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Series / The Colony

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The Colony is a "survival experiment" broadcast on The Discovery Channel, in which ten people (and later more) must rebuild after a simulated viral outbreak kills most of the human population. They are given several blocks of abandoned industrial park bordering the Los Angeles River in downtown Los Angeles, where they are allowed to do anything they want and scavenge any supplies they can find.

Emphasis is placed on dealing with resource scarcity, novel uses of common (and not-so-common) found items to provide for the group in such a situation, and weighing the survival of other groups against the survival of one's own (i.e. stealing). There are several semi-scripted encounters with others (various wanderers, raiders, and a trader), which demonstrate possible social interactions in such an environment and the play between compassion (give them food because it's the right thing to do?) and pragmatism (keep it for yourself because you need it more?). All actors are forbidden to directly harm the Colonists (lest they risk an insurance nightmare and subsequent cancellation), but panic, emotion, and malnutrition (on the Colonists' side) meant that accidents could still happen.


A second season aired with a new setting (Louisiana), apocalypse scenario (Bird Flu outbreak) and group, and has fixed the main criticism leveled at the first season (hostile groups being forbidden to directly harm the colonists).

With a bevy of improvisation, survival tips, the lack of a "game show" atmosphere, and the lack of a tangible "prize" other than the experience itself, The Colony is an interesting series that breaks from the typical reality show mold.


The first season of The Colony provides examples of:

  • Abandoned Hospital: In one episode, the colonists raid one for medical supplies.
  • Abandoned Warehouse: The colonists take one over and live in it for the entirety of the series.
  • Action Girl: One of the female colonists (Leilani) is a self-defense instructor and one of the "negotiators" of the group.
  • After the End: The entire show's premise is that the colonists are trying to survive the post-apocalypse and find greener pastures.
  • All There in the Manual: The reason Mike is so good with solar panels and low voltage installations? That's what he actually does for a living.
  • The Apocalypse Brings Out the Best in People: Subverted. The group starts pretty nice, but quickly ends up defensive over what they consider "theirs", steals, denies shelter to outsiders (despite hanging out huge SOS sign) and gets progressively more territorial in their behaviour. And then there is the never-ending bickering between the colonists themselves.
  • Big Fancy House: Well it's certainly not fancy, but they have a giant building stocked with almost everything they could possibly need to build whatever they needed.
  • Cabin Fever: While the warehouse's compound is big, it's still a limited space and half of it roofed, so eventually people start to get really cranky about it.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Or, more accurately, Chekhov's flamethrower.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: The colonist remember about George for about 5 days. He's never mentioned again.
  • Confession Cam: Used liberally throughout each episode.
  • Cool Car: They built a van with retractable solar panels that runs on woodsmoke.
  • Cool Old Guy: John C. A self-professed "mad scientist," he designed their flamethrower as well as a Tesla coil that used lightning bolts to create ozone so that they could purify their water without needing to boil it.
  • Deadpan Snarker: While Mike was a genuine Jerkass, Joey instead implied a lot of deadpan remarks. This worked in his favour, as other colonists were taking his remarks as humorous rather than direct insults.
  • Designated Girl Fight: While Andre and Elizabeth are getting kicked out, Elizabeth flails and hits Allison. A hair-pulling catfight immediately commences.
  • Dog Food Diet: In their final days, the group has only rice left to eat and not whole lot of it. John C. examines a can of cat food he found earlier and after finding it's nothing but tuna, he eats it.
  • Down L.A. Drain: The show was a "survival experiment" set in a What If? After the End setting where humanity has been wiped out by a disease. The gathered "survivors" had to band together to survive by any means that they could. Housing and warmth, defenses from animals and raiders, food, running water — all the necessities needed to survive. The 1st installment was filmed in an abandoned industrial park surrounding the Los Angeles river channels. The surrounding area was cordoned off from the public to ensure that the immersion wasn't broken. This also included making sure that no cars or planes were heard passing by.
  • Dramatic Gun Cock: The trader's pick-up carries a heavy machine gun and the other guard is armed with an AK. Naturally, they both pull the charging handles when trying to intimidate the colonists.
