a “run on the dollar, closing banks, and the fall of the stock market”. Apparently, he thinks that Russia will only push the button once they’re absolutely sure our economy has fatally weakened. In the event that these red flags appear, Al’s plan is to hop in his van and bug out 1,800 miles to his mountain hideout, which actually looks nice, sitting on 40 acres up in the mountains somewhere. But his “underground house without windows” is a different story. Like most of this show’s homemade underground retreats, it’s pretty ugly and Hoarders-y. Al says he “prefers not to use” the word ‘bunker’, but apparently has no problem going on and singing songs about his ‘bunker stew’. He claims to have 1,500 cans of food, 1,000 gallons of local spring water (I’m wondering how he gets it into the bunker?), and five tons of firewood stored up, because—get this—he spends three full months out of each year ‘practice living’ underground.
Right after that fascinating development, the narrator informs us that isolation can lead to “acute anxiety, hallucinations, paranoia, and uncontrollable rage or fear”. Well, that’s definitely going to color our impression of Big Al for the rest of the segment. Well-played, producers.
Now, what does Big Al do while he’s shut himself away underground for a season? Chops firewood and watches movies about the Motherland. I guess at some point in all this obsessive Russophilia, he learns about Ivan’s fifty-year-old hydrogen bomb, the Tsar Bomba. Well, that gets him all worried that there’s another one out there just waiting to be dropped on us, and so something something gamma radiation. Now, if you’re somehow lacking, Our Culture’s answer is almost surely going to be, ‘buy stuff to feel better!’ And sure enough, Big Al buys himself a big steel tube to be an “annex” for his bunker. Well, that apparently alleviates his worry, and he gets so excited he spraypaints the name of the bomb he’s afraid of on the side. For some reason. Of course, the producers never tell us the name of the bomb, so it just looks like he’s writing nonsense on the tank.
Anyway, this season the show has added a degree of superfluous quantitative-ness to the ‘expert’ analysis. Five categories (water, food, shelter, security, and ‘x-factor’ which I guess is just miscellaneous attributes), 0-20 in each one for a total possible score of 100. He gets a score of 69, which the experts say computes to equal one year initial survival time. What this really means is, The Points Don’t Matter.
In Al’s submitted post-filming update segment, he seems to have had an epiphany and decides that he needs to really work on his health, and learning some skills to work with his hands to “be able to build things…instead of focusing on things that can be purchased”, which is a good lesson to be learned. Of course, if all these preppers learned that it’s mostly what’s between yer ears and not what you’ve spent on Stuff, the ‘experts’ would be out of a job.