First off, no, The Lottery has absolutely nothing to do with the Shirley Jackson short story we all probably read in high school. Let’s get that out of the way now because literally every time I start talking about this show that’s the first thing people say: “Oh, like that short story right?”
The Lottery brings us to a not too distant future where humanity is on the brink of catastrophe. The world wide birth rate had fallen to zero due to some unknown force causing a lack of fertility in women everywhere. The last six children born in the United States are already five years old and any attempts to artificially or naturally create pregnancies have failed completely. It’s an international crisis and people are becoming desperate.
But the world still functions.
It still spins. Life goes on. People still go to work and pay their taxes. Children go to school. It’s such a normal looking world in so many ways but it’s the little things that really jump out then. Lifetime has created a future that is all too realistic and that’s the greatest thing about a pre-apocalyptic angle. You get to toy with what happens next. How do we get from point A to point B? Most of the things we see in the show – with a few exceptions for advanced technology – are similar to the things we see every day.
But there’s a different air about everything. Hooking up in bars isn’t about just sex but procreation where men pride themselves on the children they’ve fathered. Social unrest isn’t about Obamacare or immigration but mandatory egg and sperm donations so scientists have a constant stream of material to test and experiment on. The families of the remaining children risk scrutiny from their neighbors and the government on how they raise their children because they’re all society has left. When there is any risk of discord of public uprising, the government goes to damnable lengths to stop it.
It’s a world that seems so painfully normal that it’s almost terrifying to see the differences because they seem too realistic.
Lifetime’s the Lottery sets a high bar for future pre-apocalyptic series on television.
I know they bill the series as ‘apocalyptic’ but that’s not what it is. I say pre-apocalyptic because the world in which the Lottery is set is in effect ending. But society hasn’t yet fallen apart. People haven’t yet given up hope completely. This is our world a a pivotal moment, a tipping point before everything spirals out of control. That’s what a lot of post-apocalyptic pop culture misses these days. They go straight for the shattered worlds instead of embracing the build up.
The Lottery is different.
There’s potential in the Lottery that other shows will never have.
The real question is whether or not the Lottery can build on it’s (potentially too) fast paced premiere and world building throughout the rest of the series.
Regardless, it gets major props from me for embracing a pre-apocalyptic setting and developing the end of the world in a way other showrunners have failed to do.