  • Dramatic Shattering: When the raiders attacked and broke into the warehouse, they shattered bottles of goat milk. The cameras zoomed in and replayed the shattering many times.
  • Epic Fail: The firework display has a big build-up, entire group does the countdown, Vladimir press the ignition... and nothing happens. At all.
  • Face–Heel Turn: To some extent, the colonists turned alignments for a temporary time. While adamantly against raiding and stealing from "other people", they do it twice anyway in the name of their continued survival.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Justified, as the entire compound is huge and full of sub-spaces. After 18 days Joey and Mike realised what they took for just part of the roof was in fact an attic storage room.
  • Fan Disservice: The first episode ends with John C. happily laughing and running around completely naked in the rain... any other member of the show would have been preferred.
  • Fighting for a Homeland: The colonists have to fight off threats that come at them every episode that threaten their ability to stay in the colony warehouse.
  • Gangbangers: While not entirely accurate, the raiders seem to fit the Gang Banger style. Always rolling in groups, using weapons "gangsta" style, and all wearing very closely matching clothing and makeup or masks, in some cases.
  • Grand Finale: The last episode, the Colonists had to use the vehicles they had been building since about the fourth episode to escape. They also got to use their lethal weapons, like flame throwers, electric fences and molotov cocktails. Obviously scripted and meant to be a spectacle.
  • Happy Rain: Both the first and second seasons seem to miraculously have a huge rainstorm the minute they're done building a water collecting device.
    • In the first season, the water collection system was a quick improvisation of the warehouse's natural gutter system. It wasn't so miraculous, although it was quite happy.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Joey's back story - he was a prison inmate who turned his life around. He claims that's where a lot of his security knowledge that he uses in the Colony stems from.
  • Hospital Hottie: Two of the more attractive members of the first season cast are a doctor and a nurse. Who both manage to remain clean and pretty looking throughout.
  • A House Divided: The group never truly was integrated at any stage of the experiment, but by mid-season they are arguing all the time for the flimsiest of reasons. Or no reason at all.
  • Ignored Expert: It's almost a standard routine to ignore what Mike has to say, despite him being right 9 out of 10 cases and always right when it comes down to electricity issues.
  • Inescapable Net: The colonists drop a huge weighted net on the raiders in the grand finale. Given that the raiders had been deliberately channeled into a confined space, in the dark, while being attack with a flame thrower, it was very effective.
  • Jerkass: Mike was not a very happy or pleasant person. To the point where some people on the show actually monologue about how "I'm sure Mike is actually a nice guy, deep down..."
    • Jerkass Has a Point: Pretty much all of his complains were valid concerns about the on-going project and situation in general, only expressed and explained in the most rude way possible.
    • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: For all of the unflattering talk about him, Mike usually has a reason when he goes off on someone (especially with the people who have Too Dumb to Live tendencies), and more often than not, he's quick to compliment someone who does something right(even if it's only on the Confession Cam).
  • Killer Game Master: Each and every mistake the colonists make is used against them with extreme vengeance. Feeling too safe? Marauders' raid. Splitting the party? One of the colonist is never seen ever again.
  • MacGyvering: A lot of the show is about how the colonists can build extremely useful things (such as an ozone water cleaner or even cars and trucks) out of junk that has been scavenged.
  • Never Split the Party: The colonists always stay in groups when they are outside. The one and only time they've split up, George was removed from the experiment to simulate loss of a group member.
  • Once per Episode: Several times per episode, the colonists come under "Phases" in which some kind of situation is forced upon them. It can be as simple as someone begging for food at their doors, or all the water pipes in the warehouse suddenly bursting.
  • The Plague: What kills all the other people that are supposed to be in Los Angeles. The colonists and raiders are obviously unaffected; most likely they are the small subset of humanity naturally immune.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Fortunately nobody died, but all the conflicts and hairy situations between the colonists were caused by not just poor, but often complete lack of communication between them. Combined with character quirks of certain group members it made things really bad, really fast, with nobody willing to step down and making further miscommunication even worse. It was especially apparent early on that everyone was just doing their own pet project, often in disregard of what others are doing or what is the top priority at that point. Certain things would have been finished within hours, rather than draggin for days if the colonists informed each other what, when and how to do.
