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Thread: Black Mirror [Netflix]

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    by » Sat December 3rd, 2011, 16:59

    Charlie Brooker’s Twilight Zone inspired horror anthology Black Mirror begins on Sunday with “The National Anthem”, the first of three stand alone episodes which at once juggle razor sharp satire, silly jokes and disturbing imagery. It’s safe to say it’s unlike anything else you’ve seen on British television in the last twelve months – in fact you’d probably have to reach back to Chris Morris’ similarly warped Jam to find something even remotely similar.

    The premise of this episode is difficult to explain without spoilers, so to put it extremely vaguely: it’s about a Prime Minister (Rory Kinnear) who awakens one morning to find that a member of the Royal Family has been taken hostage and will be killed if he doesn’t fulfil an unusual and embarrassing demand on live television within the next few hours. He spends the rest of the episode racked with increasing levels of despair, as portrayed very humanely and without gimmick by Kinnear, trying to come to terms with whether or not he should, or indeed must, comply with the demand.

    All three episodes are united by the theme of technology and where it is leading society. Here the first thought of the staff at Downing Street is not to tell the public about the crisis but, in today’s world, this is increasingly impossible – the kidnapper puts his video on YouTube. Then the topic comes to dominate discussion on Facebook and Twitter, with the PMs advisors increasingly swayed by public opinion, which is – throughout the episode – subject to whim. It’s also a running gag that the public are ahead of the 24 hour news channels who – super-injunction style – aren’t allowed to talk about the demand (and then, later, aren’t allowed to talk about it with the same degree of frankness).

    Courtesy of the social networks, the Prime Minister’s dilemma is played out in public, quickly becoming the target of as many crude jokes and offensive slurs as po-faced comments about the kidnapping. As is so often the case today, people’s reactions become the story, with endless opinions polls and voxpop segments rolling on increasingly desperate and tacky 24 hour news channels. It’s a cruel and hyper-modern farce played like a thriller – and very straight.

    It’s also very intelligently made, with all the media savvy you’d expect from someone who analyses TV for a living (with shows like Screenwipe and his newspaper column). In this episode audience discomfort comes from our complicity in the on-screen action – much in the same way it does Michael Haneke’s Funny Games but with more likelihood of it reaching the intended audience.

    The show’s greatest stroke of satire though comes via the event I’m at pains not to talk about. No doubt many will find the central, black joke to be simple shock humour – and it may work on that level alone – but it also serves as the single biggest indictment against modern media and reality TV in particular in that it’s the only logical place Brooker could really go. Where else can you go in an age when George Galloway voluntarily acts like a cat on Big Brother and Brian Paddick eats kangaroo testes on I’m a Celebrity?

    “The National Anthem”, like the subsequent two episodes, is extreme but never so extreme as to seem far-fetched. Its potential to sicken viewers lies in its uncomfortable closeness to where we sit now, albeit through a distorted, macabre lens. It’s also very funny and, with Kinnear presenting his Prime Minister so sympathetically, much more dramatic and nuanced than you might expect for a show in which… well… best you just wait and see.

    “The National Anthem” is on Channel 4 this Sunday at 9pm. Read our interview with series creator Charlie Brooker.
    Through his collaboration with Chris Morris writing Nathan Barley, to his insightful Screenwipe TV series and often hilarious Guardian newspaper columns, Charlie Brooker has established himself not only as one of the country’s most influential satirists, but also as a foremost media commentator. Today, at least for the left, he is as much part of the zeitgeist as the TV shows he trashes to bits. All of the above shows – as well as his well regarded Big Brother zombie apocalypse mini-series Dead Set - share at their core a fascination with how we engage with media, often with added emphasis on the technology involved and how that continues to change our society.

    These concerns are once again in the foreground of new three-part series Black Mirror, which tells three stand alone horror stories very much in the spirit of The Twilight Zone. But these are highly satirical modern nightmares which use as jumping off points things that wouldn’t have existed even five years ago. Here are stories which take a skewed glance at where we are and where we are headed. They are equal parts funny, disturbing, tragic and horrific – and possibly represent Brooker’s best work to date.

