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Crapsack World / Live-Action TV

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  • 24: Par for the course when terrorist attacks on American soil have become a common occurrence and the government has essentially given counter-terrorist operatives free reign to use torture on anyone suspected of being involved in the plots. A good way to sum it up would be to point out that in a twenty year period, the U.S. has had nine different presidents, only one of whom actually finished out the term they were elected to. The rest were either assassinated or forced to resign in disgrace.
  • The 100:
    • The series starts out about a century or so in the future, with all that's left of humanity having escaped to space when nuclear warfare pretty much made the entire planet radioactive. However, because of limited resources, everything is rationed (with the more privileged naturally having access to better quality everything), there is a "one child per family" law for population control, and all crimes are punishable by death unless you're a minor. Oh, and oxygen systems are failing, so they've got 4 months to live, at best.
    • Then the main characters get down to Earth and discover that they aren't really the last humans alive... and things just get worse from there. The whole concept of the series appears to be "Battlestar Galactica (2003), but even more depressing". Humanity virtually wiped itself out without an alien invasion happening (although there was a mad AI making things worse), but even now the total population is a fraction of what it was, different groups still can't live in peace together. The series runs on Humans Are Bastards, Hobbes Was Right, Violence Really Is the Answer, and Diabolus ex Machina, and by the later stages of the show all the characters who sincerely want peace and brotherhood have nevertheless committed the Final Solution on an opposing group at least once.
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  • The Adventures of Superboy: In the episode "Roads Not Taken, Part 2", the titular character visits an Earth on an alternate timeline, ruled by a dictator known as the Sovereign, who is his duplicate in that timeline.
  • Battlestar Galactica (2003): The human race is made up largely of flawed, amoral, and evil people who barely deserve to continue existing as a species, every victory the fleet wins comes at great cost, and even the completion of their quest to find Earth nets them nothing but the lifeless, irradiated ruins of a dead civilization.
  • Blackadder: The first series starts off with him accidentally (more like not) lopping off his uncle's head (said uncle absolutely despised him despite not knowing him at all and was willing to use him as arrow fodder because of it), and throughout the series Blackadder just keeps sliding further down the social food chain. It is a case where the ugliness of all ages is this being Played for Laughs. The first season is The Dung Ages pretty much with dirt, poverty, the plague, crime-infested counties, dung, wars at the drop of a hat, a warmongering king who causes wars at the drop of a hat, witch hunts and more dung. Even the Prince of the Realm himself isn't safe from the violence much of the time mostly because of the aforementioned cruel kings, ruthless witch-hunters and bloodthirsty criminals. The second season gives emphasis on the reign of terror of the Queenie and how easy it is to end up beheaded and like in the first season there are equally horrible people who vie for her position and as for the heads of the Anglican Church they turn out to be depraved loan-sharks. Also the only available remedy for most ailments is leeches. The third season has the retarded Prince living in luxury while everything outside the palace is pretty much a hell-hole filled with intellectual psychopaths, political psychopaths and highway-men who are also psychopathic. This is complicated by the fact that it is ridiculously easy to rig the elections. And the fourth is self-explanatory considering that it was the bloodiest world in history at the time and the incompetence and sociopathy of the heads. Human life has little to no value and those who survive the insane orders that they receive have to live in squalor and have rats as snacks to live another day.
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  • Blake's 7: If they're nice/happy, they stop being nice/happy or they die. If they're not, they get worse or they die. If they get worse, they die. If they don't die, run.
  • Breaking Bad: Albuquerque has a few decent neighborhoods, but otherwise appears to be dirty streets frothing at the mouth with a meth problem.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The episode "The Wish" where Cordelia gets transported to an alternate universe where Buffy never came to Sunnydale. The normal Sunnydale is no picnic either, but it was preferable to this.
    • There's also a 'Buffy' novel that has an even more disturbing Wish-type world. Instead of The Master being the vampire king, Giles is the vampire lord of Sunnydale.
    • The final season of Angel really began to delve into this following Fred's death. Illyria wondered if there was anything good in the world, and all Wesley could offer her was "hope".
      • And season 4 had Jasmine, a benevolent Eldritch Abomination who made the world a better place at the cost of free will. Wolfram & Hart were so grateful to Team Angel for getting rid of her that they made them the new head of their LA branch.
    • The further you get into Buffy and Angel, the more the crapsackness of its universe is foregrounded. In one episode of Angel, Angel takes an elevator to Hell, only to have it to take him back to the real world because there was no way of making a hell worse than Angel's normal life. It's not for nothing that Joss Whedon argues the real villain of Buffy Season Six is "life itself".
  • Carnivàle: Truth in Television based on being set in the dust bowl during the Great Depression.
  • Charmed: Set in a world where you are born with no power and an easy victim to demons and warlocks, with good powers but too weak to do much and now a target of said demons and warlocks, with bad powers where you have no choice to be good and live in a darwinist underworld, or are the Charmed Ones who are powerful but targeted by virtually all the forces of evil until you either die or kill enough powerful demons that they decide to bide their time and wait to try and kill the next generation.
  • Citizen X: The Soviet Union is a bureaucratic nightmare where the vast majority of people are poor regardless of what they do and the government will deliberately cover up a Serial Killer to maintain the party line.