  • Product Placement: There are a few moments where the camera seems to "pause" on the logo of Harbor Freight Tools on certain items the colonists have acquired or are in the process of acquiring.
  • The Promised Land: San Diego, California is declared as a safe haven by the broadcasts the colonists receive.
  • Sassy Black Woman: Leilani "Don't Yell At Me" Smith. Her attitude is contrasted with the fact she's essentially free-loading.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Joey begins considering leaving the other colonists near the end of the season when the situation began to grate on him. He does leave the group at the very end, but by that point it had instead become I Choose to Stay, with Joey deciding to stay in L.A. to help rebuild it.
  • Scary Black Man: Andre subverts this trope by turning out to be the original owner of the warehouse. He plays it straight by returning in the finale.
  • Scavenger World: Of course.
  • Skewed Priorities: Lampshaded by Joey to the Confession Cam in the early days of the colony, when barely anything of the crucial projects was finished and people already started to slack off or wasting time and resources in truly idiotic fashion.
    I think the priorities - surviving the apocalypse - are getting a little confused.
    • Which is thrown directly back at him by Mike after their food storage gets raided. Since Joe, George and John C. were busy building a shower, nobody helped Mike with fixing their generator nor worked on reinforcing weak spots in their defenses.
  • The Slacker: George the doctor. From all people in the group, he was the only one that never really got into the role and was treating the whole thing like a holidays spend in a warehouse for the most part. For his credit, he helped within his field of expertise, setting up an infirmary and helping around hygiene facilities, but other than that, he was mostly getting a nice tan. Ironically, he got removed from the show right when he decided to be helpful and more pro-active.
  • Sliding Scale of Fourth Wall Hardness: The Colony inhabits a strange place on the scale. Unlike most reality shows, the Colonists do not acknowledge the show, and characters seemingly lack Medium Awareness, but the Narrators poke holes in the wall while they give survival strategy tips and a play by play of the psychology and sociology involved in rebuilding society. The biggest Mind Screw though is that the characters themselves actually think it's reality, or seem to. They act like, and possibly think that, there is a Fourth Wall between themselves and the real world. This Is Reality ensues.
    • Commented upon by a psychologist narrator sometime around Day 38. While they may have taken solace in it being a show in the beginning, their continual psychologically-stressful trials made it seem more real the longer they stayed.
    • However, all illusion of immersion is broken during the Grand Finale, which is blatantly staged and scripted through and through.
  • Slobs Versus Snobs: Season 1 was build around this concept, with half of the group being mechanics, construction workers and machinists, while the other half being made out of theoretical engineers and PhD and doctorate holders. They really don't get along for the most of the season, with only short moments of cease-fire during crucial projects.
  • Swiss Cheese Security: Starting from the very first episode, everyone in the group realises their compound suffers from very obvious security issues. After closer inspection, they also realise they can easily patch things up with minimal requirements. This keeps returning as a topic of the group talks, they have very clear plans what to do... and nobody does anything about it. It is even mentioned few times all the other things look as more important and the day has only limited number of hours in it. Eventually the marauders raid their storage and trash the supplies, which finally prompts the colonist to work on their security for real.
  • Tattooed Crook: Joey did six years in prison. His torso and arms are all in tattoos.
  • Token Religious Teammate: John V. Shown leading a prayer in an early episode. Made most evident in (and after) the encounter with the "missionaries".
  • Too Dumb to Live: It's a good thing the show was just a simulation, or else some of these people would never have survived as long as they did. More or less the whole problem is very often "blue-collar workers vs rest". Most of the time someone did something really dumb it was on "rest" side, endangering critical projects. That's probably why in later episodes every step and every project was explained in layman terms to every "colonist", such as the importance of being very careful with the photovoltaic panels. But it was a bumpy ride to get to that point.
    • Joey needs help building a water heater on the roof for their shower. Where are the other people who said they would help him? Eating lunch, sun bathing, or making pretty dresses out of their fabric.
