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  • The entire Milky Way Galaxy as depicted in Stargate SG-1 is like this. As depicted in the series, the galaxy's population is primarily enslaved humanity duped into worshipping a bunch of evil aliens who get a kick out of posing as gods (never nice benevolent Judeo-Christian Jehowa God who never ever shows up yet Satan does, more like "Kneel Before Zod" gods), taking over the bodies of unwilling people, and ruling their planetary systems through a mode of governing best described as Unapologetic Dog Kicking (i.e. one System Lord basically nuked an entire populated star system rather than let it fall to another). In fact, part of the reason these evil aliens so despise Earth, is because it is one of the precious few relatively happy and free worlds in the galaxy. On top of this, when the evil aliens are defeated they are ALWAYS replaced by even more Ax Crazy foes (i.e. crazy religious fundamentalists with indestructible apostles and ships, robots bent on consuming whole planets, etc.) And if that's not good enough, our good guys have to basically twist the arms of the galaxy's other good guys to actually help (example, one race of pretty beneficent aliens were willing to let an innocent society be destroyed rather than intervene, and the members of the same doomed society actually tried to kill our heroes rather than avert their "intended" fate.
    • The Pegasus Galaxy in Stargate Atlantis isn't much better. It used to be a pretty nice place a long time ago under the stewardship of the Ancients. Then they unwittingly create a fast-breeding, vampiric race of pseudo-humanoids with bio-ships who defeat the Ancients despite their vastly superior technology and then start feeding on the galaxy's humans, periodically waking up from slumber to "harvest" the galaxy. Additionally, not all Wraith are asleep. Some keep watch and wipe out any civilization that even hints at possibly being threatening to them. The ascended Ancients aren't going to help. The only consolation is the Wraith fighting among themselves, as they were woken up ahead of schedule, and there isn't enough "food" for them to go around. The three times the humans from Earth encounter civilizations advanced enough to be their allies against the Wraith, they end up as new enemies. These include crazy humanoids composed of nanites (similar to the Replicators) who, when finally turned against the Wraith, choose to wipe out their "food" (i.e. all humans) instead. The Genii are a militaristic underground culture with 50s technology and a beef against Earth humans. The Vanir turn out to be a renegade faction of the benevolent Asgard, who view humans as expendable and are perfectly willing to destroy every single stargate in an Earth Shattering Explosion to keep safe from the Wraith.
  • One Foot in the Grave. Set in a Purgatory-like British suburbia in which everything always goes wrong and/or is generally unpleasant, and one stuffed to the brim with muggers, burglars, con-men, lunatics and antisocial louts, none of whom ever once get punished or even caught. Practically everyone the Meldrews ever interact with semi-regularly either despises them or is incredibly irritating. The series' overaching message, if it has one, seems to be "Life is cruel, utterly meaningless and basically horrible".
  • Veronica Mars begins with the titular heroine's best friend being brutally murdered. When Veronica's dad, the town sheriff, goes after the wrong man, he loses his job, his wife abandons him, and his daughter becomes a social outcast. Then she gets drugged and raped at a party, and when she tries to report it, the new sheriff accuses her of making it up and laughs in her face. Again, all of this happens in the first episode. Things only go downhill from there.
  • The Wire is an example of the World Half Empty done right, especially in the fourth season (which focuses on four inner-city schoolchildren, only one of whom manages to escape into a decent life). But even "done right" it can be enough to overwhelm people.
    • The sad thing is that everyone who knows the Real Life situations they show says it is all what it is really like.
  • Hill Street Blues is another.
  • A lot of police procedurals take place in such a world. In the grittier dramas, every character is damaged or morally-compromised to one degree or another. Every prosecution is an uphill battle hampered by city politics, well-meaning civil rights crusaders, or simple incompetence. And success is a mere drop in the bucket: there's always going to be another crime to solve, another murderer to catch. At best, our protagonists are jaded and/or burned out from seeing the worst of humanity day-in and day-out. At worst, they are one failed case away from turning Knight Templar.
  • The 2000s Battlestar Galactica; the human race is made up largely of flawed, amoral, and evil people who barely deserve to continue existing as a species, every victory the fleet wins comes at great cost, and even the completion of their quest to find Earth nets them nothing but the lifeless, irradiated ruins of a dead civilization.
  • Carnivale. Truth in Television based on being set in the dust bowl during the Great Depression.
  • The Power Rangers franchise averts this by the skin of its teeth and a Never Say "Die" mandate, as, although a great deal of property damage is shown over the 17 years straight of nonstop alien attacks, no deaths are implied. Cue Power Rangers RPM, where humanity apparently lost its edge over a Time Skip and the entire planet save a single city is conquered, all people presumed dead.
