Survivors, BBC1

Most of humanity has been wiped out, but can this killer-flu drama avoid turning into 'The Good Life'?
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The Independent Culture

Marooned on a desert island, staggering from the plane crash, immune to the pandemic, the survivor's taste in friends changes in an instant.

There's no room here for the bloke who can recite The Boy Stood on the Burning Deck while drinking a yard of Bishops Finger. At moments such as these you need, in order of importance, Monty Don, a veterinary surgeon, a master carpenter, and an anaesthetist, in case the efforts of all the above fail. So, at best, the brave new world promises nourishing meals on a well-constructed table; at worst, pain-free oblivion.

The Manchester cell of strangers who are among the one in a 1,000 to survive a global outbreak of "European flu" have fallen on their feet: they have a doctor. But she's not letting on. (You know how it is for GPs: they drop in for sherry and nuts on sticks and the other guests start showing them their corns.) Handy then, that Greg (Paterson Joseph), when faced with a victim crushed beneath a landslide of merlot cases in a warehouse, can wrench a compound fracture into shape and break into a bookshop to look up the properties of penicillin.

Such boy scoutery on a life-and-death scale will be at the heart of Survivors, the first two episodes, bobbing up twice in one week, in that Little Dorrit way, having set the scene.

From the opening sequence of high-speed pedestrians and the sort of twirling on the beach that signifies carefree times, the nation, and the world, shuts down within days. Pause. Silence. And then the lucky/unlucky few set out, each alone, along empty streets to relearn life. Al the playboy (Phillip Rhys) races through deserted clearways, swigging champagne in his Audi. Distraught mother Abby (Julie Graham) heads north to find her child, alive or dead, at an activity centre. Prisoner Tom (Max Beesley) kills his warder and becomes the group hard man.

The bonding starts when Al nearly hits 11-year-old Najid (disarmingly played by Chahak Patel), who is playing in the road. He leaves him but goes back for him, with conditions. "I'm not going to bloody Blackburn," he declares. And as the odd couples bond with each other and then with other pairs, we see the same rapid multiplication that the virus in the opening credits exhibits.

Some are resistant: "We don't know each other," says the amateur fracture specialist. "We have nothing in common." Just as well. You can only make so many splints. But can he boil an egg? He may need to, because Al and Najid, in one of their feel-good comic capers, capture a chicken.

My sole memory of the 1975 Survivors was the making of soap. This seemed to involve boiling up pig parts with not as much eau de cologne as one might have liked. Thirty-three years on, the shops are laden, and assuming that you don't mind the hanged looter and the neighbourhood bully who hints at nastiness by zipping his anorak right up and pointing a shotgun at your temples, you just help yourself to a lifetime's supply of Molton Brown.

It won't all be this easy, though, and there is much talk of "We're going to have to start all over again," and "There's only one choice: we stand together or die" and "Being good isn't enough any more. We need to be organised" and "We're seeing each other for what we are, and it's not pretty." So far, so trite, in a script by Adrian Hodges which belted along at the global meltdown stage but which by episode two struggled not to turn into an episode of The Good Life.

But we have had two glimpses of a sealed laboratory where everyone wears white and is perfectly well. Perhaps they created the flu bug. Or perhaps, as we are down to our last eight fungi specialists, they are our missing mycologists. Everything points to mushroom omelettes in episode three.