I didn’t watch National Geographic’s TV adaptation of The Hot Zone but I have read the book that it’s based on and, let me tell you, that thing is scary as hell. It’s the story of America getting THIS CLOSE to an Ebola outbreak and the brave men and women who used science to stop it. Richard Preston’s description of how Ebola ravages the body is haunting and enough to make the hair on the back of your neck stand up. I’m getting shivers just thinking of it.
It’s no surprise that the Nat Geo mini-series was a hit. The network took the material very seriously, cast and the show well and promoted it like crazy. It ended up being Nat Geo’s most-watched scripted series ever and now Deadline is reporting that the channel is looking to turn the mini-series into a returning anthology show. While that’s great news for the viewing public, it’s awful news for my anxiety.
Sources say the following seasons will focus on other health-related crisis, likely starting with the Anthrax attacks of the early 00s. That makes a lot of sense and means Nat Geo can keep this series going for some time since there have sadly been a decent number of viral catastrophes in history. If Nat Geo gets really adventurous maybe they can tackle the Black Plague! Think of the production design on that one.
With the success of both The Hot Zone and Chernobyl it seems like now is the time for series based on awful, real world disasters. The public is interested in this stuff and it helps that the minds behind these shows have taken the source material so seriously and haven’t played things up for scares. Zone and Chernobyl were both straight-forward and cold, almost clinical in their examination of the events. In a way that makes things so much scarier. But it’s not the sort of jump-out-of-your-set scary we are used to. It’s the sort of scary that rattles around in your mind long after the show is over and makes your heart skip a beat every time you hear a stranger cough.