    Particularly the second episode, “15 Million Merits” (which airs next Sunday), which paints a dystopian future so bleak and yet so tangible that makes you gasp with despair as much as it makes you cackle with laughter. It’s also very beautiful and sincere – for me recalling Paul Thomas Anderson’s Punch-Drunk Love (which is in fact the highest praise I am able to bestow on anything).

    “In my head it was a cross between when Gordon Brown had to go and apologise to Gillian Duffy and I’m A Celebrity, in a strange way. That was effectively the starting point,” says Brooker. It’s also conceived as an antidote to those big budget US series that start so well and then run out of steam (stuff like Heroes basically): “A lot of high concept drama series are great for the first three episodes and then you get bored of the one concept.”

    “In the broadest sense it’s about how technology is changing the world – but that makes it sound incredibly dry, like reading manual – which I hope it isn’t. It’s about that sense of unease that the world has changed very much in the last ten years in ways that I find it hard to express or come to terms with. It was inspired by watching The Twilight Zone, Tales of the Unexpected and things like that. It felt like a good opportunity to do dark one-off tales. What I always liked was that didn’t know exactly what you were going to get, but you thought you were going to like it. Often with those things they were quite uncomfortable but that was part of the enjoyment.”

    He’s certainly nailed that last part, which anyone who witnesses the closing moments of the first episode on Sunday will discover. As he says of the audience at the first screening: “It’s interesting to see the reaction shifts throughout the episode from laughter to nervous laughter to disgust.”

    The first episode – “The National Anthem” – is about a Prime Minister (Rory Kinnear, below) whose life is thrown into chaos by public expectation that he fulfil, let’s say (for want of saving the surprise), an embarrassing demand. Here the horror and his humiliation are compounded by the uncensored, omnipresent and instant worlds of Twitter and Facebook, as millions simultaneously discuss his life without the restraint or accountability that would have been expected of traditional news coverage. Though the show’s writer and creator is nowhere near as downbeat on all things social media as that premise might imply – or indeed as many might infer from his persona as a jaded misanthrope.

    When it’s put to Brooker – himself an active Tweeter – that the show could be read as a warning about Twitter itself as a destructive force in our lives, he laughs it off. Is he pessimistic about technology and the future of our species? “Probably less than people think. Not really, no. I think if I was really pessimistic I’d write things that were really cheerful to drag myself out of it – not that there aren’t elements of joy in all of these.”

    Indeed there are moments of great joy, but don’t come to Black Mirror expecting a cuddle. According to Brooker, Black Mirror takes its name both from the Arcade Fire song and from the idea of a TV turned off – an unsettling image which perhaps implies your expensive flat-screen is nothing but a grim, 2001-style black obelisk reflecting the crushing void that is your life. If Brooker isn’t pessimistic about technology itself (and as a noteworthy advocate for video games I’d be surprised if he was) he is at least full of worry about the way in which social networking sites – and public opinion at large – are increasingly part of mainstream news coverage. Or even, in some recent cases, leading it.

    “The first time we see the newsroom they’re moaning that everyone on the internet is talking about something that they can’t – and that was obviously inspired by the super-injunctions thing. They’re playing catch-up with the technology.”

    The whole Twitter phenomenon could also have a say in the creation of TV in the future. Brooker, a vocal champion of such shows as The Wire, sees a slightly insidious side of the social network creeping in which could have a long-term effect on how shows are made: “I was reading the other day about a thing for telly execs where they could record in real-time the Twitter feed of all the comments being made about your program and then play them back alongside the program when you’re analysing it later to see at what point did public opinion… basically “at this point everyone said your character was a ****” so you fire the actor next week. I just thought that’s the ultimate focus group.”

    The ultimate focus group: four words that will make any creative person shudder. Especially as so many people who take to the internet are so obviously unhinged, as Brooker has discovered whenever he makes the mistake of using his own Twitter feed to make jokes.