  • Curb Your Enthusiasm: Nearly every character, recurring or one-time, is a miserable jerkass.
  • Cockroaches is a Brit Com which takes place in a post-apocalyptic enviroment, 10 years after nuclear war has devastated the Earth.
  • Dark Angel: It is set in the crapsack world of the US Pacific Northwest after an EMP takes out a lot of the infrastructure for the USA (and presumably elsewhere). The series is set in a chaotic world where thugs and criminals are in control and so on. Paragraph 2 of the definition of this trope is a perfect description of the Dark Angel setting.
  • Dead Set: A world where the only thing to watch is Big Brother.
  • The Defenders (2017): The Netflix shows give us a much darker, more violent and corrupt world than we would expect in a regular MCU movie.
    • Daredevil (2015): How New York City and Hell's Kitchen is portrayed in the show. The whole show does a good job of depicting an environment so dark and corrupt for so long, it actively creates people like Daredevil, The Punisher, and Wilson Fisk himself. To clarify, the city is infested to the brim with gangs, criminal organizations, mobsters, gangsters, drug lords, extremely violent people, corrupt officials, dirty cops and junkies. There is vulnerability of rights in many of its citizens, particularly those with few opportunities, and most people live in constant terror because of the ineptitude of the authorities and rampant corruption. The first season already presented us with a very dark environment, where many criminal organizations want control of Hell's Kitchen and half of the police are blackmailed by the mob. Basically, Wilson Fisk and his mob control the police and the press. And that's not to mention the Russian mob, a heavily armed syndicate of ruthless gangsters who kidnap and sell women and children on a regular basis. Season 2 gives us an even worse view of the city, even without Wilson Fisk's involvement. After the imprisonment of Fisk, we have an extremely brutal vigilante known as The Punisher fighting The Irish Mob, the Mexican cartel, and practically everyone involved in the death of his family. And it is without mentioning The Hand, a very powerful Asian crime syndicate that kidnaps and poisons kids. And finally, in the third season, Wilson Fisk makes all his effort to get out of jail, establishes a criminal conspiracy that involves other mob bosses, and this time he's in charge of the FBI for his protection. You know that something is really wrong when the same law enforcement agencies are vulnerable and many of them serve as minions of the same mobsters they fight with. To say that the city is a modern Gangsterland is an Understatement.
    Frank Castle to Matt: "Look around, Red. This city, it stinks. It's a sewer. It stinks and it smells like shit and I can't get the stink out of my nose. I think that this world, it needs men who are willing to make the hard call. I think you and me are the same!"
    • Jessica Jones (2015): While the series focuses less on crime and more on the absolute terror that is Kilgrave, practically everyone, except for Luke Cage, is unpleasant, abrasive, an opportunist, a jerkass, or a combination of the aforementioned. Kilgrave himself creates a rather heavy and dark environment never before seen in Marvel shows, with him tormenting people and ruining lives in various unpleasant ways. Basically, he is less a character and more a force of evil that destroys everyone in his path.
    • Luke Cage (2016): How Harlem is portrayed. Much like Daredevil before this show, organized crime is rampant, local government officials (especially Mariah) are hopelessly corrupt, and one of the few genuinely decent supporting characters (the beloved Cool Old Guy who runs the local barbershop — and even he was a former street thug with a penchant for No Holds Barred Beatdowns) was accidentally gunned down by an Ax-Crazy idiot early in the first season.
    • The Punisher (2017) gives us the titular character fighting highly corrupt military conspiracies involved in heroin trafficking and human rights violations. The second season gives us a corrupt company that is involved in many murders. It certainly doesn't help the fact that the series was inspired by some of Punisher's darkest comics.
  • Defiance: After a devastating conflict with alien refugees and a terraforming mishap, the Earth is forever changed. The atmosphere is saturated with electromagnetic radiation, making long-range communications impossible and air travel prohibitively hazardous. Freak weather patterns and uncontrolled terraforming have led to huge swaths of uninhabitable territory. Dozens of abandoned and/or destroyed arkships form a belt of debris around the planet that constantly threatens to fall out of orbit, in the form of either "Razor Rain," where jagged bits crash through the atmosphere at terminal velocity and shred anything in their path, or "Arkfall," where a whole ship crashes to Earth. Most large animals have either gone extinct or mutated into new hybrid forms. Predatory insects the size of tanks roam the wilderness, and they're not even the worst things out there. Most major cities were completely erased by the terraforming process, and the few left are the seats of power for the fascistic, opportunistic Earth Republic. The other major superpower, the Votanis Collective, isn't much better, as it is politically dominated by the arrogant, warlike Castithans. The only independent nations are small municipalities like Defiance, and those are only able to maintain their independence if they have control over a resource that everyone needs (in Defiance's case, the mineral Gulanite) and taking it by force would be too much of a diplomatic headache. There's so much unclaimed wasteland and abandoned technology that Disaster Scavenging - aka "Arkhunting" - is a viable career choice, and Arkhunters routinely betray and/or kill each other to get ahead. Earth is basically a dying rock full of ruins, monsters, and xenophobia, and no one can ever leave.
  • Doctor Who: The universe has some individual-story settings that qualify as full-blown Crapsack Worlds:
    • Thal-Kaled War-era Skaro in "Genesis of the Daleks", a contaminated wasteland torn by a brutal Forever War, in which both sides are as bad as each other and the one guy with a plan to end it is a fascist lunatic who intends to commit genocide on both of them and replace them with something even worse... and he succeeds.
