Who will survive this dire drama?

It's the end of the world as we know it -- and it's never been so boring, says Pat Stacey KATHERINE LYNCH'S SINGLE LADIES (RTE2) STACEY'S STARS Survivors HIIII Katherine Lynch's Single Women HIIII

Pat Stacey

The apocalypse just ain't what it used to be. In the original Survivors, which ran on BBC1 in the mid-Seventies, a time when the world's brow was permanently furrowed with worry about being annihilated by one thing or another (usually nuclear war), most of the planet's population is wiped out by a man-made plague.

This being an era before bird flu, swine flu, mad cow disease or whatever other potentially killer bug you're having yourself this week, the prospect that such a thing could happen was pretty terrifying -- at least in a low-budget, BBC, "let's film it in the countryside to save money on special effects" sort of way.

In the new Survivors -- which, to the gob-smacked amazement of many of us, has managed to survive into a second series despite being mostly dire -- 99pc of the world's population is wiped out by a mysterious virus that seems to afflict only ugly people, leaving the good-looking and the photogenic unscathed.

The survivors have a battle on their hands, however, to escape an outbreak of hoary old cliches, which are piling up, one after another, like the lumps of polystyrene rubble the characters regularly have to clamber over to safety.

There seems to be a few steadfast rules governing British post-apocalyptic TV dramas:

1) You have to have a moody, not entirely reliable hero, who stalks about the place waving a shotgun, which he rarely if ever uses to shoot anybody -- a role filled with admirable woodenness by Max Beesley as the scowling, taciturn Tom.

2) There must always be a Land Rover on hand to be commandeered at crucial moments. Why it has to be a Land Rover, I don't know. Surely, in the event of all but 1pc of the population ending up as dead as Python's parrot, there would be a few rich people's houses lying vacant, probably with a top-of-the-range BMW or Porsche sitting idle in the garage?

3) You have to have some mad, or at least misguided, scientists who hang their ethics alongside their white coats in their frantic efforts to find a cure. Step forward the icy, creepy Geraldine Somervile (you'll remember her as DS Penhaligon from Cracker), who's madder than a cage full of her own lab rats.

Throw in some hammy acting, thunderous explosions and thunderously bad, sub- Hollywood blockbuster dialogue and you have a vision of the future that's even more hackneyed and fright-free than the BBC's dreary The Day of the Triffids, shown over Christmas. It's the end of the world as we know it -- and it's never been so boring.

There's not a lot you can say about Katherine Lynch's Single Ladies other than that it's exactly like Katherine Lynch's Working Women (loud, crude, tatty, unfunny and embarrassing) and features the same little gallery of grotesque characters, here stretched to absolute breaking point.

There are five more episodes to go, and RTE is no doubt eyeing up a third series. Perhaps they could call it Katherine Lynch's Single Joke.