“2012” panic hits TV and movies three years early

By Jeff Pfeiffer

Scene from Columbia Pictures' "2012"

Here we go again. Just as with all the Y2K worries in 1999 and several “end-of-the-world” scenarios and dates speculated about throughout history, people have again found something “apocalyptic” to fret about.

The infamous year 2012 will soon be upon us. In case you haven’t heard, because the ancient Mayan calendar abruptly ends on Dec. 21, 2012, some people believe that means a global catastrophe will be taking place that day. The ending of the calendar can be open to interpretation, but it’s interesting how the human mind more often than not jumps to the worst-possible scenario almost immediately. However, it’s unlikely that most people take this particular “prophecy” seriously. Y2K at least had some legit technical concerns to think about and ward off, but I believe the majority of us know there’s not much to worry about with this one. Otherwise, why bother planning ahead for anything like the next presidential election or Olympics? Basically, it’s something scary to think about, and sometimes scary things like this can be entertaining, hence the popularity of horror movies and yes, end-of-the-world disaster movies.

Such a movie debuts in theaters next Friday, the (gasp!) 13th, and is simply titled 2012. Directed by Roland Emmerich, it looks to be the same sort of global devastation stuff we got from him with Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow, so he’s almost becoming an Irwin Allen for our time. But the fact that we’ve seen most of these types of explosions and floods before will likely not stop audiences from flocking to the film. Or from flocking to TV shows with a similar premise. At least, that’s what the following networks are counting on as they air programs next week leading up to the film and playing on its “the end is nigh” premise. I’ll let the network press releases for the specials speak for themselves, to show off some of the sexy, “disaster porn” hyperbole they tend to feature (which we’ll probably hearing more of over the next three years). All releases are [sic].

Maya codex from NGC's "2012: Countdown to Armageddon"

2012: Countdown to Armageddon National Geographic Channel, Nov. 8 at 8pm ET.
From release: “Are we three years from the end of the world? It’s the premise of this fall’s feature film “2012,” starring John Cusack. Based on the end of a cycle of an actual ancient Maya calendar that will end on December 21, 2012, NGC asks, “What truths lie behind the fears?” Some enthusiasts fear worldwide changes from what is called a pole shift. We’ll meet one scientist who believes the surface of the Earth experienced a dramatic pole shift in the past, causing the continents to slide across the core of the Earth — and has evidence to prove it. Then, experts examine one of the few remaining original Maya writings in the hope that their hieroglyphs will reveal more clues about the prophecy.”

2012 Apocalypse Discovery Channel, Nov. 8 at 9pm ET.
From release: “Fire pours down from the sky. Oceans rise up and swallow the land. Continents tear themselves apart. This is when and how the world will end…if you believe in prophecies. Doomsday fanatics claim that a lost civilization predicted our fates more than 1,000 years ago. They say that our destruction on this date is certain, and evidence confirming our impending doom can be found in ancient calendars and the movements of the stars and planets. But what does science have to say about the apocalypse? Is there anything that could possibly bring about cataclysmic changes on the Earth in 2012? Explore the most plausible planetary disasters that 2012 may bring, and determine whether or not the end of life on Earth really is lurking just around the corner.”

2012: Startling New Secrets Syfy, Nov. 8 at 9pm ET.
From release: “Massive earthquakes. Giant tidal waves. Super volcanoes exploding. Raging firestorms. These are just a few visions of a global apocalypse that some say will happen on December 21, 2012. That’s when the eerily accurate Mayan calendar will come to a sudden end. That ancient calendar is causing a modern day panic. People around the world fear that our planet faces a catastrophe never seen before in human history.

What can we do to prepare for 2012 — and what has already been done? New theories are emerging that the U.S. and other governments may have conspired to hide the disturbing facts from the public, in part to prevent global panic. Some are claiming the U.S. government actually has a secret project to try and prevent an Apocalypse. A few aren’t waiting for the government to solve the problem. They take these dire predictions so seriously they’re preparing for the worst … selling their homes and moving to undisclosed locations across the globe.

But there is dispute about what that mysterious Mayan date really means. Some say it’s not a new Armageddon, but the dawn of a New Age.

So, what is the truth behind 2012?

Join host Lester Holt as he explores whether the ancient Mayans predicted a possible cataclysm in 2012 — and if they could be right. The key to understanding 2012, and possibly surviving it, could be hidden halfway around the world beneath the desert sands. We will travel to Egypt with a mission to discover an ancient Hall of Records believed buried near the pyramids that could reveal secret knowledge about past cataclysms and clues about how we might be able to avert future ones. We’ll also travel to Central America on a mission to discover the origins of the 2012 prophesy and to find out what it’s authors really intended. We will use clues from ancient knowledge combined with modern-day science to uncover the mysteries 2012. It is a race against the clock and mankind’s very existence could hang in the balance.

Is this a prophecy a death sentence … or perhaps merely a warning? Is there be time to save ourselves? Join us as we attempt to find out the truth behind 2012.”

Nostradamus Effect: “2012 Extinction” History, Nov. 11 at 8pm ET.
From release: “The Maya, an ancient South American culture, predicted that time would end in a violent apocalypse on December 21, 2012. They created an elaborate astronomical calendar called “The Long Count,” which stops abruptly in 2012. This date, which is also the winter equinox, coincides with an incredibly rare galactic alignment that happens once every 26,000 years. What did the Mayans think would happen when their calendar ended? And were they joined by other cultures — from different parts of the world and in different centuries — all pointing to 2012 as a calamitous end time? The Hopi Indians and Eastern Hindus have similar calendars, which are remarkably synchronous. One counter-culture mystic even uses an Ancient Chinese philosophy to unlock the key to a 2012 prophecy. Nostradamus himself suggests the world is headed toward a coming cataclysm. What can we do to head the warning of the Mayan apocalypse?”

2012aThese “2012 prophecy” specials and the likely hit movie on whose box office crest they are trying to ride should offer fun, harmless thrills as long as you don’t take them too seriously. 2012 will come and go, and then we’ll let future generations worry about Rush’s mysterious 2112 prophecy …


“2012” movie images: © 2009 Columbia TriStar Marketing Group, Inc.

Maya codex: © National Geographic Channel