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AW series host/writer Brian Paisley at Mayan ruins of Palenque
AW series host/writer Brian Paisley at Mayan ruins of Palenque

Why are we still so fascinated with the apocalypse? Add to ...

Personally, I think it’s a mistake to trash-talk the Mayan calendar and its prediction that Dec. 21, 2012, is the end of days. It is better to be quietly terrified and prepared.

Signs of the apocalypse are everywhere. No NHL hockey. The craze for hot-dog stuffed crust pizza in Canada. Toronto in the hands of a strange, large man who waddles from court room to school playing fields, over and over, while the city stagnates and crumbles. The maker of legendary cream-cake Twinkies closing down. Surely such events are there in the melancholy predictions of Nostradamus?

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Prepare yourself, I say. Prepare yourself for never seeing season three of Downton Abbey and season two of Girls while eating Twinkies. Don’t fret about the proposed Dawson’s Creek reunion. It was going to be awful anyway.

Okay, okay, I know I struck the panic button with some of you on the mention of missing Downton Abbey. Calm down.

A good idea is to watch Apocalypse … When? (Vision TV, 11 p.m.), a new, serious and provocative five-part series about the cultural obsession with the idea of looming apocalypse. Airing every night this week, the series asks, “What is this fascination we have with the end of the world?” After approaching the question from various angles it gets around to asking, “What happens when nothing happens after the apocalypse is predicted?

As writer and host Brian Paisley explains with the help of scholars and others, we have been obsessing about doomsday scenarios since the beginning. We hear a great deal about Zarathustra and the various ideas of a last judgment that have permeated most religions. We hear from scholars who practically smack their lips when discussing the Book of Revelation and the possible imminent arrival among us of the Whore of Babylon.

We also get good visuals from various attempts to dramatize the end, and related horrors. Particularly striking is a silent Italian movie from 1912 which dramatizes Dante’s Inferno with some nifty special effects. It’s possible to see the connections between these multiple images across cultures and religions and how they are similar, up to and including the 2009 disaster movie 2012.

The upshot – although it is delivered with more seriousness than I am mustering here – is that we are programmed to dwell on the possibility of an apocalypse of some sort. Whether we see it coming from outer space or see it as the natural result of evil in the world, we cannot help but consider the possibility that life as we know it could simply end. It entertains us and it chastens us.

Personally I think the end will definitely be nigh when people actually find that Sun News is a mandatory channel on basic cable. And, really, you can’t truly picture the Antichrist until you’ve seen Ezra Levant get worked up about the scourge of civilization that is the CBC.

Oh, and Downton Abbey season three premieres Jan. 6 on Masterpiece on PBS. Phew, right?

Also airing tonight

Hit & Miss (SuperChannel, 9 p.m.) is one of the oddest entries in the hit-man genre. Created by Paul Abbott, who also wrote Shameless and State of Play, it stars Chloë Sevigny as Mia, “a pre-operative transgendered woman” who is also a cool assassin. She is a woman with a penis who earns large fees for killing people and also happens to be in charge of a bunch of kids following the death of her ex-wife.

All of this sounds highly complicated, if not risible, but the series has an astonishing, calm beauty to it. Much of it is set in the English countryside, which looks breathtaking.

Few actors would be brave enough to undertake this most challenging of roles, but Sevigny is game for it.

Dept. of Opera Notes and Clarification: In a recent column about the TLC show Bada Bling Brides I misidentified one of the customers at the Sposa Italia bridal store in Toronto. I gave the incorrect name to Charlene Esposto-Scheibler, who was in touch to politely point out that it was she, not the person I named, who is a trained soprano and who had a memorable cameo, bursting into song while trying on her dress. Bada Bling Brides is being repeated often on TLC, so check out the cameo.

All times ET. Check local listings.

 

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