Friday, 18 March 2016

The Tribe, Season 1 (1999)

A viral pandemic sweeps the globe.  It is 100% contagious and 100% lethal ... but it only affects adults.  Anyone under the age of about 18 seems to be completely unaffected.

Six to twelve months later - the show never gives an exact time period - most kids in the unnamed city where our action takes place have splintered into groups of scavenging "tribes", fighting for territory and resources and cosplaying Mad Max.

The bad guys!  Though somehow, "Zoot" doesn't have quite the same ring as "The Great Humongous"

As you might have guessed from the show's title, it follows one such tribe.  Actually, it joins them before the tribe has even formed, as several small groups of previously unaffiliated kids band together out of necessity.

It's not really practical to try and cover all the plot-lines the show goes through: with over a dozen core characters and a whopping 52 episodes in the season, there's simply too much going on.  There are however a number of core themes.  First there's the struggle for the basics of life: security, food, water and other supplies.  Food and water in particular get a lot of attention, and are often mentioned to be in short supply.  Hair care products, on the other hand, are clearly easy to find.

A lot of time is also put into the internal struggles of the group; firstly over the direction the tribe will take - with some characters content to play the same thuggish game as the other tribes, and others wanting to build toward a better future - and secondly over the division of labour and the need for everyone to pull their own weight.

I'll give the show credit, they also don't shy away from some relatively weighty topics: teen sex, post natal depression and bulimia all get plot-lines, for instance.  Unfortunately the execution doesn't always match up to ambition.  Which is something of a problem throughout the show, really.  I mean, I kind of like the kitsch of the low rent Road Warrior look, but the acting and writing are clearly uneven, and both would probably have benefited more time being taken over fewer episodes.

Probably the biggest issue the show has to face is that it's now over 15 years since it was on TV and the goal posts are in a very different place now.  There was nothing else like it when it first aired.  These days it has to match up against shows like The 100, and that's not a comparison that makes The Tribe look good.

Probably worth checking out only if you're the kind of person who has a penchant for curious relics of past TV.

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