    • In one episode, Mike is busy trying to clean up the overflowing sewage in the bathroom, and cuts his hand, putting him at risk of staph infection. Understandably panicked, he rushes out and yells for Allison, the trauma nurse, to get ready to treat him. Her reaction? She smugly crosses her arms and doesn't do crap because she didn't like the way he shouted at her. Granted, Mike has established himself as a bit of a Jerkass and butted heads with almost everybody in the past, but for goodness' sake woman, it's a legitimate problem! Quit being so petty and do your damn job!
    • The "survivor" who wanted to continue being a vegetarian in the post-apocalypse.
      • In fairness, he changed his tune when it counted.
    • The people encountered during "Recon Mission". Seriously, you leave your home and all of your belongings completely unguarded and then get pissed when others don't realize someone's living there?
    • Before the "colonists" got their generator fixed for good (after the gasifier was ready, but before second alternator was added), their batteries were almost dry. Cue Amy cutting rod for slingshot with angle grinder, draining the batteries to the critical level. When Mike went vocal about that, everyone consider that he is the bad guy, shouting at people for no real reason.
    • In terms of simulation, the idea of turning shotgun shells into fireworks was probably the only thing the colonist could do (well, maybe barter them). But in any other conditions wasting a pack of 12 gauge rounds for fireworks that didn't even worked would be pure stupidity.
  • What the Hell Is That Accent?: The accent of the trader is all over the place - he goes through Russian, Latino, German...
  • You Can't Go Home Again: The colonists can't just simply go back home because it is assumed that everyone in their hometown is dead from The Plague.
  • You Didn't Ask: When Mike off-handly remarks solar panels would be so much easier than fiddling with an improvised generator, Joey mentions he saw an array on one of the nearby roofs. Mike just gives him a confused look in return.

The second season provides additional examples of:

  • The Ace: In a way, "Tick." As an ex-Marine sniper, hunter, and survivalist, he's essentially the exact guy they needed since the beginning of the season.
  • Break the Cutie: Becka, who was the only person in the season who didn't seem to have any specific skills useful for helping the colony, being a model. And even though she seemed like just the Alpha Bitch, it was still heart breaking to see her crying pain after being maced in the eyes, and watching her Get grabbed by three men, tied down, and dragged away while screaming for help.
  • Break the Haughty: Amber was repeatedly shown to be out of her element, and from the start seemed to be just slightly distanced from the group. Throughout the season it showed her trying to let down her guard and try to be a team player, but still isn't very good at socializing.
  • Confession Cam: Again, used liberally throughout each episode.
  • Cool Old Guy: Deville. A 70-year-old retired contractor, he's apparently stepped up as the de facto leader of the Colonists, with his experience providing many of the ideas they adopt to survive.
    • As of the latest episode, Sally has been elected as the "leader". However, Deville remains an incredibly capable, level-headed and productive member of the group, having constructed a cistern, which will provide them with weeks of water.
  • Darker and Edgier: The new Colonists' starting location has less food, less water, and much more severely damaged shelter. Their home base is less secure and, unlike the first season, they are physically attacked almost from the get go.
  • Downer Ending: As the colonists escape on an airboat, they are met by a gang of armed thugs at their destination.
  • Dropped A Bridge On Them: Michael and Amber. While out scouting, a random "infected" survivor jumped out and coughed blood on them both. They were then forced to leave the show because they are "infected".
  • Fan Disservice: A bunch of pretty girls stripping down to their underwear? Hot. A bunch of girls (and Reno) gagging, sobbing, and about to vomit while dragging around a bunch of maggot infested rotting pig carcasses in their underwear? Not so hot.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: Jim. "Son of a biscuit!" indeed.
  • A House Divided: Chronic lack of food has stressed the Colonists so badly that they're blowing up at each other regardless of the seriousness of the issue.
  • I'm Not Here to Make Friends: Amber is being portrayed somewhat as this, being confrontational with the other colonists, saying that she unashamedly always speaks her mind, and taking a "good of the many" approach with Becka's kidnapping, telling the other colonists not to give away too much, and even insulting Becka in Confession Cam to argue she's not worth it.
    • Played straight with Sian, she leaves the colonists and goes with VOPA.
