Pay TV: Thursday, July 19

Highlight: Doomsday Preppers, National Geographic, 7.30pm

YOU can say what you like about the Americans, but when they get the notion that the end is nigh, they take it seriously. Sometimes they'll even shoot their own thumb off while showing a National Geographic camera crew how they're teaching their kids to use all the guns they've been hoarding.

The unfortunate doomsday prepper who does himself out of a digit here is Arizona man Tim Ralston, who is preparing for the electromagnetic pulse of a nuclear weapon to wipe out electronic equipment, precipitating a general societal collapse.

As well as stockpiling food and weapons, Ralston also puts his family through regular ''bug out'' drills, in which they see how quickly they can pack the family truck and get to the patch of desert beneath which he is planning to build a bunker.

Ralston is also a ''prepper entrepreneur'', developing doomsday-survival devices such as the ''chovel'' - a shovel that also serves as an axe, a saw, crowbar, bottle opener and various other implements. It is also a handy weapon, as he demonstrates by hacking a pig carcass to pieces in just a few blows.

But guns are still his first love. ''Every American household should have a gun … never enough guns, never enough ammo,'' he says, just before shooting himself, passing out and being airlifted to hospital.

The next of tonight's preppers is New York fireman Jason, who is preparing for the super volcano under Yellowstone National Park to erupt, possibly smothering New York in lung-shredding volcanic ash. His ''bug in'' plan involves sealing the doors and windows of his apartment, scattering broken glass in the hallway and donning breathing apparatus to make runs to a storage facility where he keeps his food.

Then there's Californian Jules, who grows his own food because he expects genetically modified crops to fail. And North Carolina couple Pat and Lynette, who are expecting a global financial collapse, have more than 60 guns and spend $800 a month stockpiling food and liquor. They're non-drinkers but they figure the booze will be good for bartering and turning into Molotov cocktails.

Doomsday Preppers covers all of this in sober style, neither sneering at the preppers nor buying into their predictions. Off camera, it enlists unnamed disaster experts to assess the preppers' plans, point out their shortcomings and provide opinions on the likelihood of the events that they are preparing for ever happening.

The preppers have some strange ideas, to be sure, and it is easy to laugh at them. But at the same time, it is hard to be certain that they won't have the last laugh.

My Strange Addiction, LifeStyle You, 8.30pm

THE first case tonight is that of Texas mum Lori, who can sleep only when she has a hair dryer running in the bed with her. Her body is covered in burns from rolling over on to it, and it has also burnt a great big hole in her carpet, filling her house with toxic smoke. Then we meet Chicago woman Kesha, who is addicted to eating toilet paper - half a roll a day since she was a child. This is also dangerous, putting her at risk of potentially deadly bowel obstructions. Psychiatrists offer some insights into the roots of their behaviour, and the show follows the women as they go into therapy.

Patricia Cornwell's Hornet's Nest, 13th Street, 8.30pm

THIS woeful telemovie stars Sherry Stringfield (ER) as deputy police chief Virginia West, who is trying to catch a serial killer, and Virginia Madsen as her boss, who spends most of her time fighting with her husband and City Hall. There's also Robbie Amell (True Jackson, VP) as obnoxious young reporter Andy Brazil. We're supposed to like Brazil even though he's an insufferably arrogant twerp who thinks he can boss the police brass around - on his first day on the job, no less. We're also supposed to believe that West thinks he's just wonderful.

William S. Burroughs: A Man Within, Studio, 9.15pm

Documentary in which the likes of John Waters, Patti Smith, Iggy Pop and Gus van Sant share their memories of the writer's life and work.

Hairy Bikers Bake-Ation, LifeStyle Food, 8.30pm

The Hairy Bikers are in Austria, where they learn to yodel and whip up delicacies including a classic chocolate gateau.

Hoarders, Bio, 8.30pm

The story Pay TV: Thursday, July 19 first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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