The IT Crowd

There's always a looming boogeyman to be afraid of. Communism. Terrorists. The Japanese economy. In the modern era, the looming boogeyman is technology, and how deeply ingrained it's become to our daily lives. Exploring how technology might progress to a dark and scary place is a wonderful premise for a sci-fi show, and wouldn't you know it, along came Black Mirror. Originally aired in 2011, Black Mirror is a British show that posits very Twilight Zone-esque, futuristic scenarios about how people utilize technology, and what might happen if we sacrifice too much of our humanity for the seductive promises advanced tech offers.

"Black Mirror" refers to those screens - a TV, a computer, a handheld device - that demands more and more of our attention every day. All seven of the episodes aired to date deal with those screens in some way, and none of them are cheery. If you're down in the dumps, do not watch this show, lest it push you over the edge. But if you're up for a good, old-fashioned, misanthropic bashing of how lazy, spineless, and greedy the human race is, this show is an excellent outlet. That sounds like I'm criticizing the show for its tone, but it's actually a compliment. It reminds me of those children's books that offer a stern warning: Do not act like this or BAD things will happen.

The show finally became available to watch in the States, and I snapped them up. All seven episodes are worth watching, although some are definitely better than others. It's an anthology series, so the episodes can be watched in any order. I worry that people won't continue after the first one ("The National Anthem"), given how weird and off-putting it is, but that episode is not particularly representative of the rest. For one thing, it's one of only two that could conceivably take place in the present. And secondly, I promise that none of the other episodes feature sexual intercourse with farm animals.

The other episodes are far stronger. "The Entire History of You", which is pretty much everyone's favorite, weaves a tense story about how relationships might be affected if we were able to call up everything we've ever seen as an instant replay. "Be Right Back" offers the lure of downloading a dead loved one's consciousness into a surrogate body, before pulling out the rug. "White Bear" puts a woman through the emotional wringer, but it isn't until the end that we discover why these things are happening to her.

In fact, besides "The National Anthem" and "The Waldo Moment" (in which a reluctant voice-over performer is persuaded into putting forth his animated character as a political candidate), all of the episodes are pretty gripping. Just don't watch too many of them in a row, or you'll be reaching for a big bottle of Prozac afterwards.

Black Mirror - Seasons 1 & 2: B+


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