    • Even in the happier beginning, the whole universe was implied to be like this, as the distinct impression was given that, aside from Aquitar and Triforia, the villains ruled everything with a harsh iron fist -- one gets the impression Earth just took longer to conquer than everything else, and it was only a matter of time before we failed to defend it.
    • Yes, this is a children's show, why do you ask?
    • The outcome of Earth was foreshadowed in seasons nine and ten.
  • Of course, Married... with Children.
  • It may always be phsyically sunny in Philadelphia, but definitely not in the metaphorical sense.
    • Played with in one episode where the "heroes" are tearfully united with their real father -- a kindly, warm-hearted, selfless individual who is pretty much their complete opposite. After only a short period of time in their company the father is so horrified he ends up kicking them out.
  • The review describing Waterloo Road as being set in a town resembling a cross between Dante's Inferno and Baghdad was uncannily accurate. In the opinion of this editor who grew up in the same town, this only proves that the show's creators did indeed do their homework.
  • Curb Your Enthusiasm, surely? Nearly every character, recurring or one-time, is a miserable Jerkass.
  • Weeds. It's somewhat easier to root for the Villain Protagonist when all the forces of law and order are corrupt hypocrites, and all of the other characters are in it up to their necks.
  • How can we not mention Lexx, surely one of the biggest examples of a Crapsack universe in science fiction? The main characters are horny, greedy cowards who fly a spaceship that eats inhabited planets for food. The one who isn't horny, greedy, or a coward is undead. At the end of every season, things have gone from bad to worse. Of note: in Season 2, the crew cripple a being named Mantrid, unwittingly setting up his meteoric ascension to Big Bad (and powerful galactic force). By the end of the season, the crew stops Mantrid, but lose several allies (including a plant-like creature and a young boy who helped them) and have unwittingly destroyed an entire universe, not to mention that they've run out of gas and have to go into hibernation for years. By the end of Season 3, they've blown up two planets full of people (one "good" and one "evil" planet, but not all of the people on either planet thought the same way) in order to get enough food for the Lexx to survive.
    • That, in turn, drives the plot of the next season, where the Lexx finds Earth. The crew wants to get the Lexx more food, but they end up doing more harm than good. Several innocent people are killed, one crew member sacrifices himself to stop a destructive invasion of killer carrot aliens, at least three whole cities are annihilated off the face of the planet by the starship (and that's before Earth is blown up), and the Lexx eventually dies of old age. The only redeeming point is that the last two surviving crew members get to travel the stars in a spiffy new mini-Lexx. Keep in mind that the whole series is intended as Black Comedy.
  • The Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "The Wish" where Cordelia gets transported to an alternate universe where Buffy never came to Sunnydale. The normal Sunnydale is no picnic either, but it was preferable to this.
    • There's also a 'Buffy' novel that has an even more disturbing Wish-type world. Instead of The Master being the vampire king, Giles is the vampire lord of Sunnydale.
    • With beings such as The First and the Senior Partners, pure evil that will always exist regardless of what the heroes do to try to stop them, basically renders the entire universe into a crapsack. The Angel episode "Reprise" touches upon this subject especially well.
    • The final season of Angel really began to delve into this following Fred's death. Illyria wondered if there was anything good in the world, and all Wesley could offer her was "hope".
  • The Whedonverse extends this further in Firefly. The largest power is effectively space Nazis that have shown that the richest get the best, slavery still exists, many free worlds are hideously backwards, all the main heroes have a criminal past (One of which was due to a brother saving his sister from Mind Rape that made her Ax Crazy). Oh, and lest we forget the Reavers...
    • Word of God claims that the Alliance do as much good as they do harm. They genuinely want to help people even if they do go about it in completely the wrong way at times.
  • Dollhouse is yet another Whedon example. Even before the mind-control technology apocalypse, apparently the great big amoral slavery corporation was to some degree controlling the government. And then there's the whole dystopian burned out planet afterwards with technology lying around that can randomly wipe or reprogram your brain anywhere at any time.
  • Charming in Sons of Anarchy where the most positive characters are a Type IV Anti-Hero (or is Jax an Anti-Villain? Hard to tell.) and a Knight in Sour Armor.
  • Blackadder, even though it's hard to tell. The first series starts off with him accidentally lopping off his uncle's head (said uncle absolutely despised him despite not knowing him at all), and throughout the series Blackadder just keeps sliding further down the social food chain, despite all of this being Played for Laughs.
  • Several episodes of The Twilight Zone take place in worlds like this. Examples include "It's a Good Life", where one all-powerful boy controls everyone, "Eye of the Beholder" where everyone who is ugly is ghettoized, "Number Nine Looks Just Like You", where everyone has to get surgery to look like one of a limited number of models, and "The Obsolete Man", where religion is outlawed and you are terminated if declared "obsolete".
