This British TV import ends the world like nothing you've seen before

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Dec 14, 2012, 4:09 PM EST

The future's not what it used to be: We've seen a lot of apocalypses lately, including the movies The Book of Eli and 2012 and TV shows from Jericho to NBC's upcoming Day One movie.

Add to that BBC America's upcoming Survivors, in which a flu virus wipes out all but a handful of the world's population. In England, survivors including a mother, a prison inmate, a nurse and a child form units to try to rebuild according to their own different plans.

If it sounds familiar, it is: Not only is the show based on a 1975 series, but it's also similar to countless other post-apocalyptic stories. What's different this time around?

Adrian Hodges (Primeval), who created the new series, says there's no limit to how many post-apocalyptic survival stories you can tell. (The show has already been picked up for a second season in the United Kingdom.)

"I think [the difference] is character," Hodges said last week in Pasadena, Calif., as part of the Television Critics Association winter press tour. "You're right, there is a lot of stuff out there and a lot of different angles on it. The fact of survival is a given. What it's about is how your character responds. So the interesting thing for me as a dramatist, and for the actors, is it gives you a brilliant chance to explore characters outside of society. If you look at most drama, it's all about people interacting within society. It's about the rules. Everything is about our reaction for or against society. If there is no society, then you're down to the basic stuff. You're down to how human beings really behave, how they might behave, how they would behave."

In the new Survivors, Greg (Paterson Joseph) just wants to find a farm somewhere and take care of himself. Abby (Julie Graham), a newly widowed mother, convinces him to join up with him and other survivors. Former inmate Tom Price (Max Beesley) gives himself a clean slate and reinvents himself. These are only a few of the permutations Hodges' drama can take. (Doctor Who's Freema Agyeman also stars.)

Everyone makes runs to the abandoned grocery stores and gas stations, but even the scavenging can take on different levels in these characters' hands. In Survivors, looting is not free: There are consequences to every supply run.

"I think the natural assumption is that because there's only a few people left, therefore there's a lot of stuff," Hodges said. "But, of course, a lot of stuff doesn't stay there for long. People will take it. A lot of it will perish. A lot of it will be inaccessible. So it becomes a really interesting dilemma about how you live."

Movies from The Road Warrior to The Road may make set pieces out of scavenging runs. But Survivors deals with the day-to-day realities of "looking for stuff."

"When you find it, what do you do about it?" asked actor Paterson Joseph. "Do you share it with everybody, or do you guard it with your life? Do you guard it violently? This is what happens in the warehouse. It becomes this place that people are prepared to kill each other for, because everything you would ever need is in this place. I think that's really true of what would happen."

Julie Graham's character is something different: the mommy action hero, a suburban housewife who only springs into action because she has to in this dangerous new world.

"When I first read it, I kind of thought, 'OK, I'm going to be playing this mother who's looking for her son,'" Graham said. "In actual fact, I realized that she's a real heroine and that there's so much more to that. Oh yeah, I absolutely loved it. It's such good fun."

Survivors also deals with a politician (Nikki Amuka-Bird) trying to re-establish government, under her own leadership, of course. She gets dangerously strict in the series' third episode.

"She badly wants to be the government," said Hodges. "That's the point. I think the interesting thing about that episode is in a world where we no longer have to play by the old rules, anybody who wants to play by the old rules has to prove that they're the big cheese."

Survivors premieres Feb. 13 on BBC America.

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