A rendering of the underground shelter for Spike TV’s new show “Last Family on Earth.” A family will live in a bunker similar to this in an undisclosed location. The series will air in the fall. (AP)

Viewers will help decide which families will die — and which one lucky family will survive the end of the world Dec. 21 — in a new Spike TV reality competition series called “Last Family on Earth.”

Over six episodes, families subscribing to the notion that the end of civilization is set for Dec. 21 (as perhaps dictated by the Mayan calendar) will compete for a spot in an underground bunker that the network says has been built to withstand nearly any end-of-days disaster.

A panel of three survivalist-expert judges will help determine which family is given the bad news that it’s going to be left out to “die” each week by being excluded from the bunker.

The producers will do the first bit of applicant culling. The Viacom-owned network promises that the producers will chose families from “a wide variety of backgrounds” to compete — though, of course, apparently there will be no special-interest groups or angry rejectees around to file a discrimination lawsuit after Dec. 21.

The competition, Spike said, will showcase survival techniques and provide key information that like-minded viewers may use in preparation for doomsday, for those of you who also believe the sky is falling but are too lazy to compete for a berth in a bunker.

In addition to endurance and physical skills, challenges will test the contestants’ leadership abilities, integrity and character, the network added.

“Last Family on Earth” not only will focus on a Mayan interpretation of the Apocalypse, but the show also promises to help prime contestants for a variety of annihilation scenarios, including a pandemic, global government or economic collapse, nuclear war, reactor meltdown, solar flares, massive asteroids, lethal climate change, a pole shift, calamitous earthquakes — even widespread anarchy.

Viewer input via social media will also be used to determine which family gets de-bunkered each week.

“Last Family on Earth” is from Pilgrim Studios, whose founder, Craig Piligian, is a former producer of CBS’s “Survivor.” Pilgrim also produces such series as “American Chopper,” “Dirty Jobs,” “Destroyed in Seconds,” “Extreme Peril,” “American Hot Rod” and “Ghost Hunters.”

Oh, and the bunker space is being provided by the doomsday-shelter-building outfit Vivos, which is headed by Del Mar, Calif., developer Robert Vicino. He’s the same guy who, way back in ’83, installed an inflatable 10-story King Kong on the Empire State Building, to celebrate the original “King Kong” flick’s 50th anniversary. It was a publicity stunt, and at that time, Vicino was in the inflatable advertising business — you know, giant blow-up beer bottles, etc.

A ‘Hatfield’ summer

Had NBC unveiled Howard Stern as new host of “America’s Got Talent” during the first week of the summer TV season — which is when NBC unveiled the show’s sixth season last year — “AGT” would most certainly have been the week’s most-watched program, presumably attracting something northward of last year’s debut crowd of 15.3 million viewers.

Instead, the most-watched program of the first week of the summer season — May 28 through June 3 — starred Kevin Costner and was telecast on the History network. Last Wednesday’s finale of “Hatfields & McCoys” scored 14.3 million viewers — the biggest audience of any program on any TV network that week.

“Hatfields & McCoys” was also the second-most-watched program of the week of the summer season and the third-most-watched. Monday’s premiere of the three-part miniseries logged nearly 14 million viewers, and Tuesday’s Part 2 averaged more than 13 million.

All told, it’s the most-watched scripted entertainment program in basic cable history.

(Speaking of the Hatfields and McCoys, brace yourself for a stampede of new crime dramas set in the gun-toting heartland. Because in addition to History’s, um, historical miniseries performance, Sunday’s launch of “Longmire” — starring Robert Taylor as the plain-talking, straight-shooting, sorrow-harboring sheriff of Absaroka County, Wyo., and Katee Sackhoff as his dedicated deputy/greenhorn from Philadelphia — became A&E’s best-ever original-series premiere [4.1 million viewers] and cable TV’s No. 1 new scripted drama series of 2012 to date.)

Meanwhile, the Tuesday edition of “America’s Got Talent” was the week’s most-watched broadcast TV program, but it snagged only 11.5 million viewers, finishing far behind all three nights of “H&McC.”

Armed with its feuding-families miniseries, History averaged about 6 million prime-time viewers for the week to squeak by CBS and beat all broadcast networks. CBS had to settle for second, with an average of 5.92 million viewers.

To read previous columns by Lisa de Moraes, go to washingtonpost.com/
tvblog
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