We’re nearing the tail end of 2020 and unfortunately, it will forever be etched in everyone’s mind as the year of hand sanitising, masking up, and social distancing. Viral infections are nothing new, history is wrought with mass events of infectious diseases, hence why some have even trickled into fictional works, albeit as more dramatised versions.
In conjunction with the World TV Day (21 November) this pandemic-wrought year, why don’t we take a look at 10 recent small screen works that focus on viral infections and parasitic contaminations?
“The End of the World” (Korean, 2013)
We compiled TV shows from both sides of the world, only to realise that Korean ones seem to dominate this genre, with various productions on both big and small screens. South Korea has been named by MIMS (Monthly Index of Medical Specialties) as the top 5 countries in the world with high quality healthcare, which might explain the nation’s obsession with medical-themed disaster dramas. Staring off our list here is “The End of the World”, a 12-episode JTBC drama based on Bae Young-Ik’s 2010 novel “Infectious Disease”. It follows the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (known now as Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency) a.k.a. CDC staff as they struggle to find a cure for a mysterious viral disease with a 100% fatality rate that is spreading throughout Seoul.
“The Virus” (Korean, 2013)
Running almost simultaneously as the above K-drama from May to March was the more pointedly-named “The Virus”, though this 10-episode drama did premiere two weeks earlier on 1 March on a different channel, OCN, and ended its run on 3 May, two days before the above did. Yubin, former member of K-pop group Wonder Girls, made her acting debut in this drama, which also revolves around a CDC crisis response team that must find an antidote for a mutant virus with a 100% fatality rate and prevent the epidemic from spreading worldwide.
“Black Bullet” (Japanese, 2014)
“Black Bullet” started off as a light novel series written by Shiden Kanzaki and illustrated by Saki Ukai in 2011, now in its seventh volume as of this year, before it was adapted into an anime TV series that ran from April to July 2014. The small screen adaptation is set in 2021 and focuses on the parasitic Gastrea Virus that ravages the whole world. Change the year to 2020 and the virus to COVID-19 and this is pretty eerie… But that aside, there is a somewhat positive spin to it – children born with the virus possess superpowers. (They are not-so-positively dubbed ‘the cursed children’ though.) A second season was supposed to have been released in mid-2020 but, of course, the real-life current pandemic has thwarted this plan for now.
“24” (Indian, 2016)
The Indian adaptation of American series “24” ran for two seasons, from 2013 to 2016. It is in the second season that the virus plot kicks in. Being an action thriller, the story of course involves a deadly virus that has been weaponised (there are even scenes of the virus being experimented on unwilling participants) and will be used to wreak havoc in Mumbai. India is the first country to get the rights to adapt the US show thanks to Anil Kapoor, who brought the official rights after making an appearance in the original American version in 2011.
“My Secret Terrius” (Korean, 2018)
About seven months ago, netizens were losing their heads when they discovered a 2-year-old Korean show on Netflix which supposedly “predicted” the pandemic of 2020. Just Google it, social media was flooded with clips of the ‘coronavirus scene’ from the So Ji-sub and Jung In-sun starrer “My Secret Terrius”. Understandably, everyone across the globe was slowly losing their minds from prolonged isolation at home at the time, or they would’ve immediately noticed that the scene could actually be easily explained away. The term ‘coronavirus’ is nothing new, it’s just been used more widely this year because the novel coronavirus that caused the COVID-19 pandemic gained worldwide notoriety before it could be given an official name, unlike its SARS and MERS predecessors. It’s now just referred to as the COVID-19 virus, though if you’re feeling fancy, you can always call it by its official name: severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).
“Origin” (American, 2018)
Now this one isn’t so much a medical story of viral infection as sci-fi story of parasitic infection, but we’re putting it on this list because victims do get infected via close physical contact, much like the coronavirus. Thankfully, that’s where the similarity ends. We wouldn’t want to face a virus that’s a lot like the cause of this series’ parasitic ‘disease’, so to speak, which are murderous aliens that invade your body from the inside out and turn you into an unwilling host. An evil one to boot. Set aboard the eponymous spaceship, “Origin” tells of a group of strangers who struggle to stay alive after finding themselves abandoned on it, all while facing the mysterious parasite. This YouTube Original series notably stars two “Harry Potter” alums, Natalia Tena (Nymphadora Tonks) and Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy).
“The Rain” (Danish, 2018)
It’s bad enough that now we have to wear masks – plus gloves and face shields where necessary – every time we go out, but imagine if we have to wear full protective gears on top of those too whenever it rains. The characters in Netflix’s “The Rain” would kill to have our pandemic, a minor inconvenience in comparison to its fictional virus that kills via rainwater. Even a single drop can prove fatal to the unfortunate souls that do not manage to find shelter from the rain in time. The show has recently wrapped up after three seasons.
“To the Lake” (Russian, 2019)
While the rest of the world only started watching this following its release on Netflix last month, Russians got to watch “To the Lake” almost a year earlier when it debuted on Russia’s streaming platform Premier. It follows the survivors of a mysterious virus that spreads throughout Moscow and kills the infected within days. Though filmed before the pandemic even begun, its premise is eerily similar to the world’s current predicament. It highlights the dark side of human nature when faced with a deadly threat, though hopefully we won’t see reactions this extreme playing out in the real world.
“24/7” (Philippines, 2020)
The Julia Montes-starring “24/7” focuses on an epidemic caused by a deadly hybrid of dengue and malaria. Montes made her long-awaited TV comeback playing a security officer and loving single mother in this four-episode Filipino series that aired on the Kapamilya Channel earlier this year. Her character, Mia, is trying her best to save her young son who has been infected. But the company she works for, Jacinto Pharmaceuticals, is mysteriously holding on to the vaccines instead of using them to save lives. Interestingly, this isn’t your typical medical drama, as it even has some time travelling thrown in!
“Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak” (American, 2020)
Wrapping up this list is “Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak”, another very timely Netflix release. Though only six episodes, the harrowing docuseries highlights detailed aspects of contagious disease, outbreaks and vaccines, even touching on the possibility of an influenza pandemic, which during the show’s release back in January wasn’t quite a reality yet. Now, in the midst of a full-on pandemic, this show is even more of a must-watch for viewers looking to educate themselves on the reality of a pandemic-ridden world.