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Top 8 Depressing Shows Like "Chernobyl"

Rahul is a TV addict who can't get enough of twisted, gasp-inducing shows like "The Handmaid's Tale" and "Black Mirror".

shows-like-chernobyl

Chernobyl — A Generation Defining Series

Chernobyl is 2019’s most talked-about series, depicting the 1986 nuclear disaster in painstaking detail. Some things may have been dramatized for TV, but the raw emotional distress felt throughout the series takes you back to that horrific time period.

Based on the book, Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster by Laureate Svetlana Alexievich, Chernobyl is a terrifying tale of suffering and tragedy. It’s sad that people only come together during times of public distress, but one couldn’t possibly imagine facing such a disaster alone. If it wasn’t for the firefighters, volunteers, and other unsung heroes who risked their own safety, the outcome could’ve been far more devastating.

Chernobyl also shows people trying to cover up their mistakes, making the situation grimmer. They put countless lives in danger, just to save their own skin. This just goes to show that humans still have a lot to learn in terms of morality. The more advanced we become, the less we seem to care about others.

Chernobyl only utilizes five episodes to tell a soul-stirring story. If you're looking for something as potent as this heavy-handed series, here’s a list of TV shows similar to Chernobyl.

Series Like Chernobyl

  1. The Society
  2. Sick Note
  3. Euphoria
  4. When They See Us
  5. Russian Doll
  6. Westworld
  7. Snowpiercer
  8. The Terror
shows-like-chernobyl

1. The Society

Based on the novel, Lord of the Flies, by William Golding, The Society is a gripping tale of a handful of teenagers. After some high schoolers return home from a canceled camping trip, they find all of the town’s adults absent or missing. It seems like a fun life at first, but after the dust settles and the parties are over, these reckless teenagers start coming to their senses.

They realize, perhaps for the first time, that the adults are needed in society. It's hard to survive a single day without them being around. With everyone gone, these teens will have to take charge of the situation. Things, however, don't go quite as planned.

It’s not like our protagonists are starting a society from scratch; everything is set up and ready to go because modern-day machines have made things so much easier. They just have to learn to control themselves and maintain order in a way that accommodates everybody.

Can these young people who have never even experienced the brutality of the real world face this unusual storm? Watch these teenagers coming to their senses right in front of your eyes, as they learn the weight of maintaining a civilized group.

Should Chernobyl fans be watching this teen drama?

The answer would be a resounding 'yes'. It might look like just another teen drama, but there is much more to it. While The Society is not as suffocating as Chernobyl, it's mature, dark, and gripping — something one wouldn't usually expect from a CW show. While the supernatural element spice things up, it never goes over the top. Unlike Chernobyl, The Society's story succumbs to the teenage drama in the beginning, but the show finds its way back to relevance soon enough.

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2. Sick Note

Unlike other shows on the list, Sick Note is a comedy about a 'serious subject matter'. Daniel’s entire life is falling apart before his very eyes, but there’s very little he can do to get out of this situation. To make matters worse, his doctor gives him some more bad news — he has cancer, which later turns out to be the best thing that has happened to our protagonist in years. Everyone starts treating him better after hearing about the diagnosis, but the universe could only let him have a good time for so long.

It turns out Daniel doesn’t have cancer after all. He falls back to the same old routine, descending further down the road of irrelevance and depression. Watch the incompetent doctor and his miserable patient try to cover up a lie, which could further ruin their lives.

Shunned by critics, Sick Note was pretty much dead on arrival. It's true that this comedy suffers from predictibility at times, but it more than makes up for it with its wry humour. Rupert Grint plays the role of an unlikable and miserable character with panache, making the audience loathe him but also relate to his desperate measures for some attention.

Sick Note is available to binge on Netflix. I know it's an unusual suggestion, but you're here to find shows you haven't already heard about, right?

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3. Euphoria

Drugs are a convenient way to keep your issues at bay but once the high starts wearing off, you’re left with one of two choices — deal with reality head-on and try to fix everything that’s bothering you, or take more drugs and let the cycle repeat itself. Sadly, most people choose the latter. It’s easier to tame your inner demons that way. It’s not uncommon for teenagers to go through an existential crisis, but the way they deal with it eventually determines their future.

The story revolves around young characters who have taken the easy way out in their quest to avoid the grim reality for as long as possible. Each episode introduces a young character dealing with their own set of problems, unable to find lasting peace. These drug addicts don't want to let go of their 'high.'

As of the time of writing, only one season has aired with no confirmation about the second. Give the first one a shot and decide for yourselves if this new series portrays a realistic view of the modern millennial psyche.

Why Am I recommending Euphoria?

Though Chernobyl is based upon a real incident and Euphoria, for the most part, is a fictional drama, they both air on HBO — a platform that seldom goes wrong with their mini-series, movies, or shows. While Chernobyl has been hailed as a generation-defining show, Euphoria deserves the same eulogy.

On top of that, the visual aesthetics in both the shows are mesmerizing. As horrifying as Chernobyl is, you can't deny that its set-pieces are fascinating, setting a benchmark for other shows. Euphoria isn't too far behind in that department, cementing its place as one of the best looking shows on TV.

Disconcerting and unflinchingly cruel, Euphoria will remind you of Skins, a British show that somehow manged to stay on air for 7 season, fending off all sorts of accusations hurled at the series. If you love Euphoria, maybe give Skins a shot as well.

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4. When They See Us

How would you feel if you or someone you knew was falsely imprisoned for almost 25 years, with no hopes of making it out?

Based on the true story of The Central Park Five, When They See Us is the story of a group of young African-American teenagers who were accused of raping a jogger. This case is seen by many as a typical case of racial profiling and discrimination as there was no concrete evidence against the accused individuals. The only thing different about them from the rest of the people in the park was the color of their skin.

