Trust me. Stop what you’re doing – turn the oven off, zip up your flies and put down the cat (not like euthanise it) and watch Black Mirror, this second!
But don’t take my word for it – even Mr Robot creator Sam Esmail says S03E02 is one of the best episodes of TV he’s seen all year. Look!
Beginning life as a British TV show in 2011 and now on its third season, Black Mirror is the brainchild of uber-geek, writer, journalist, TV presenter, gamer Charlie Brooker.
This unlikely, floppy-haired Englishman began writing his irreverent Screen Burn article in The Guardian newspaper and followed it up with his hilarious BBC series Charlie Brooker’s Screenwipe in which he roasts British television. But somewhere, in amongst writing for newspapers, reviewing games, critiquing TV, fronting shows and marrying King of the Nerds UK host Konnie Huq, he’s somehow found the time to write one of the best sci-fi anthologies since The Twilight Zone!
Honestly, Black Mirror really is some of the best TV you’ll see, and Charlie Brooker has either written or directed the majority of the episodes. But be warned, Black Mirror descends into very some dark sci-fi and will affect the way you see the world for several hours after viewing!
Season Three begins with Nosedive – a cautionary tale set in the near-future where people’s actions and attitudes are graded by everyone they meet with a Tinder-style swipe. It features a hugely impressive comic performance from Bryce Dallas Howard as she competes against her ego with hilarious and eye-opening results. The final scene is a laugh-out-loud rejection of the worst of today’s judgmental culture.
Playtest (Sam Esmail’s fave so far) sees an American backpacker, low on funds and stuck in London, sign up for an experimental gaming experience with a twist while Shut Up and Dance is also set in England and stars Jerome Flynn (Bronn from Game of Thrones) as an adulterer who’s enlisted into helping a boy perform a crime.
S03E04, San Junipero finds two amazing young actresses Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Mackenzie Davis defying the odds to find love in a 1980’s Lost Boys-style beach party town. This setting is a deviation from most other Black Mirror stories which are set in the future… but remember, just like Mr Robot, nothing is ever quite what it seems.
The show’s genius lies in the way it satirises the horrors of modern-day society, and never more so than Episode Five. Men Against Fire sees Malachi Kirby and his band of merry soldiers protecting frightened European villagers from an infestation of vicious, feral mutants but it’s a beautiful, awful allegory for the hate that all society is brainwashed into. I think it is, anyway.
Season Three rounds off with a feature-length treat called Hated in the Nation – another futuristic cautionary tale highlighting the power and dangers of social media.
Here’s a very clever Netflix commercial to give you a hint of what’s in store:
The thing that makes the show so damned mind-blowingly real (and somewhat scary) is the fact that the tech and the situations the series throws up are not that far away. Technological paranoia runs through every story like a vein of silver in rock; from Tinder rating everyone you meet to swarms of drone bees and social media assassinations.
Coupling that ominous feeling together with some A1 storytelling is what justifies Charlie Brooker’s name now being mentioned in the same sentence as the sci-fi greats – Asimov, Gene Roddenberry, Arthur C. Clarke, Rod Serling and Philip K. Dick.
Prognosticating how much of the tech and the bizarre realities will come into existence is all very well and good but when science fiction storylines actually start happening in the real world – that’s how you know when you’re dealing with a true visionary!
In 2004, Brooker made a sitcom about London dot com Hipsters. That’s before hipsters were even a thing. His 2007 series Dead Set featured Big Brother presenters and real ex-housemates trapped in the house as a zombie apocalypse sweeps the nation.
Do you wanna see something really scary?
The very first episode of Black Mirror, The National Anthem, which aired on Channel 4 in 2011 featured a storyline in which the British Prime Minister is blackmailed into having relations with a pig live on television in order to ransom a kidnapped princess. The whole episode brilliantly builds tension in a will he/won’t he way and is some of the bravest, most shocking television and darkest comedy I have ever, ever seen.
But four years later, when Baron Paddy Ashdown, a Member of Parliament alleged in his autobiography that THE REAL (ex) BRITISH PRIME MINISTER David Cameron actually fu**ed a pig (and had seen photographic proof) Charlie Brooker wrote himself into folklore with the best ever example of the phrase “you couldn’t make it up!”
Well, you could… but only if your name was Charlie Brooker!
It takes a special kind of weird to write sci-fi and an even weirder kind of special to foresee that the Prime Minister was capable of that!
Please don’t be put off by the pig thing – it is a highly amusing piece of TV; as hilarious as it is shocking.
Charlie Brooker is a genius. A dark, twisted genius and soon, Hollywood will be all over him like a rash.
In the meantime, I’d recommend anything he’s involved in just not all at in one binge, else you’ll go mad!
In fact, I recommend starting with season three and working backwards. You won’t be disappointed. Promise.
Black Mirror is available on Netflix and so far, contains thirteen episodes.