    • Androzani in "The Caves of Androzani". The story and the society depicted consist entirely of insane and/or absolutely horrible people fighting each other to the death for entirely selfish reasons, with the Doctor and Peri helplessly caught in the crossfire and the Doctor dying as a result.
    • Varos in "Vengeance on Varos", a depraved former prison colony where the most popular TV show is live coverage of dissidents being tortured to death, and the government sells recordings of it to sadists on other planets as Snuff Films.
    • Earth in the year 200,100 is not in good shape. The exact details aren't given, but the last hundred years are described as "hell" and the planet is so heavily polluted that the atmosphere is a sickly brown, with a Great Atlantic Smog Storm that's been going for 20 years, with people getting newsflashes for when it's safe to breathe outside. The owners of the Gamestation, a satellite full of deadly reality shows, have so much control that they can arbitrarily choose anyone on Earth to become a contestant on their shows, and can sentence people to life imprisonment without trial or parole. The only thing people can really do is watch TV and pray they don't get picked.
    • Pete's World, an Alternate Universe where London has a curfew imposed by armed soldiers, a Mega-Corp beams its approved version of the news directly into people's heads, and a brief mention of New Germany... and that's just the little we know.
    • When the Doctor returns to New New York with Martha Jones, they find that the undercity isn't nearly so nice as what's above. Due to exhaust buildup from the universe's worst traffic jam, the air is filthy. In said traffic jam, millions of people are trapped in their cars, for years and decades, if they even get to their destination at all. And if you go down to the fast lane at the bottom of the motorway, you run the risk of being killed by the Macra.
    • The year 100 trillion AD, a place even the Time Lords feared to tread. Star formation has ended, leaving the universe mostly empty, dark, and cold. The only remnants of life we see besides the Master are a carnivorous race leading hunting parties across the land, the last living member of a humanoid insect species, and ragged remnants of humanity hoping to board a rocket to a promised Utopia... which turns out to be a cruel deception, as Utopia is a world of burning furnaces and the last of humanity screaming at the dark. That's where they transform into their final evolution: the heavily augmented, sociopathic, disturbingly child-like Toclofane. And the real kicker? Nothing has been nor can be done to change this future.
    • Earth also becomes one during the Year That Never Was. With the help of the Toclofane, the Master has enslaved the human race, forcing them to build monuments to him (including carving his face onto Mt. Rushmore) and millions of galactic WMDs to prepare for war with the rest of the universe. He's destroyed New York, frozen the Nile, poisoned the Caspian Sea, created radiation pits in Europe, erected fusion mills in China, and burned Japan to the ground. The entire planet is also under constant surveillance through the Archangel network. The Doctor, Captain Jack, and Martha's family all remain prisoners onboard the Valiant, stuck listening to the Master playing the same songs over and over again.
    • Earth becomes one in "Turn Left", where Donna Noble never meets the Doctor and he drowns when the base beneath the Thames is flooded. Without him around, all but one of the people inside the Royal Hope Hospital die when it's teleported to the Moon (including Martha Jones, Sarah Jane Smith, Luke, Maria, and Clyde), London is destroyed and Southern England is irradiated when a replica of the Titanic falls from the sky, sixty million Americans are killed by the Adipose, the Sontarans' plan is only narrowly stopped by the Torchwood team at the cost of their own lives, Captain Jack is stranded on Sontar, England begins shipping minorities off to "labour camps"note , and just when you think things can't possibly get any worse, The Stars Are Going Out.
  • Dollhouse: It is yet another Whedon example. Even before the mind-control technology apocalypse, apparently the great big amoral slavery corporation was to some degree controlling the government. And then there's the whole dystopian burned-out planet afterwards with technology lying around that can randomly wipe or reprogram your brain anywhere at any time.
  • Farscape universe: a weird and astoundingly corrupt place, where the most civilized areas are dominated by one of the two warring empires: the Peacekeepers, Human Alien Private Military Contractors with a habit of conquering their own clients, a strong bias against any relationship stronger than friendship (with or without benefits), and an awful lot of xenophobia; or the Scarrans, a race of warlike reptilians with a foreign policy even worse than the Peacekeepers, a vested interest in ruling the galaxy, and a habit of exterminating species they believe to be inferior and without use. The area between them is frequented by fugitives, pirates, mercenaries, con artists, mystics, con artists pretending to be mystics, assassins, terrorists, gangsters, mad scientists, evil sorcerers, unscrupulous sects of psychic monks, hordes of ravenous alien monsters, Godlike Aliens with attitude problems, actual gods with even worse attitudes, interdimensional entities with a decidedly Blue-and-Orange Morality, and an awful lot of contenders for the role of the next Evil Empire. There are very few episodes in the entire series where anyone gets a straightforward happy ending, and even less that end with the locals being any better off; when it comes time for the Peacekeepers and the Scarrans to finally make peace, the hero has to threaten the entire universe with a doomsday device- and actually set it off- before they even consider agreeing to a treaty. Oh, and while Earth might have stayed out of the conflict, humanity turns out to be no better than any other race in the galaxy, to the hero's despair.
