The UK TV series on Channel 4 that welcomes your personality disorders.
Charlie Brooker’s anthology drama series Black Mirror has made his name synonymous with subversive television. A darling of critics and audiences alike, the show’s international recognition has grown with each episode. Everybody from Stephen King to Robert Downey Jr has weighed in on the subject. (Indeed, Downey optioned an episode to turn into a movie.)
The series has received favourable comparisons with The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Tales of the Unexpected. UK TV abroad has never been more popular than with this show, which has garnered an even larger following in the US than in its native Britain.
Chilling Near-Futures in the Black Mirror
Black Mirror is organized around a single core theme, which Brooker summarized neatly: “If technology is a drug, then what, precisely, are the side effects?” Each episode follows a different cast through an unrelated plot line, but all of them share common ground in the narrow area between technologically-mediated delight and discomfort, or, as Brooker puts it, “the way we might be living in 10 minutes’ time if we’re clumsy.”
The brilliance of the series lies in the way that it carefully constructs each of its imagined worlds before disassembling them through intense conflict and, often, tragic outcomes. The first episode set the tone by positing an almost-plausible act of media terrorism. The heir to the throne has been kidnapped. She will be released only if the prime minister commits an unsimulated act of bestiality on primetime television. The segment lacked many of the sci-fi elements would come to dominate the series, but displayed a properly nerdish concern for technical detail: the hunt for a means of faking the video, the surveillance techniques used in the attempted recovery of the princess, the formats of the hastily-cobbled-together public reaction shows…
Abroad? Watching UK TV from the Hinterland
Later episodes moved squarely into the hinterland between technology and politics, dealing with such familiar tropes as a technique for externalizing and manipulating human memory, a fictional character who becomes an elected politician, and a woman who reincarnates her dead lover as an android. Fans of shlock media will recognize elements grabbed from ‘golden age’ literary science fiction, along with liberal borrowings from perennial favourite The Twilight Zone. But Black Mirror’s twenty-first century attitude, slick production, and eschewal of the over-neat final twists that ruined so many Zone episodes mark it out as something new.
Black Mirror airs on Channel 4, with a new series premiering later this month. You can enjoy Black Mirror and other Channel 4 content, along with many other popular channels carrying all your favorite British TV shows abroad, via TVMucho.