  • Inescapable Net: At one point, raiders attack and use a net gun on George. It's weighted and made of thin fibers, so it wraps around him completely and thoroughly tangles. He's rendered completely immobile and falls to the ground, even suffering some minor injuries.
  • The Lad-ette: Amber and Sally, a logger and mechanic respectively. Their presence will no doubt lead to the most butch cat fight ever seen.
  • The Load: Subverted. In the first episode, George appeared to be this. He takes a nap during dinnertime and rides a bicycle instead of walking with the group when they went out searching. However, he since became one of the most productive colonists after constructing a forge and bellows, allowing them to craft metal into weapons.
  • The Plague: The premise of this season is that the region has been devastated by a mutation of the avian flu, and that the colonists are among those who are not yet infected. This creates an added challenge, as anyone who comes into physical contact with outsiders has to be quarantined for 12 hours to make sure they weren't infected.
  • The Stinger: So the colonists escape the raid on their fan boat to live in a nice 2 floor house in the bayou right? When they get there, there is already a bunch of people living there!
  • Male Gaze: When the girls stripped down to put on smocks in the second episode, the viewers got two loving, lingering shots of their panty-clad behinds.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Reno appears to be allergic to shirts.
    • In fact, all of the mid-to-young age guys tend to enjoy working up a sweat with their shirts off.
  • Ship Tease: Reno & Becka anyone? He agreed to stay in quarantine with her and they had friendly conversation for 12 hours.
    • Then the scene between Reno and Sally, of him saying that he doesn't like the idea of someone besides him working with her. He then had to clarify that he didn't mean as a jealous boyfriend way.
    • And how about when Sally says if she was just being self-centered and not thinking about the group, she would hop on the motorcycle with Reno and just take off together. Try watching any scene with them together after that and not seeing a touch linger, a hug extended.
  • Sixth Ranger: Tick. A badass ex-Marine Sniper who has been living off the land way better than the Colonists have. He then joins the colonists to help tighten up security as well as showing them how to hunt and gather better.
  • Never Split the Party: Hoo boy...
  • No Animals Were Harmed: The first episode of season 2 averts the hell out of this.
    • And now they've killed an Alligator...we can only hope no one tells PETA about this show.
  • The Outside World: the show features a group of people living in a warehouse (Season 1) and a house (Season 2). Outside the gates or perimeter are raiders, wildlife, and other unknowns. Some members of the group even became lost forever on the Outside.
  • Sliding Scale of Fourth Wall Hardness: When the colonists receive happy videos of their family members saying hello and asking if they're having fun. it's really emotional, but it seems to completely demolish the fourth wall.
  • Team Mom: Sian. Does most of the cooking, takes care of inventory with the food, but also comforts Jim when they find a macaroni painting made by "his kids".
  • True Companions: Deville, at least, feels this way about the colony members.
  • Silly Rabbit, Idealism Is for Kids!:
    • Jim started off as a praying loving Christian man who intended to be moralistic. But very quickly he became a bitter, angry, distrusting individual, all of the fighting and stress took a toll on his view on life.
    • Taken to its extreme when Tick arrives. Jim is so suspicious of him that he sleeps outside. Becka comments that looking at him, hairy, greasy, and hunched over a fire outside looked more like some kind of creepy animalistic cave man than the nice guy he was at the start.
  • Wham Episode: The end of the first episode already has the colonists physically attacked by a militia, who proceed to steal their medicine and a goodly portion of their food...and unlike the first season, "physically attacked" in this case meant that there were headlocks, throwing the colonists around, an elbow to a colonist's back while putting them into a headlock, slamming a colonist into the pavement, pinning them to the ground, and pepper spray right in their eyes. This stood in marked contrast to the flashier, Mad Max-esque spectacles of the first season.
    • Oh God, Becka. She's going to have nightmares for weeks after this experiment after that spectacle. The previews for next episode seem to suggest that it gets even worse for her.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: After Michael and Amber were "infected" and forced to leave the show, Becka quickly states that they never really felt like a part of the group/family anyway. You can see the shock and sadness in Deville's eyes. Reno mentions losing respect for her. And Jim, who took longer than anyone to accept Michael and Amber, immediately calls her (and himself) out on it.
  • Wrench Wench: Sally is an auto-mechanic.