  • Firefly: The Whedonverse extends this further in this show. The largest power is effectively space Nazis that have shown that the richest get the best, slavery still exists, many free worlds are hideously backwards, all the main heroes have a criminal past (one of which was due to a brother saving his sister from Mind Rape that made her Ax-Crazy). Oh, and lest we forget the Reavers...
    • Word of God claims that the Alliance do as much good as they do harm. They genuinely want to help people even if they do go about it in completely the wrong way at times.
    • This is apparently Jayne's opinion of things; at one point he calls it a "crap-heel 'verse".
  • The Flash: Barry Allen in the 1990s show was accidentally thrust 10 years into a future where Central City has been taken over by his brother's killer, Nicholas Pike, and where an underground group of citizens were waiting for the Flash to return in order to set things right.
  • Fringe: Sure, the parallel universe has more advanced technology than ours, but their universe is literally falling apart. To the point where the agents of the Fringe Division over there are more or less unbothered by the prospect of dying horrifically on any given day, since their job demands that some lives must be sacrificed for the greater good.
    • The prime universe becomes this when the Observers take over.
    • The opening credits ordinarily show the names of various longshot "fringe sciences" (psychokinesis, singularity, quantum entanglement, etc.). In an episode set in a rapidly failing future, the fringe sciences include "water" and "hope". In episodes set under an alien tyranny, the fringe sciences are such things as "Community", "Private Thought", and "Free Will".
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Westeros is frequently torn apart by competing factions and insane monarchs, many of whom think little of their troops abusing the peasantry, and the anarchist wildlings beyond the Wall live by fighting and stealing from their neighbours. Rape, murder, robbery, and incest are easily found everywhere. Oh, and every generation there's a winter that can last years when everyone worries about starvation. Even worse, this particular cycle, the monstrous White Walkers are waking from their long sleep to invade, but no one is preparing for it.
    • Essos is perhaps worse. Valyria is still a smoking Forbidden Zone centuries after its destruction. Other places have hopeful names like Slaver's Bay and the Shadow Lands. Much of the rest is a patchwork of rival city-states and vestigial empires of decadent aristocrats completely dependent on miserable slaves and bounded by a vast grassland filled with hordes of marauding Dothraki horse-nomads who slaughter or enslave anyone who cannot flee or buy them off.
  • Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess: Despite being staunchly idealistic, the world of these shows is inhabited by warlords, bandits, mythological monsters and apathetic gods. Other lands like China and India are no better. Even Heaven is rocked by never-ending conflict.
  • Incorporated takes place in a future where climate change has left over half the world's population in poverty while the other half is rich but engaged in ruthless and very literal corporate warfare.
  • Into the Badlands: The Badlands are a rough place. Territories and industrial resources are controlled by feudal overlords that just barely manage to maintain a balance of power with each other, a balance that is in the early stages of crumbling when the narrative begins. Peace and order are kept through force and propaganda. The majority of the population are serfs and/or slaves, owned by their Barons, and the only ticket to a better life is to join the ranks of the Clippers, becoming merciless killing machines. Roving tribes of bandits prey on the hinterlands, robbing and killing at will, and Barons only take action against them when it suits them. There are rumors and legends of a better world beyond the Badlands, but so far they're just that: rumors and legends. Escape from the Badlands means danger and uncertainty, and almost everyone has been ground down by the system too much to even want to try to escape.
  • It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: It may always be physically sunny in Philadelphia, but definitely not in the metaphorical sense.
    • Played with in one episode where the "heroes" are tearfully united with their real father — a kindly, warm-hearted, selfless individual who is pretty much their complete opposite. After only a short period of time in their company the father is so horrified he ends up kicking them out.
  • Killjoys: Welcome to the Quad System. The entire system is controlled by an evil Mega-Corp with an appalling track record on environmental impacts and employee well-being. The planet Qresh is owned by the shareholders, who endlessly squabble with each other like petty nobility, and half the planet is underwater due to a global warming-induced flood. The moon Westerley is a polluted, overmined hellhole, subject to toxic recurring weather patterns and brutal corporate oppression, to the point where a planetwide workers' revolt is imminent. A deal the Company made with the Westerlyns is about to come to fruition, where the 7th generation of Westerlyn citizens have the opportunity to emigrate to the idyllic farming moon Leith and start a new life, which has caused an ultra-nationalist terrorist organization to arise on Leith, who don't cotton to these dirty foreigners coming in and taking their land. The third moon, Arkyn, is a completely mined-out lifeless rock surrounded by a dangerous Asteroid Thicket, where evil things go on out of the sight of the authorities. And that's just the Company. There's also whatever the hell Khlyen is up to, as well as some kind of military conspiracy responsible for things like nanotech-enhanced torture techniques and brainwashing soldiers to turn on their own men. And Vagueness Is Coming as well. This last one mentioned by one of the military-conspiracy doctors, implying that no matter how bad the things are she's doing, they're designed to protect the Quad from something even worse. It all makes the RAC, the bounty hunters whose official policy is "just do the job, take the money, and don't get involved," seem like the good guys by comparison.