With only four episodes on the menu, it shouldn't prove too difficult to churn through the whole drama. I would, however, recommend you to go slow as the story takes its toll on you. When They See Us will surely make you hate the fabric of our corrupt system, but it will also give you some hope at the same time.

My only criticism of the show would be its lack of attention to Trisha Meili, a brave survivor who was left to die in the park that day. This suffocating series merely focuses on the accused, depicting their plight in gruesome details. That's not to say that this series isn't brilliant. I'm merely arguing that Ava DuVernay, the director behind the series, could have given some screen time to her character as well.

If you're looking for a show like Chernobyl that's just as morbid and depressing, When They See Us should fit the bill.

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5. Russian Doll

Have you ever heard the phrase, “never-ending night?". Nadia, the protagonist of the show, is literally going through this very experience, with no hopes for an escape. She dies at the end of the night, only to relive the entire day again and again, as she slowly learns the reality of her situation.

Everyone would live differently if they thought it was the last day of their lives. Nadia knows for a fact that it is, but even if she manages to have the best day, she’ll have to do it all over again. It’s just like the story of poor old Sisyphus who carried the boulder all the way to the top of the mountain, only to see it roll down again.

If this doesn’t prove that immortality is a curse, I don’t know what will. Watch Russian Doll and witness an individual who has somehow broken the space-time barrier to experience an endless moment.

Comedy moguls Natasha Lyonne and Amy Poehler co-created this series, so the whole affair, as expected, is a meticulously crafted piece of art. Lyonne also stars here, proving once again why she's one of the finest small-screen actors today. No one else could have played this tragic character with such panache. A sharp storyline combined with some acting brilliance by Natasha makes for a spellbinding show that will keep you thinking for a while.

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6. Westworld

The depressing but intriguing Westworld takes place in a world where humanoids are used for entertainment. Humans have built theme parks where these robots serve as hosts. With no consequences for their actions. humans have no issues murdering and raping these poor machines. Things, however, go south when one of these machines goes rogue and starts a revolution against the whole human race.

I'll admit that the trailer for the third season had me worried that the series is heading for a reboot. I'm glad to be proved wrong here. The first 2 seasons focus on the theme parks, but the third expands the horizons of the show, bringing all the parties out in the real world. It turns out that the theme park was a mere piece of the puzzle. There is much more at stake here.

The convoluted nature of the first 2 seasons makes the show incredibly difficult to follow. you'll likely need a pen and paper to keep track of all the timelines and little background details they hope you'd pick up on. Rewatch some scenes, read some fan theories, and figure some stuff out on your own. That's where the fun lies. Thankfully, the third season took it easy on its audience, listening to the fan feedback. Let's just hope that the series doesn't go back to its old ways.

Would Chernobyl fans love this sci-fi series?

For starters, HBO is helming this series, which often means quality content with no fluff. This evenly paced ride never lets up once it gets going. Westworld is often hailed as one of the best shows available on HBO, right alongside some of its recent offerings like Perry Mason and Chernobyl.B

Both these shows perfectly depict what happens when incompetent and insensible people are in the position of power. Disaster is imminent.

shows-like-chernobyl

7. Snowpiercer

While Chernobyl depicts the nuclear disaster in gruesome detail, Snowpiercer takes place in a frozen wasteland — a hopeless place where nothing survives. The few lucky ones with money and connections managed to catch a never-ending ride — an eternal train that must keep running to keep the last remains of humanity alive. Once it stops running, everyone will die of cold in a few minutes. Fast forward 7 years, the train is still going strong while narrowly avoiding all the potential disasters.

But not everyone is happy with their living situation. While the first and second class have it best, the third and the tailies are barely surviving. The revolution is around the corner, once again, but there is no suppressing it this time around. It's going to be a do-or-die situation for every passenger boarding the train. Can the train endure another one of these wars? I won't spoil that for you. Watch the series to find out more.

If you've watched the movie this series is based upon, the latter will feel instantly familiar to you. There are some complaints that the show takes a lot of time to get going, but I personally prefer a slow and steady ride that never lets up. The first 2-3 episodes are definitely sluggish, but the story picks up place soon enough afterward.

As the palpable tension rises between the groups scrambling for power, betrayals and murders follow. This is what we gorehounds revel in, right? Don't listen to the critics. Give the first two episodes a go before coming a conclusion. And if you haven't watched the original movie, go for that before you jump on the bandwagon.

8. The Terror

Based on a true story, The Terror takes place in 1845, revolving around two ships that set sail from Britain, only to get lost somewhere in the Arctic. It's quite surprising how no one found the wreckage up until recently. Even then, it's not quite clear how they ended up in that nightmarish predicament. Though one can't say for certain how they died, The Terror comes up with a terrifying tale to fill all the blanks.

Though the show relies quite a bit on cliche horror tropes, it still remains authenticating, thanks to thoughtful writing and authenticating performances by everyone involved, including the supporting cast. The slow build-up of dread, right from the get-go, will keep you on your toes throughout this series. It's a horror show like no other, chilling you to the core with its dreadful atmosphere. It feels as if you're the one in the middle of an icy labyrinth with no way out.

The sheer brilliance with which some of the action sequences are shot emphasizes the hopelessness of these sailors who know that there's no hope for them. Yet, they keep on fighting. Just when they think the worse is behind them, new trouble appears on the horizon — something that ends with their last breath.

While the second season is not near as meticulous as the first one, it's still watchable. If you want quality content, stick to the first season.

It's quite difficult to find anything similar to Chernobyl, but I tried my best to find shows you'd love. If I missed any particular shows deserving to be included here, let me know in the comments section.