What happens to Earth if—or when—people suddenly vanish? History Channel presents a dramatic, fascinating what-if scenario, part science fiction and part true natural science. Welcome to Earth, Population: 0 is the catchy tagline. Life After People’s 85 minutes are so gripping you almost forget while you watch that you, yourself, too will be gone.

It would appear that Earth can manage quite well without us, thank you very much. The hardest part is probably when pet owners confront what will happen to their dogs (thankfully, the show follows those dogs who break out of their houses, and the prognosis for them to survive as scavengers is good). As the fictional days and weeks tick by, the process of nature’s reclaiming the planet becomes less grim and more fascinating.

The impact of the lack of people will be noticed right away, as most power grids shut down around the planet. The one holdout: Hoover Dam, whose hydro power lights up the American Southwest. Scientists say the dam can continue to operate on its own for months, maybe years, keeping the Vegas Strip alight. Only the eventual accumulation of quagga mussels, an invasive species, in the cooling pipes of the power plant—currently being cleaned by humans—will shut down the dam.

Elsewhere, critters and plants will have their run of Manhattan and every other previously “civilized” spot. Inventive photography shows bears clambering out of subway stations and vines pulling down brownstones, then skyscrapers. It may not be a surprise when the Eiffel Tower and Space Needle meet their eventual fates, but the scenes nonetheless provide a pleasant sting of shock. Life After People is humbling, yet exhilarating. It had me out of my seat, hand in the air saying, “Yo, Mama Nature—bring it on!”

The original documentary had an audience of 5.4 million viewers and was the most watched program ever on the History Channel. The success of the special eventually spawned a spin-off television series, which premiered on the History Channel on April 21, 2009. A second season began airing on January 5, 2010.