  • The League of Gentlemen: Royston Vasey. There are a pair of incestuous serial killers, a ringmaster who kidnaps women, a butcher who sells highly illegal and hideously immoral drugs, an OCD couple who practically worships toads, a pedophile German exchange student councilor and a psychotic lesbian job restart officer who bullies and insults her "dole scum". And that's just 8 characters. And even if one ignores the depravity of most of the cast the whole land is cursed. Cursed as in both plagued by ancient evils that infest the very foundations of the town, and as in industrial, poverty-stricken slum that looks like a demilitarized zone (which is best seen in the third season) where a standard part of living is pillaging shops and scavenging in the trash.
  • Lexx: One of the biggest examples of a Crapsack universe in science fiction. The main characters are horny, greedy cowards who fly a spaceship that eats inhabited planets for food. The one who isn't horny, greedy, or a coward is undead. One of the crew is a humanoid Man-Eating Plant who routinely eats people and openly warns that she'll eat her crewmates if ever there isn't anyone else to eat. Another member of the crew has been genetically imprinted with DNA from a monstrous alien carnivore, which leads to her doing things like going into a heat-state, during which she blacks out and eats people, including an entire theater's audience, culminating only when she mates with and consumes a Body Double of her love interest. At the end of every season, things have gone from bad to worse. Of note: in Season 2, the crew cripple a being named Mantrid, unwittingly setting up his meteoric ascension to Big Bad (and powerful galactic force). By the end of the season, the crew stops Mantrid, but lose several allies (including a plant-like creature and a young boy who helped them) and have unwittingly destroyed an entire universe, not to mention that they've run out of gas and have to go into hibernation for years. By the end of Season 3, they've blown up two planets full of people (one "good" and one "evil" planet, but not all of the people on either planet thought the same way) in order to get enough food for the Lexx to survive.

    That, in turn, drives the plot of the next season, where the Lexx finds Earth. The crew wants to get the Lexx more food, but they end up doing more harm than good. Several innocent people are killed, one crew member sacrifices himself to stop a destructive invasion of killer carrot aliens, at least three whole cities are annihilated off the face of the planet by the starship (and that's before Earth is blown up), and the Lexx eventually dies of old age. The only redeeming point is that the last two surviving crew members get to travel the stars in a spiffy new mini-Lexx. Keep in mind that the whole series is intended as Black Comedy.
  • Low Winter Sun begins with two policemen brutally murdering a colleague-one for revenge, the other to cover his own ass from an impending Internal Affairs investigation. This is set against the hellish wastelands of modern Detroit, rife with corruption and drug trafficking.
  • Malcolm in the Middle: The Central Theme of the show is "Life is unfair". The implication being that the real world is this, and its crapsack-ness is examined in the show's fictional universe with only some exaggerations. Really, what kind of a world punishes its brightest and most capable children with ostracism and vitriol so severe they wish they were normal?
  • Married... with Children. This show's universe is filled with the most despicable people you could possibly come up with. On a daily basis, innocents and guilty alike are punished, the men are almost without fail chauvinistic jackass pigs, the women money digging whiny bitches, authority figures are all corrupt, and the half decent people become worse due to the influence of the deadbeats surrounding them. It is also heavily implied that even God in this universe is a cruel vindictive being, who tortures people mentally just because he can. This universe is so awful that this world's Hell is only slightly worse than the actual universe.
  • Max Headroom: The quintessential Cyberpunk Dystopia. The destitute poor are the largest percentage of the population, mostly living in shantytowns where violent crime and drug abuse are rampant; and the only escape from the misery of it all is watching communal televisions, where all the programming is mindless fantasy and violent bloodsports. The middle class has shrunk, spends most of its time either working soul-destroying jobs, or glued to their televisions, where all the programming is mindless fantasy and violent bloodsports. The upper class is comfortable, but spends most of their time engaged in political scheming (up to and including assassination) and fighting to maintain their social status, when they're not glued to their televisions watching mindless fantasy and violent bloodsports. And if that's not bad enough, the advertisements on television can literally make your head explode.
  • The world of NCIS, NCIS: Los Angeles, and NCIS: New Orleans is very much a terrible place to live if you think about it. Marines and sailors are always dropping like flies, corruption is everywhere, people from all walks of life (even children!) wont hesitate to resort to murder, terrorist attacks (both foreign and domestic) happen all the time, plots involving bio-weapons and nuclear material occur with disturbing frequency, and seemingly every enemy of the US has multiple undercover operations going on simultaneously. And it all falls upon not even twenty NCIS agents spread across three cities to keep the country safe, as the FBI are wrapped up in bureaucracy and a bit full of themselves, and the CIA might as well be the Token Evil Teammate with how untrustworthy they are.
  • Once Upon a Time: Storybrooke. (The Enchanted Forest is more a World Half Full) In season 1, the fairy tale characters are all trapped in Storybrooke, Maine. They have no memories of their own life, and are being ruled by the Evil Queen, Regina, who is the mayor, and there are no happy endings. Everyone is struggling and no one can leave. However, thanks to The Messiah, slowly the happy endings start coming back, culminating in the curse breaking, and everyone regaining their original identity. However, in subsequent seasons, the city is continuously plagued by villains, and although you can leave, you lose your fairy tale memories. Storybrooke was almost destroyed 3 times in 2 seasons already, but it's marginally better now because everyone acts like a community now, and can defend their town thanks to the Charming Family.
