Well, they did it. They really did it. Throwing money and camera crews at deluded wannabe survivalists for one show wasn’t enough, so the ratings-hungry vultures at NatGeo (who really ought to be disowned by their parent entity, the eminently respectable National Geographic Society) have given Doomsday Preppers’ Brent Bruns his very own spin-off miniseries…‘Doomsday Castle’. Ohboy.
For starters, it’s really quite funny how the producers have taken the family we last saw in a 20-minute segment of DP, and totally remade them into easily-consumable, airbrushed, up-to-Eleven, caricature-personalities properly befitting the ‘reality tv’ genre. Pappy Brent still makes self-important-sounding declarations to the camera, Dawn-Marie is still fairly levelheaded, DM’s twin brother is still young and cocky, the Spray-Tan Sisters are still ‘more primpers than preppers’, and Brent Jr is still…whatever he’s supposed to be (Gary Busey-in-training??), but whereas with their DP appearance, one could assume that we were just seeing a single facet of each person’s personality on-screen, here the idea seems to be that what we see is all there is to each. Ohwell, such is the nature of this repugnant genre.
And right off the bat, we have daddy dragging a pickaxe up the red-clay hill, narrating some macho dreck about The End Of Days, to the mellifluous tune of…Inception horns?!?! C’mon, you’ve got to be kidding!
In general, if you saw the family’s profile on ’Preppers, you’ve seen ’Castle. Brent I fears some sudden and unknown disaster (he’s gunning for—as he keeps saying—‘an EMPelectromagneticpulse’) which will befall the world, and instead of just spending a few thousand dollars on an underground prefab bunkertube like everyone else, he’s sunk nearly a million dollars into an ugly cinderblock structure on top of a North Carolina hilltop.
Note: Brent and everybody on the show will continue to refer to this structure as a ‘castle’, but don’t worry, it’s not. Honestly, I’d be totally fine with the whole undertaking if Brent just announced that he really wanted to own a Medieval Times franchise.
At one point Brent refers to the need for a “massive fortress that very few people could ever storm or tear down.” Well, massive it may be, but a fortress…it ain’t. A million dollars of cinderblocks and Portland cement in the form of a half-assed, lopsided design clearly built without defense in mind (unlike, something likesay a star fort) do not equal a fortress. At another point daddy-o predicts that “someday this castle is going to be under siege”. Yeah, from a strong wind. Really, I’m surprised that all those spindly, unbuttressed, one-brick-thick walls combined with the site’s hilltop location haven’t resulted in the whole thing getting blown down in a stiff breeze. To sum up: I’m really not a fan of people forgoing research into proper designs and methods, only to whip up something half-assed and calling it the real thing.
Anyway, in describing the effects of The End of Days brought on by an EMPelectromagneticpulse, papa smurf remarks that, “There’ll be no government that could help you, no neighbors that could help you, you’d be on your own!”, and so “the whole idea is to make us self-sufficient.”
Clearly, one of the negative effects of our American myth of rugged individualism is the mistaken-but-widespread belief in the solitary, self-sufficient mountain man, a myth which Brent clearly puts much stock in, as he foolishly picked a site in the middle of the North Carolina forest, far away from other potential survival-community-network members.
Reflecting the typical gung-ho, macho Type 1 prepper, Brent informs his offspring that “if we’re to survive a cataclysmic event, we need training!” Unfortunately, aside from astronomical or geological events, most human-caused disaster-producing events (which I would almost consider more likely) are almost never isolated! Long Emergency, much?
And so, to give them some of that needed training and in order to “show how vulnerable this family and this castle really are!”, Senior hires a small army of friends to ambush the newly-arrived kiddies. He really needn’t have bothered, because they don’t need an army of airsofters and paintballers, just a pack of firecrackers and a strong wind. Meh, there’s drama-stuff as everybody runs around; Brent’s friends get a chance to posture as tacticool Survivalist Men and assault them some women. So everybody ‘fails’ his little test, disappointing Brent, who brags how he “was an infantry training officer…I know the way a person needs to be trained.” Okay, mister One Right Way. If you say so.
Eventually, Brent reveals his plans to upgrade the castle with a drawbridge…and a moat!? Dude, you’re on the top of a mountain, ain’t no water gonna stay in a moat! He and Younger Son head out into the woods to shoot at steel plates to decide with which thickness they should clad their ‘drawbridge’. They shoot a .22 (pistol only, for some reason), as well as a .308 rifle, and a shotgun (at an unrealistic distance). What about a .22 rifle? Or a pistol in the 9mm/.40/.45 range? Or a 5.56 or an intermediate .30 rifle? If you really want to test these things, at least be thorough!
While they’re doing that, Jr and the girls are sent into the 2,000-square foot underground bunker basement (c’mon, let’s call it what it is) to get things organized. More concrete; how attractive; ugh.
Brent2 gets impatient and believes his potential is being wasted, and so he exasperatedly exclaims, ‘Let’s go find some supplies. I’m gonna fortify this bunker!” Dude, are you trying to sound like a video game character?
We take a pointless detour into Great Recession reality tv with a American Pickers-type segment in which B2 (with DM in tow) haggle over a local’s hoarded junkyard-yard.
Meanwhile, the Spray Tan Sisters eventually get the foodbuckets organized and beds assembled, and find time to put together some kind of improvised rat trap (utilizing bleach to drown the critter for some reason…bah, save it for disinfecting water).
Daddy and Younger Son get to work adding ‘drawbridge’ ‘hinges’ to a building probably not designed from the start with them in mind; they assemble their ‘drawbridge’ (thick, heavy-ass oak planks bolted to a couple of pipes) and it’s visibly wobbly and bending. I can’t say I’m surprised given the whole idea of Brent’s ‘castle’, but just ugh…the word craftsmanship has no place in a discussion of any part of this project.
With the thing installed, there’s some edited-for-drama b.s. as they’re raising the drawbridge right before the commercial break that amounts to nothing. (By the way, isn’t it kinda gauche to show ads for a show during that show’s timeslot? Maybe it’s just me.) Anyway it’s only once the thing is installed and raised in place do they decide to see how the steel plating does against an AR-15. What a surprise, it goes right through the steel (and very nearly splinters out the wood behind). What was the point of waiting until it was assembled and installed to test that???
And the stupidity gets even worse, when we pick up our b-plot (Brent Jr just wants daddy to love him!), in which Junior attaches junk to a lawn tractor and drives it into a half-assed-propped-up door. This apparently doesn’t please him, and so he then cuts down some trees, ratchet-straps them to a slightly larger vintage tractor, and proceeds to run it into the raised drawbridge—standing the tractor up onto its back wheels and tipping him out of the seat onto the ground. I honestly expected we’d see our first casualty, but damn, no Darwin Award for B2.
The rest of the series (thankfully they only got picked up for like, a 10-episode run)—which I will be neither watching nor covering here—looks just as bad as you’d expect.
However…If you enjoy the reprehensible entity that is ‘reality tv’…
Number one: such stuff is the fast-food of entertainment (entirely artificial, addicting, and ultimately harmful); get a life, read a book (might I suggest one of these?).
Number two: you should love this show. Everything I hate about the genre (which is to say, everything) is here in spades:
With all the ramping and frame-skipping – no wonder cognitive dissonance is on the rise!
Number three (and most encouragingly): you might be outnumbered on this one. I’m really pleased to see that a much larger number of people on the interwebz seem to have come out against NatGeo for promoting this kind of stuff.
ADDENDUM: for you curious folks out there, the ‘castle’ is located at 34°58’41.23″ N 82°43’37.96″ W (plug into GoogleEarth).