Why wasn’t Electric Dreams as popular as Black Mirror?

electric dreams black mirror amazon netflix channel 4 charlie brooker

In almost every respect, Electric Dreams seems poised as a response to Black Mirror. There are surface similarities, obviously – both are high concept science fiction anthology programmes, after all – but it’s more illustrative to look at who was behind Electric Dreams; when you consider that it was co-produced by Amazon and Channel 4, the intent becomes obvious. Both had reason to want a drama similar to Black Mirror – Amazon to compete with Netflix, and Channel 4, as the latter programme’s original home before it was moved to Netflix, as a replacement.

In the lead up to Electric Dreams’ release, it seemed more than likely that the series would see equivalent success to Black Mirror. And yet, ultimately, Electric Dreams failed to replicate the success of Black Mirror. Which begs the question: why?

I was generally pretty fond of Electric Dreams, if admittedly frustrated by a lot of it. Across the ten episodes of its first season, there were some genuinely quite impressive hours of television; I think if I were inclined to isolate one particular flaw above all others, though, it’d be that sometimes Electric Dreams felt a little scared of subtlety and ambiguity. There were a couple of different episodes where the conclusion of the episode went to great lengths to explain things as much as possible, often unnecessarily, and sometimes to the detriment of the piece as a whole.

Still, though, there was a lot to like from Electric Dreams – it assembled some really quite impressive creative talents, arguably functioning better as an anthology series in that regard than Black Mirror. And yet Black Mirror still remained the more popular series, with Electric Dreams seemingly struggling to make much of an impact. This article, then, was an attempt to get to grips with that.

As an article, it’s probably not as analytical as it should be, nor evidence-based enough – really, what I needed was a lot of statistics and viewer data, and probably quotes from lots of different reviewers, AI numbers, that sort of thing. I did not have that. What it ended up as, then, was some speculation as to why Electric Dreams didn’t quite work in the UK. Even then, mind you, I might not have been correct in that speculation – just typing this up now it occurred to me that Electric Dreams might have been “too sci-fi” in a way that Black Mirror isn’t, for lack of a better way of putting it. So who knows really.

Facebook | Twitter | Blog Index | General TV Index

Black Mirror’s USS Callister is a perfect metaphor for nerd culture in 2017

black mirror charlie brooker uss callister star trek jesse plemons cristin milioti jimmi simpson michaela coel netflix toby haynes nerd culture 2017

The escapist fantasy is based on a slavish adherence to the idiosyncrasies of the original, yes – but, crucially, an unthinking and uncritical adherence, without acknowledgement of the flaws inherent to the premise. It’s the same fundamental mentality that prompts outrage and fury at the inclusion of women or people of colour in Star Trek, Star Wars, or Doctor Who; the impulse to curate rather than create, the desire to maintain a static and staid world. Shaped around the ego of a single white man, this is of course a world that equates foreign with alien, dehumanises people of colour, and never lives up the ethos and code of conduct it claims to assert.

USS Callister continues to advance its metaphor, though, and in turn posits a solution of its own. And, in turn, of course said solution comes from a woman.

A piece about Black Mirror I was quite pleased with. (So pleased with it, in fact, I put it into my portfolio, if that’s something you’re going to want to check out.)

Something I didn’t mention at the time, but find interesting, is the fact that this episode is about exorcising toxic masculinity, and then the subsequent five episodes are all very female-oriented. You can see how the order of the anthology shapes the broader meaning of the series, which is neat.

Facebook | Twitter | Blog Index | General TV Index

Black Mirror review: Alex Lawther is fantastic in Shut Up and Dance

shut up and dance black mirror netflix alex lawther jerome flynn bronn charlie brooker review series 3 james watkins william bridges

Of Black Mirror’s first three episodes in this new season, Shut Up and Dance is the most impactful; it’s chilling and discomforting in a way quite unlike its predecessors. No doubt this is a story that’s going to stay with anyone who watches it for a long, long time – just like the best of Black Mirror, really.

One of those rare episodes of television that you love so much, and find so impactful – but know that you’ll literally never, ever watch it again. It’s just too much. This one left me reeling for hours. It’s an extremely powerful piece of drama.

It also started my ongoing, decidedly one-sided, friendship with Alex Lawther, which culminated in this terribly exciting interview.

Facebook | Twitter | Blog Index | General TV Index

Black Mirror review: Playtest is a horror story for the internet age

black mirror playtest series 4 review charlie brooker horror kurt russell

The script has plenty of quite intelligent moments and unexpected reversals. Arguably the most effective of these was the handling of Cooper’s father’s Alzheimer’s – having set the audience up to expect an apparition of the father, Charlie Brooker expertly subverts this by presenting a far subtler rendition of Cooper’s fears about his own mental state. It’s possibly one of the most intelligent scares of the episode, and by that token the most meaningful; certainly, it stands head and shoulders above the CGI jump scares that proliferate the rest of the episode.