  • One Foot in the Grave: Set in a Purgatory-like British suburbia in which everything always goes wrong and/or is generally unpleasant, and one stuffed to the brim with muggers, burglars, con-men, lunatics and antisocial louts, none of whom ever once get punished or even caught. Practically everyone the Meldrews ever interact with semi-regularly either despises them or is incredibly irritating. The series' overarching message, if it has one, seems to be "Life is cruel, utterly meaningless and basically horrible".
  • Pennyworth: This series' alternate version of England has a corrupt government that routinely practices torture, and they are not much better than the fascist Raven Society whose control over English society grows stronger and stronger, let alone the government actually not doing much against them. By Season 2, it all goes to hell with a full blown Civil War, and the CIA supports the fascist side. And the existence of Baphomet / Satan in the setting is tangible, on top of this.
  • Red Dwarf is set in an empty, vast, meaningless universe. Humanity has gone extinct, and the only things left behind are insane mechanoids and genetically engineered horrors, ranging from distorted mutants to sapient, merciless and highly lethal diseases. The only person seemingly left in existence is David Lister, a British low-classer with especially revolting personal tastesnote , who drifts aimlessly through the void with a neurotic cleaning droid, a senile artificial intelligence, a super-egotistical and mega-shallow lifeform that evolved from the common housecat, and the hologram-"ghost" of the most petty, small-minded and all-around irritating people he knew. Who is also his best friend.
  • Revolution: The post-blackout world of the show. Especially the Monroe Republic, judging from the fact that the Plains Nation people go in for very colorful clothing and arts and crafts, while the Georgia Federation's technological lead is clearly farther advanced and can provide a high enough standard of living that even relatively ordinary people can dress like only the wealthiest people of the Monroe Republic can. It gets even worse, if possible, when the Patriots wreck the Monroe Republic and Georgia Federation, forcing thousands of people into refugee camps.
  • While leagues above the world seen in the film trilogy, the world in RoboCop: The Series isn't a picnic, either, with a war in the Amazon going on (though such a war was mentioned in the original trilogy, too, as part of the backstories for Cain and the Rehabs), sections of Beverly Hills and Brooklyn have been walled off, and it's perfectly legal to market plushies that double as hand grenades and steroids (with the In-Universe Hard Truth Aesop that weaker kids deserve to get bullied, no less) to children, speaking English in France can land you in jail, the Italian government has fallen, and the mayor and DA are corrupt and in league with other criminals (with the latter having a fake law degree and helped to frame someone for said phony degree).
  • Sliders: Being a TV series about people traveling across parallel versions of Earth, it has so many examples, starting with the Ice Age world in the pilot episode.
  • Salem is a contest of power between camps of venal theocrats, black magic witches and the Devil himself. The most virtuous character winds up consigned to Hell for eternity at the end of the series.
  • This is the case for Dawn Cottrell, the high school-aged protagonist in the Made-for-TV movie Secret Cutting (or alternately known as Painful Secrets). Her home life sucks; her mother is a self-centered and vindictive woman who's all about appearances and aside from belittling her daughter, also belittles her father, who struggles to show affection for his daughter and stand up for himself, and tries too hard to prove herself a better mother than hers was in spite of being just as bad. Her brother acts even more outwardly disrespectful towards her than their mother does. Life at school in no better. She virtually has no friends and is constantly subjected to contempt and mockery from her more "popular" peers, even though she is desperate for their approval, which they know about and use to their advantage. She believes she has a boyfriend, but all he wants her for is sex. Oh, and anytime she does try to stand up for herself,it completely backfires as someone always manipulates her into thinking she has no right to defend herself. To cope with it all, she begins to cut herself, which is eventually discovered initially by her only friend, who's pretty troubled in her own right, but then by her family and then the whole school after her mother lets the secret out "in order for peer pressure to make you stop since you can't on your own." Things go from bad to worse and culminates in a desperate suicide attempt.
  • Smallville: Earth-2 is an Alternate Universe where Clark was found and raised by Lionel Luthor. Lionel uses Clark's abilities to basically take over the world. No one is safe, even- or especially- Lionel's children, particularly the two that don't have godlike powers.
  • Sons of Anarchy: Charming where the most positive characters are a Type IV Anti-Hero (or is Jax an Anti-Villain? Hard to tell.) and a Knight in Sour Armor.
  • The Sopranos gives us a world where, at any moment, you can be killed by mobsters. Crime is rampant, even more so than in our world, to the point in which said mobsters get away with every murder they commit (even though most of them gets their comeuppance at the end of the series). As if that was not enough, there are a lot of Axe-Crazy people out there who could hurt you for the slightest offense towards them. It's telling something that the most remotely likable characters are Punch Clock Villains.
  • Stargate:
    • Stargate SG-1: The entire Milky Way Galaxy as depicted is like this. The galaxy's population is primarily enslaved humanity duped into worshiping a bunch of evil aliens who get a kick out of posing as gods (never nice benevolent Judeo-Christian Jehovah God who never ever shows up yet Satan does, more like "Kneel Before Zod" gods), taking over the bodies of unwilling people, and ruling their planetary systems through a mode of governing best described as Unapologetic Dog Kicking (i.e. one System Lord basically nuked an entire populated star system rather than let it fall to another). In fact, part of the reason these evil aliens so despise Earth, is because it is one of the precious few relatively happy and free worlds in the galaxy. On top of this, when the evil aliens are defeated they are ALWAYS replaced by even more Axe-Crazy foes (i.e. crazy religious fundamentalists with indestructible apostles and ships, robots bent on consuming whole planets, etc.) And if that's not good enough, the one powerful good race that WANTS to help is locked in a war for survival against said robots and the best they can do is bluff the parasitical aliens into leaving a few worlds alone.
