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.

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Ranking the episodes of Philip K Dick’s Electric Dreams

Electric Dreams, adapted from Philip K Dick’s short stories, was an anthology series offering a new take on a different science fiction concept each week. Tonight saw its sixth episode, concluding the series’ 2017 run – a further four episodes are scheduled for early next year. As with any anthology series, Electric Dreams had its highs and lows; here, then, is a ranking of each of the series’ six offerings so far.

Worth noting this is my ranking of the first 6 episodes of Philip K Dick’s Electric Dreams, as they were broadcast on Channel 4 in the UK – The Hood Maker, Impossible Planet, The Commuter, Crazy Diamond, Real Life and Human Is, respectively. Though not in that order, obviously.

In short, I wanted to love them, but often found I didn’t. Generally, I found that the latter four of the Channel 4 broadcast were actually better than the initial six, though I’ve never really written about any of them. I’d like to go more in-depth on them at some point, though – one possible, far off project I’d like to take a crack at would be a series of detailed essays on Black Mirror and Electric Dreams.

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Everything you need to know about Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams

This series unites some of the most talented actors, writers and directors to bring to life the work of one of science fiction’s most iconic and enduring authors.

If you’re missing Black Mirror, this is absolutely the show for you.

My recent article about Electric Dreams for Metro.

Fun fact! This series stars Steve Buscemi of Spy Kids 2 fame. (I described him as such in the article, and oh my god, you would not believe the response it got. It was quite absurd.)

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