By Henry Thornton
Most of the appeal of TV is based on consistency and comfort. At the end of the episode, the family members say I love you, the friends hug and apologize, the criminal is caught, the bad guy is convicted, or the patient is saved. This is necessary for the format, especially in American TV with large episode counts and expensive actors under contract for lots of seasons. But as TV keeps increasing its ownership percentage of our leisure time, it feels like some show should look to the future. Some program should criticize and discomfort us, because the rest of the medium does the opposite. This show should still entertain us, though, that is the fundamental requirement for quality TV.
That show is Black Mirror.
Black Mirror is a British show imported to the US by Netflix. Every episode features a completely different cast and exists in a different version of the future. The main writer of the series is Charlie Brooker, a perpetually disgruntled British commentator. “They’re all about the way we live now – and the way we might be living in 10 minutes’ time if we’re clumsy,” he said in an interview with The Guardian.
Brooker’s intent is to examine and not to judge. He broke through in the media writing video game reviews. He tweets frequently. All of this is to say, watching Black Mirror is not watching an old man complain about how Tinder has ruined romance. Black Mirror is more concerned with what the equivalent of Tinder will be in thirty years. I am hesitant to describe specific plot points of the episodes. I will say that the show fearlessly commits to the premise of each episode. Many great modern television dramas make nuanced points about human nature; Black Mirror blares its lessons on a loudspeaker. One episode explores what would happen if you had a device that allowed you to never forget anything. It seems fun and cool at first, especially for hard studying college students. Then it seems interesting, like a cool conversation starter at dinner, then it takes another turn. All of the twists are deeply grounded in the characters of the episodes. Things may be futuristic, but they are always determinedly human.