    • Stargate Atlantis: The Pegasus Galaxy isn't much better. It used to be a pretty nice place a long time ago under the stewardship of the Ancients. Then they unwittingly create a fast-breeding, vampiric race of pseudo-humanoids with bio-ships who defeat the Ancients despite their vastly superior technology and then start feeding on the galaxy's humans, periodically waking up from slumber to "harvest" the galaxy. Additionally, not all Wraith are asleep. Some keep watch and wipe out any civilization that even hints at possibly being threatening to them. The ascended Ancients aren't going to help. The only consolation is the Wraith fighting among themselves, as they were woken up ahead of schedule, and there isn't enough "food" for them to go around. The three times the humans from Earth encounter civilizations advanced enough to be their allies against the Wraith, they end up as new enemies. These include crazy humanoids composed of nanites (similar to the Replicators) who, when finally turned against the Wraith, choose to wipe out their "food" (i.e. all humans) instead. The Genii are a militaristic underground culture with 50s technology and a beef against Earth humans. The Vanir turn out to be a renegade faction of the benevolent Asgard, who view humans as expendable and are perfectly willing to destroy every single Stargate in an Earth-Shattering Kaboom to keep safe from the Wraith.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine show that Earth, itself, used to be a really crappy place to live. TNG showed in its very first episode that Earth had become embroiled in nuclear war at some point in the 21st century, leading to a period of time known as the "post-atomic horrors", when civilization collapsed and anarchy reigned. In the DS9 two-part episode "Past Tense", America was shown to have not been much better before then: in the 2020s, the US government "solved" the problem of poverty by forcing the impoverished to live in "sanctuary districts", walled-off ghettos where the jobless and mentally ill were forced to live in cramped, squalid conditions. Off-hand conversation suggests the rest of the world wasn't doing any better.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "The Quickening" showed a planet the Jem'Hadar decided to make an example of. Not only was the place blasted into the Stone Age, but the people of the planet were given a genetic disease called the Blight. All are born with it-anyone who does not take their own lives first dies of it. One man, being treated well because the Blight was in its final stages, said that he was glad to have bathed and slept in a bed for the first time in his LIFE.
  • In all of Trek's incarnations, the Mirror Universe is an example of this trope, but Star Trek: Discovery takes it Up to Eleven by dispensing with the Camp and Black Comedy and ratcheting up the endless grinding paranoia of living in a totalitarian Empire where everyone is endlessly scheming to assassinate everyone else to get ahead.
  • Supernatural:
    • This world plain sucks, and hard. While you're alive, you're random victim fodder for all the monsters you've ever heard of (from urban legends to mythological beasts), and some you haven't... yet. The afterlife is a bitch where you are endlessly tortured in the Bloody Bowels of Hell as time passes according to Year Inside, Hour Outside logic, unless you decide to turn in to a demon yourself. Heaven isn't much better, it's the Matrix ruled by a Council of Angels who have severe Parental Issues by way of Have You Seen My God?. And for a third option, you can stay and become a ghost until you go crazy from loneliness and turn in to a poltergeist. Did I also mention it's The End of the World as We Know It?
    • According to the vision showed to Dean by Zachariah, in five years time it's going to be even worse, as Dean is a homicidal, Jerkass soldier, Sam is possessed by Lucifer, and the only angel to give a damn about the human race is a hippie stoner/love guru who uses drink, drugs and orgies to cover up his new Nietzsche Wannabe attitude. Life sucks in 'The End'. By season five's ending, however Sam has managed to seal both Michael and Lucifer in Hell. In season twelve, Lucifer is free again, begetting Satanspawn and eventually trapped in a crapsackier alternate universe than the main universe.
    • Demons, monsters and angels don't have it much if any better. If you're a demon you're condemned to Hell to suffer unless you escape to Earth where you will likely be killed by a hunter or an angel. If you're a monster, you have to constantly keep a low profile and an eye over your shoulder for hunters who will kill you for no other reason then being a monster. Sooner or later you will give into your violent instincts whether you want to or not. And when you die you go to Purgatory, which is considered one step above Hell, where you have to fight other monsters constantly only to be die and reborn elsewhere for all eternity. If you're an angel, you had it good tell the higher ups failed to bring about the Apocalypse resulting in massive civil wars and every angel forcibly expelled from heaven.
  • Terra Nova: The Earth of 2149 has so much environmental damage that the sky is an acrid yellow with smog and pollution, the atmosphere can no longer be breathed, and overpopulation is so severe that having more than two children is an arrestable offence.
  • Titus: Where the only really helpful advice for getting through life is "Stop being a wussy".
  • The Twilight Zone (1959): Several episodes take place in worlds like this. Examples include "It's a Good Life", where one all-powerful boy controls everyone, "Eye of the Beholder" where everyone who is ugly is ghettoized, "Number 12 Looks Just Like You", where everyone has to get surgery to look like one of a limited number of models, and "The Obsolete Man", where religion is outlawed and you are terminated if declared "obsolete".
