HBO’s Chernobyl is now the highest rated TV series - we explore why it's been so popular

HBO’s latest mini-series Chernobyl has skyrocketed to the top of the Internet Movie Database’s (IMDb) TV list, scoring a whopping 9.7/10 average.

As such, it's become the database's most highest rated TV show of all time. So why has it proven so popular?

Based on the horrifying Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster, which took place near Pripryat in 1986, the series follows the stories of the men and women who tried to contain the explosion, as well as those who worked to prevent it from ever happening again. The disaster resulted in many deaths, and caused long-term problems such as cancer in residents.

33 years later, the effects are clear and there is still an Exlcusion Zone which measures at 19 miles.

If you’re yet to watch it, here are the key things you need to know about the five part series - and why it's been such a big hit...

How accurate is Chernobyl?

The Chernobyl disaster has been widely publicised, so there are plenty of documentaries and footage to access for reference. According to Adam Higginbotham, author of Midnight in Chernobyl, the production design of the series is ‘extraordinary’.

He has praised the way they’ve based certain scenes off real footage. Though some things are fictionalised, it appears to have largely stayed true to what actually happened.

Writer and producer Craig Mazin has shared a thread of sources he used whilst developing the project. Click on the Tweet for more info...

What are fans saying about Chernobyl?

It’s been widely spoken about on Twitter, with users praising it for being "emotionally exhausting" and "morbid" - but an extraordinary and 'powerful' piece of TV.

The 9.7/10 average score on IMDb is all logged by fans too, who visit the site to leave their own reviews and scores. Each of the 5 episodes ranges between 9.5 and 9.9, so audiences are certainly approving of the series.

Who is in Chernobyl?

Chernobyl has an all-star cast, featuring actors such as Jared Harris, Stellan Skarsgard, Jessie Buckley, Emily Watson and Paul Ritter.

Watson’s character Ulana Khomyuk is the only fictionalised character in the series, with everyone else being based off those who were close to the disaster. Ulana is a composite of several scientists involved in the disaster.

Something like Chernobyl is fascinating because it's based on true events. It’s hard for the wider public to comprehend something so disastrous happening to them, and we get a weird thrill watching it. University of Pennsylvania psychologist Paul Rozin calls this "benign masochism".

His theory suggests that humans have evolved to enjoy moments where our bodies think we're in danger but our rational brain knows we're not. This also explains why people enjoy adrenaline-filled activities such as rollercoasters and horror films.

It can also be seen as a cautionary tale, warning people of the consequences of nuclear power. It’s an event that will be in history books for years to come, and one that nobody wants to repeat.

Where can I watch Chernobyl?

It aired on Sky Atlantic in the UK, so audiences are now able to watch the entire series on catch-up. For American audiences, the show was produced by and aired on HBO.

Lucy Buglass is a Digital Writer specialising in TV, film and lifestyle content and has written for What's On TV, GoodtoKnow and She's passionate about entertainment and spends most of her free time watching Netflix series, BBC dramas, or going to the cinema to catch the latest film releases. In her spare time, she writes film and television reviews for JumpCut Online and her own blog, Lucy Goes To Hollywood.