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Jay Baruchel is taking us back to the days when he hosted Popular Mechanics for Kids with his new series, We're All Gonna Die (Even Jay Baruchel), a scientific, but comedic, exploration of possible apocalyptic scenarios that would lead to human extinction (premiering April 29 at the Hots Docs 2022 festival, streaming on Crave April 30).
“Sometimes it feels like the world is coming to an end, everything is going to sh-t right now. I’m starting to actually wonder, is this it? Is this the end?” Baruchel says at the beginning of the series.
“In [the 2013 movie This Is the End, I played a version of myself facing doomsday, but the end of the world is not some Hollywood fantasy and the reality of our situation, well, it’s been on my mind ever since I co-hosted Popular Mechanics for Kids… Now here I am wondering if we even have a future. So I started looking for some real answers about human extinction, and that is when sh-t got real.”
Through conversations with researchers, scientists, activists and other experts in their respective fields, We're All Gonna Die explores the likelihood of massive deadly events, including an asteroid destroying Earth, “nuclear Armageddon,” alien invasion, a supervolcano erupting, the “climate apocalypse,” and even a pandemic.
“I have two environmental scientist parents and I grew up around conversations about where the planet was heading, and all the terrible things we're doing to it,” director Victoria Lean told Yahoo Canada. “I became a filmmaker trying to translate science to larger audiences and in the last couple years, I've started doing more environmental science-type shows with humour.”
“[Executive producer Stuart Henderson] approached me with this idea for a project and we started developing it together over about a year… We thought someone like Jay Baruchel would be wonderful,...we wrote it with him in mind and approached him with it, and he loved the idea.”
From 'Popular Mechanics for Kids' to 'Popular Extinction for Humans'
For Canadians who watched the show Popular Mechanics for Kids (or PMK for the real fans), hosted by a young Jay Baruchel, Elisha Cuthbert, Tyler Kyte and Vanessa Lengies from 1997 to 2000, We’re All Gonna Die not only shows clips from PMK as a callback to Baruchel’s first hosting gig, but the tone of the storytelling also broadly brings you back to those PMK days.
“I obviously mentioned it a ton with Jay in the beginning,...it really resonated with a lot of people and I think that's why it's so important with a host that they have a natural, organic hook into the story,” Victoria Lean explained. “It's kind of a classic unlikely hero story, in a sense,… he's not your typical host, he swears a lot, but at the end of the day he always gets to the heart of the matter and the right question.”
“There's This Is The End where he's telling other people about the apocalypse and in that movie he played a version of himself, but on Popular Mechanics he was really investigating how the world works, and now the world has become a scarier place. So Jay had to be called back to work, called back to the game of hosting. I joke of this as being like ‘Popular Extinction for Humans.’”
As we see in the first two episodes of We’re All Gonna Die, the series also supplements interviews with comparisons to movies to illustrate these apocalyptic situations.
“We're making a docuseries about things that have never actually happened before but could happen, and where we've seen these pan out is basically only in movies,” Lean said. “That is how we imagine the unimaginable, which is what we're talking about, things that could destroy humanity, or a large portion of it.”
“What's fascinating in the first episode, the asteroid one, Armageddon and Deep Impact actually helped shift public perception… Prior to the ‘90s…you’d get laughed out of a room if you were genuinely concerned about an impact striking, so those movies actually help explain the jobs that people do.”
'To think we will not go extinct is crazy'
We're All Gonna Die also questions why there isn’t more of a focus on conversations around human extinction. As Jay Baruchel reveals on the show, we’ve spent more time studying Star Trek, snowboarding and dung beetles than human extinction.
At the end of the second episode Rev. Dr. Cheri Dinovo, Trinity St. Paul’s Centre for Faith, Justice and the Arts, puts forward the argument that we are a “death denying culture,” making it difficult for us to really evaluate possible catastrophic events.
“It's hard for us as individuals to imagine our own death, so how can we imagine the death of like seven billion people?” Victoria Lean said. “But it's constantly there, kind of under the surface, how the world might end.”
“It's sort of this duality but certainly the hubris of humanity to think we will not go extinct is crazy, 99.9 per cent of all species that have ever existed have gone extinct. But we have the power to develop technologies and plan for the future to prevent that inevitability… There are such high impacts that it merits planning for them, because the consequences would be so devastating.”