  • The Twilight Zone (1985):
    • In "Memories", society in the Alternate Universe has grown stagnant and is breaking down because it has become increasingly difficult for people to cope with memories of their past lives. Jim Sinclair explains to Mary McNeal that many people are traumatized by past tragedies or consumed by a need for revenge for something that happened in another lifetime. Sinclair belongs to a group that believes that the only way for their society to survive is for everyone to forget their past life experiences and focus on building better lives in the present. As she is a regression therapist, Mary is able to facilitate this through hypnosis.
    • In "The Mind of Simon Foster", there is a major economic depression in the United States in 1999. The unemployment rate is 32%, bread costs $5 per loaf and meat can only be obtained on the Black Market. As a result, the title character is living a shattered life and is trying to piece together enough money to survive even in the short term.
  • Veronica Mars: It begins with the titular heroine's best friend being brutally murdered. When Veronica's dad, the town sheriff, goes after the wrong man, he loses his job, his wife abandons him, and his daughter becomes a social outcast. Then she gets drugged and raped at a party, and when she tries to report it, the new sheriff accuses her of making it up and laughs in her face. Again, all of this happens in flashback before the first episode's plot begins. Things only go downhill from there.
  • The Walking Dead: This is to be expected, considering the world has fallen victim to a Zombie Apocalypse. The show is relentlessly grim, the kids among the survivors aren't even safe from horrible deaths.
  • Weeds: It's somewhat easier to root for the Villain Protagonist when all the forces of law and order are corrupt hypocrites, and all of the other characters are in it up to their necks.
  • The Wire: This is an example of the World Half Empty done right, especially in the fourth season (which focuses on four inner-city schoolchildren, only one of whom manages to escape into a decent life). But even "done right" it can be enough to overwhelm people.
    • The sad thing is that everyone who knows the Real Life situations they show says it is all what it is really like.
  • Wizards of Waverly Place:
    • The wizarding world. For utterly arbitrary reasons (seriously, we've never been actually told why) there can only be one wizard per family. Children grow up with powers and train for the wizard competition in which they will battle their sibling(s). One wins, the others lose their powers forever. We've seen at least one planned uprising by a large group of thwarted siblings, and one can assume that the earlier generation of the Russo's isn't the first - or the last - wizarding family to be torn apart by asinine rules. And Alex, Justin and Max didn't care when they killed someone for leading a revolution for wizards to never have to give up their powers.
    • Furthermore, the wizard world is full of Fantastic Racism and any wizard who wants to marry a non-wizard has to give up their powers.
  • Years and Years: Welcome to the world in 2029! Society has become incredibly unstable and oppressive, and the world's climate has gone nuts. Things really started to kick off when the Trump administration fired a nuke at an artificial Chinese island in around 2024, which in turn inspired terrorists to start using radioactive weapons; in a particularly horrifying example, attacks in Leeds and Bristol that saw dirty bombs being detonated have rendered both cities about as habitable as Pripyat. Russia has gone full-blown Empire Mode after invading and annexing Ukraine, the Arctic has completely melted, countless fruits have gone extinct, the insect population has been nearly wiped out, the world economy has been ripped apart after suffering a banking crisis that made the one in 2008 look mild, Spain is communist after having a revolution, Greece has left the EU, Hungary is bankrupt and Italy is being held under martial law after its government resigned. The world is politically dominated by fundamentalism in some form or another (in the case of the west, it's mostly far-right populism) and the majority of the civilian population have been stripped of most of their rights. President Mike Pence has torpedoed LGBT rights, banned abortions (along with plenty of other reproductive rights), banned the speaking of Spanish in public places and has virtually shut the door on immigration over in America, while over in Britain - which is being lead by far-right populist Vivienne Rook and her Four Star Party - not only are there pre-existing problems such as very long periods of rain (at one point, 80 days non-stop!), frequent cyber attacks causing mass power outages and the aforementioned radiation spots, but there's also the extreme oppression that Rook has imposed on Britain; political opponents are being violently suppressed, censorship and information control is widespread, the BBC has been disbanded, Urban Segregation is rife, people are forced to live with randomly assigned others whether they like it or not, almost everything is privately owned (probably by Four Star Party cronies), there are "Erstwhile" extermination centres where anyone sent there is left to die, and it's subtly mentioned that anyone taken out by the Four Star Party has all of their existence erased. Oh, and the world's also being ravaged by a pandemic called "Monkey Flu".
  • The Young Ones: EVERYONE in this universe is at best an abject moron, and at worst also an abject bastard. The employment classifieds of the newspaper are always completely blank. All of the policemen are miserably thick, some of them to the point that they don’t even demonstrate normal human thought processes. Army sieges, avoidable plane crashes, and full-blown street riots — in residential areas, no less — are everyday occurrences. Oh, and a half-psychotic young man with a lengthy history of violence and destruction is not only allowed to walk the streets, but is enrolled in a pre-med program. Yikes. Just yikes.
  • Yuma: Yuma Territory is so corrupt and violent that at least three lawmen have been driven away from the territory by the time of the film's start. The nearby Army base is corrupt and filled with embezzlement, which leads to the local Native American tribe starving.


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