    • "Eye of the Beholder" more than most, given that what is ugly to them is beautiful to us, and the "normal" people quite literally look like pigs.
  • Supernatural. This world plain sucks, and hard. While you're alive, you're random victim fodder for all the monsters you've ever heard of (from urban legends to mythological beasts), and some you haven't... yet. The afterlife is a bitch where you are endlessly tortured in the Bloody Bowels of Hell as time passes according to Year Inside, Hour Outside logic, unless you decide to turn in to a demon yourself. Heaven isn't much better, it's the Matrix ruled by a Council of Angels who have severe Parental Issues by way of Have You Seen My God?. And for a third option, you can stay and become a ghost until you go crazy from loneliness and turn in to a poltergeist. Did I also mention it's The End of the World as We Know It?
    • According to the vision showed to Dean by Zachariah, in five years time it's going to be even worse, as Dean is a homicidal, Jerkass soldier, Sam is possessed by Lucifer, and the only angel to give a damn about the human race is a hippie stoner/love guru who uses drink, drugs and orgies to cover up his new Nietzsche Wannabe attitude. Life sucks in 'The End'. By season five's ending, however Sam has managed to seal both Michael and Lucifer in Hell
  • The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe.
    • Such a Crapsack World that the ending of the series, in which almost the entire population of the world drowns is seen as being the good ending.
    • The sequel, The Book of the Long Sun is arguable worse. Humanity has been trapped inside a huge Generation Ship for so long that almost nobody remembers that there is anything outside. Everyone worships gods that are a cross between sociopaths and Neglectful Precursors and in fact are just the digitized personalities of a dictator, his family and his cronies. Technology is being slowly lost, the fabric of the cities is crumbling and the titular Long Sun is beginning to malfunction, causing droughts.
  • The Universe in Doctor Who is canonically worn out and should have collapsed long ago, is full to bursting with omnicidal maniacs who invade Earth at least twice a year, and when you get killed by the Monster of the Week you end up spending eternity in a black, empty void. "Turn Left" shows how quickly things would deteriorate without the Doctor.
  • Titus, where the only really helpful advice for getting through life is "Stop being a wussy".
  • Dead Set a world where the only thing to watch is Big Brother.
  • Survivors The majority of the world population is wiped out by the machinations of a evil corporation.
  • Blakes Seven. If they're nice/happy, they stop being nice/happy or they die. If they're not, they get worse or they die. If they get worse, they die. If they don't die, run.
  • Dark Angel is set in the crapsack world of the US Pacific Northwest after an EMP takes out a lot of the infrastructure for the USA (and presumably elsewhere). The series is set in a chaotic world where thugs and criminals are in control and so on. Paragraph 2 of the definition of this trope is a perfect description of the Dark Angel setting.
  • The wizarding world of Wizards of Waverly Place. For utterly arbitrary reasons (seriously, we've never been actually told why) there can only be one wizard per family. Children grow up with powers and train for the wizard competition in which they will battle their siblings(s). One wins, the others lose their powers forever. We've seen at least one planned uprising by a large group of thwarted siblings, and one can assume that the earlier generation of the Russo's isn't the first - or the last - wizarding family to be torn apart by asinine rules.
  • The Earth of 2149 in Terra Nova has so much environmental damage that the sky is an acrid yellow with smog and pollution, and the atmosphere can no longer be breathed.
  • Barry Allen in the 1990s The Flash was accidentally thrust 10 years into a future where Central City has been taken over by his brother's killer, Nicholas Pike, and where an underground group of citizens were waiting for the Flash to return in order to set things right.
  • Max Headroom, the quintessential Cyberpunk Dystopia. The destitute poor are the largest percentage of the population, mostly living in shantytowns where violent crime and drug abuse are rampant; and the only escape from the misery of it all is watching communal televisions, where all the programming is mindless fantasy and violent bloodsports. The middle class has shrunk, spends most of its time either working soul-destroying jobs, or glued to their televisions, where all the programming is mindless fantasy and violent bloodsports. The upper class is comfortable, but spends most of their time engaged in political scheming (up to and including assassination), and fighting to maintain their social status; when they're not glue to their televisions watching mindless fantasy and violent bloodsports. And if that's not bad enough, the advertisements on television can literally make your head explode.
