‘Show of the year’ came out of nowhere

 

Weeks after it went to air, a little-known show that was barely marketed somehow managed to become the highest-rated series ever on IMDb.

In June, Chernobyl surged passed the likes of shows with loyal fanbases including Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones and Planet Earth to hit a whopping 9.7 (out of 10) average rating on the public review site.

To reach such a high at this point was remarkable considering there was still a whole lot of people who hadn't even heard of it yet. That changed rapidly, with Chernobyl becoming the most talked about show in the world literally overnight.

Within a day, on June 4, there was an 103 per cent overnight increase of people tweeting "Chernobyl", according to Twitter data, with 600 per cent more tweets about the show on June 12 compared to May 12.

Foxtel, the exclusive home of Chernobyl, began streaming the HBO miniseries in May, and it is still Foxtel's most streamed new show in 2019 with more than 1.4 million hours worth of viewing on demand in Australia.

WHAT IS CHERNOBYL ABOUT?

Chernobyl became the highest rating show on IMDb. Picture: Supplied
Chernobyl became the highest rating show on IMDb. Picture: Supplied

The five-episode HBO drama, which is available to stream on Foxtel Now, is based on the real-life events of the infamous catastrophic nuclear disaster in northern Ukrainian SSR in 1986.

Chernobyl follows the fallout of the April 26 accident in Pripyat, the worst nuclear disaster in history, as physicist Valery Legasov (Jared Harris) works with (and eventually against) the Soviet Union government that is desperately trying to hide the truth about the incident, which happened during a late-night safety test.

It's eerie opening scenes reveal the explosion went unnoticed by the people near the plant but was felt right across the Soviet state of Ukraine, with the remaining episodes capturing the graphic demise of those with radiation poisoning.

Emily Watson and Stellan Skarsgard form the cast.

Everything from its script, costume, set precision and acting were praised, with the show winning three Emmys this year for Best Limited Series, Best Writing for a Limited Series and Best Directing for a Limited Series.

Be warned, it's seriously heavy stuff but the reward is huge.

The final episode will have you on the edge of your seat, and pique a sudden interest in physics.

THE CHERNOBYL DISASTER: WHAT HAPPENED

A 4,200 square kilometre human exclusion zone around Chernobyl was put in place due to chronic radiation fallout following the nuclear reactor accident 33 years ago.

Radiation was detected across Europe and about 300,000 residents were permanently evacuated from their homes after the accident.

The explosion and fire was caused by human error at the No. 4 nuclear reactor in the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant near the city of Pripyat.

A cloud of radioactive strontium, caesium and plutonium affected mainly Ukraine and neighbouring Belarus, as well as parts of Russia and Europe.

Facility operators, in violation of safety regulations, had switched off important control systems at the Ukrainian plant's No. 4 reactor and allowed it to reach unstable, low-power conditions, according to a United Nations report.

A power surge led to a series of blasts at 1.24am which blew off the reactor's heavy steel and concrete lid and sent a cloud of radioactive dust billowing across northern and western Europe, reaching as far as the eastern US.

UN agencies have said some 4,000 people died because of radiation exposure.

The environmental group Greenpeace puts the eventual death toll far higher than official estimates, with up to 93,000 extra cancer deaths worldwide.

The Chernobyl Union of Ukraine, a non-government body, estimates the present death toll from the disaster at almost 734,000.

TOURISM BOOM AND SELFIE HOTSPOT

According to a report by Reuters, tourist numbers have boomed in the area since the hit TV show started screening.

Local tour operators saw a 30 to 40 per cent increase in bookings since the show became a phenomenon.

Sergiy Ivanchuk, director of SoloEast tours, told Reuters his company saw a 30 per cent increase in tourists going to the area in May 2019 compared with the same month last year.

Yuriy Morozov, 42, a tour guide in the area, told The Sun more visitors than ever were flocking to the disaster zone.

"People want to see Chernobyl for themselves after the TV show. They are fascinated," he said in June.

Then there were the influencers posting sexy selfies from the death zone.

Snaps of a woman posing half naked in a G-string and a Hazmat suit, and another donning a helmet and white coat inside the nuclear plant control room, emerged online in June, which caused outrage.

Craig Mazin, the writer of the series, took to Twitter to condemn tourist selfies.

"If you visit, please remember that a terrible tragedy occurred here," he tweeted.

All that remains since the 1986 catastrophic accident - which saw plumes of radioactive material decimate towns and animals nearby - is a haunting ghost town with an abandoned ferris wheel.

Chernobyl is available to stream on Foxtel Now