Yet despite this, there’s something about Playtest that just feels… empty.

My review of Black Mirror Season 3′s second episode, Playtest. It’s an attempt at a more overt horror story than they normally go for, but sadly, it’s not one that connected with me.

Facebook | Twitter | Blog Index | General TV Index

Black Mirror review: Nosedive is an extremely strong start to Season 3

black mirror nosedive bryce dallas howard michael schur rashida jones charlie brooker netflix series 3 banner joe wright

There’s something very easy to relate to about this story, and how it portrays the complicated social conventions of this world; as with all the best Black Mirror episodes, the juxtaposition of the mundane and the extreme engenders both horror and familiarity, making the story resonate on an even deeper level.

Nosedive is an astonishingly well-written character piece, detailing the breakdown of main character Lacie. Bryce Dallas Howard gives an impressive performance throughout, portraying the breakdown of a carefully cultivated and manufactured personality in a nuanced, and at times quite poignant, way.

I reviewed the first three episodes of Black Mirror’s third season for CultBox – here’s my thoughts on series opener, Nosedive.

Facebook | Twitter | Blog Index | General TV Index

What Doctor Who can learn from Black Mirror

Black Mirror TARDIS Doctor Who Charlie Brooker Steven Moffat Chris Chibnall Netflix Channel 4 Science Fiction What Doctor Who can learn from Black Mirror

Black Mirror is known for being a show that offers commentary on the world around us; Charlie Brooker, the show’s creator and writer of most episodes, has called the show a warning about how we could be living if we’re not careful. Stories have tackled ideas as widespread as social media to populism in politics to how society approaches justice and retribution; in many ways, it’s this that makes Black Mirror so impactful.

Doctor Who doesn’t quite follow the same vein, and it doesn’t always succeed when it does try to offer commentary on modern issues. However, when it does do it right, it soars; one of the strongest episodes of series 9 was The Zygon Invasion, which alluded to ISIS, extremism, and the refugee crisis. It proved that Doctor Who could successfully engage with the real world, and provided an argument for why it should do so more often – when it does, it’s bloody good.

I’ve been really getting into Black Mirror lately; as a British sci-fi drama, it reminded me of one of favourite TV shows – Doctor Who. So I’ve put together an article with a few things that Doctor Who could perhaps emulate from Black Mirror…

Re-reading the above now, it’s a bit… I mean, I definitely wouldn’t write it now, and I suspect even then there was more than a little bit of an element of writing it for the headline rather than anything else. It weirdly undersells Doctor Who, too, in a way I wouldn’t do now – and I’m surprised I did then, even.

Facebook | Twitter | Blog Index | Doctor Who Index

The 4 TV shows that predicted Donald Trump

donald trump waldo joe thornhill bobby newport veep black mirror parks and rec

The current Republican nominee and potential President of the United States, Donald Trump, is arguably a politician like no other; his misogyny, his xenophobia, and his incompetency are largely unprecedented in US politics. However, there’s more than a few television shows that seem to have had him sussed a long time ago…

Another one for Yahoo. Tackles a couple of different programs – I won’t name them, in the hopes of preserving the surprise, but you could probably figure it out by looking at the tags.

I think this was a good one to write, actually, because it’s a little more engaged than my usual stuff; while it’s still basically just a Buzzfeed list type thing, it is about more than just TV, which is good, I reckon. Healthy. Stretching myself and all that.

(I very much doubt this one has aged especially well.)

Facebook | Twitter | Blog Index | General TV Index

Donald Trump, Black Mirror, and America’s Waldo Moment

donald trump black mirror waldo moment charlie brooker comparison netflix

The Waldo Moment is an episode from Black Mirror’s second season; it’s about an abrasive cartoon personality, controlled via motion capture by a struggling comedian, who runs for office as part of a publicity stunt. Unexpectedly, though, Waldo begins to resonate with a disenfranchised and disillusioned voter base, who don’t feel represented by the career politicians who are running against Waldo, resulting in him going on to receive a significant proportion of the vote.

Already a stark resemblance is beginning to form; Trump began as a reality TV personality, in essence, and much of his support base comes from a group who don’t feel represented by those they view as “the establishment”. It’s at this point that another parallel between Waldo and Trump becomes painfully clear, though; towards the end of The Waldo Moment, the struggling comedian is bullied out of his role, and replaced by the media mogul who owns his copyright. Behind the abrasive personality and penis jokes, it’s just another rich old white man, looking to further his own needs, and his own wants, with no consideration for anyone else. And that is the clearest link between Trump and Waldo.

Here’s an article about everyone’s least favourite demagogue, and his clearest TV analogue outside of Hitler documentaries.

(I suspect this one has aged somewhat poorly.)

Facebook | Twitter | Blog Index | General TV Index