  • Malcolm in the Middle: Let's see, the main premise of the show involves a severely dysfunctional family that is implied to be abusive in every way except sexual abuse, the school is shown to be somewhat bad and at least one instance of it involved them not doing justice in regards to a horrible prank committed by four libbies (although the fact that the victim in question was the biggest school bully probably explains some things), one of their children (the oldest, more specifically) was implied to have done horrible things to his neighborhood just to spite his own mother, one of their neighbors has a strained marriage, with the wife eventually abandoning her husband and son causing the latter to fall into a deep sense of depression that left the already handicapped kid even more crippled to the point of even having to use a machine to speak. The military school that the oldest kid was sent to by his parents for his behavior was run by a guy who was not only extremely strict, but also a possible sadist who actually enjoys bullying people who are weaker than him (whom Francis eventually places in a retirement home as a caretaker so he could commit all the Elder Abuse that he ever wanted), and apparently the higher board did not catch on until after Francis quit school, false advertizing is shockingly very common, at least common enough for the eldest brother and his friend to be completely tricked by its statement of it being a lucrative job only for it to turn out to be a sweatshop, some cheerleaders at a cheerleading camp on a lake apparently frequently steal a motorboat so they could get guys to skinnydip with them, among other things? Oh, and a train managing to crash and poison most of the town due to the dad of the family leaving his couch on the railtracks, and the second eldest son, also the school bully, committing similar atrocities to his eldest brother? Sounds like a very sound case of a Crapsack World.
  • Being a TV series about people traveling across parallel versions of Earth, Sliders has so many examples, starting with the Ice Age world in the pilot episode.
  • In the The Adventures of Superboy episode "Roads Not Taken, Part 2", the titular character visits an Earth on an alternate timeline, ruled by a dictator known as the Sovereign, who is his duplicate in that timeline.
  • Royston Vasey in the League of Gentlemen. There are incest serial killers, a ringmaster who kidnap women, a butcher who sells highly illegal and hideously immoral drugs, an OCD couple who praticlly worship toads, a paedophile German exchange student councillor and a psycotic lesbian job restart officer who bullies and insults her "dole scum". And that's just 7 characters.
  • Game of Thrones. The nobility are squabbling over the throne of Westeros whilst hideous monsters are waking from their long sleep and will likely invade, and almost no-one is preparing for it. Also, most of the smallfolk (ordinary people) are treated horribly. Many nobles think nothing of raping or murdering them, and they also have to worry about dying of starvation. Winters can last for years, and if there isn't enough food set aside, everyone will die. And that's just season one. It's going to get worse.
  • Despite being staunchly idealistic, the world of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess is inhabited by warlords, bandits, mythological monsters and apathetic gods. Other lands like China and India are no better. Even Heaven is rocked by never ending conflict.
  • The Farscape universe: a weird and astoundingly corrupt place, where the most civilized areas are dominated by one of the two warring empires: the Peacekeepers, Human Alien Private Military Contractors with a habit of conquering their own clients, a strong bias against any relationship stronger than friendship (with or without benefits), and an awful lot of xenophobia; or the Scarrans, a race of warlike Reptilians with a foreign policy even worse than the Peacekeepers, a vested interest in ruling the galaxy, and a habit of exterminating species they believe to be inferior and without use. The area between them is frequented by fugitives, pirates, mercenaries, con artists, mystics, con artists pretending to be mystics, assassins, terrorists, gangsters, mad scientists, evil sorcerers, unscrupulous sects of psychic monks, hordes of ravenous alien monsters, Godlike Aliens with attitude problems, actual gods with even worse attitudes, interdimensional entities with a decidedly Blue and Orange Morality, and an awful lot of contenders for the role of the next Evil Empire. There are very few episodes in the entire series where anyone gets a straightforward happy ending, and even less that end with the locals being any better off; when it comes time for the Peacekeepers and the Scarrans to finally make peace, the hero has to threaten the entire universe with a doomsday device- and actually set it off- before they even consider agreeing to a treaty. Oh, and while Earth might have stayed out of the conflict, humanity turns out to be no better than any other race in the galaxy, to the hero's despair.
  • 24. It has a world that makes 9/11 look tame in comparison. Nuclear plant meltdown? Check. Nuclear detonation in American soil? Check. Presidents getting assassinated? Airport and metro station getting chem-bombed? Rule of law and diplomacy getting ignored? Check, double-check, and triple check.
  • The Young Ones. Granted, Thatcher’s Britain was pretty crapsack in Real Life, but not nearly as surreal and comedic. EVERYONE in this universe is at best an abject moron, and at worst also an abject bastard. The employment classifieds of the newspaper are always completely blank. All of the policemen are miserably thick, some of them to the point that they don’t even demonstrate normal human thought processes. Army sieges, avoidable plane crashes, and full-blown street riots -- in residential areas, no less -- are everyday occurrences. Oh, and a half-psychotic young man with a lengthy history of violence and destruction is not only allowed to walk the streets, but is enrolled in a pre-med program. Yikes. Just yikes.
  • Sure, the parallel universe in Fringe has more advanced technology than ours, but their universe is literally falling apart. To the point where the agents of the Fringe Division over there are more or less unbothered by the prospect of dying horrifically on any given day, since their job demands that some lives must be sacrificed for the greater good.
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