    “In recent weeks I’ve amused myself and it’s amazing how many people take it really seriously – getting really annoyed and asking “are you having a breakdown?” and I was pissing myself. I was annoying car owners by claiming I’d never been in a car.” Later that night he told followers that he planned to take his very first car ride and that he was amazed to find cars contained seats. That people took him seriously and got angry is a source of amusement and concern in equal measure. Though Brooker tends to go with the former, saying that having once received death threats for a column he wrote he tends not to take the haters all that seriously. Still, it’s odd how people behave.

    “People do odd things on Twitter that they wouldn’t do to your face, especially if you’ve been on the telly or anything like that, if they’re pissed off they will “@” message you and say “I’m unfollowing Charlie Brooker because he’s a boring prick” and it’s like they’ve sort of turned up and said it… Sometimes I just find it funny and think “what is wrong with you?” I say a lot of vitriolic things and that’s something I’m known for, but I don’t go up to people and say them and it fascinates me that often people aren’t aware of the difference. It’s as if people think there isn’t a real person at the other end and I find that more interesting than upsetting.”

    Black Mirror is a three-part series that begins with The National Anthem on Sunday 4th December at 9pm, Channel 4.
    http://whatculture.com/tv/black-mirror- ... witter.php

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    by » Sat December 3rd, 2011, 18:12

    I'm not reading all that

    But I read a short piece Charlie Brooker had written about it and thought it sounded intriguing!

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    by » Sun December 4th, 2011, 22:56

    "All viewers are advised to turn off their televisions immediately" AS IF!!

    I wonder if this will get complaints like Chris Morris' Brass Eye did. It was well acted, and made good observations on internet culture.

    X Factor satire next week - well timed!

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    by » Mon December 5th, 2011, 16:04

    Hmm, this was ok. Some of the observations were spot on as you'd expect from Brooker. He's got to go a long way to top Nathan Barley for me though. Looking forward to the talent show satire.

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    by » Tue December 6th, 2011, 22:01

    This was gripping, Charlie Brooker makes such brilliant TV!

    It showed how TV is now redundant when it comes to news. Great example of the word "viral" in relation to the internet, nothing can be censored anymore now it can be shared so widely, easily and quickly.

    Love how it portrayed exactly what would happen to the country if this were to really happen. Would I watch it? Of course, we all bloody would! And that, ultimately was the whole point.

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    by » Tue December 6th, 2011, 22:11

    Next week's is co-written by Konnie Huq!
    Stars Rupert Everett and Julia Davis as judges and Daniel Kaluuya (Skins/ The Fades) and Jessica Brown Findlay (hottie from Downtown Abbey) as singing contest hopefuls.

    http://www.channel4.com/programmes/blac ... /episode-2

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    by » Mon December 12th, 2011, 00:32

    Very good tonight, but then I do find that type of sci-fi interesting. Next week's is set in the future too

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    by » Mon December 12th, 2011, 01:27

    Bit confusing this one. Why were they there? Was anybody in charge? Were there any other ways of escape other than entering Hot Shots?

    I'm guessing the bikes represent the daily grind of life. The guy next to him may have been like an internet bully, ridiculing everybody else but not realising his own life was just as pointless?

    I liked how the adverts kept interrupting their life - like YouTube without the penalties! Interesting how everything could be controlled with just a hand motion, that's bound to be the case in the not too distant future.

    Overall not as good as last week by a long chalk. What was the closing scene about? Grass is always greener on the other side?

    Konnie's real name is Kanak!

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    by » Mon December 12th, 2011, 01:31

    is this reality show or series?

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    by » Mon December 12th, 2011, 03:18

    I thought it was far better than last week - totally fascinating and immersive - the production design was amazing - the acting - Jessica Brown Findlay was heartbreaking. It was like George Orwell's 1984 (Big Brother) meets The Running Man meets Peter Kay's evil brother (a nod to Blade Runner with the paper model, too). Brooker was basically ranting himself at the end - that even his truth (his weekly columns/ TV shows) is used as a commodity - everything is packaged and marketed. You can't go five seconds on the internet without a Facebook link imploring you to "like" what you're looking at - or an ad marketed at your every need (they're on this site!). You leave YouTube still for half an hour and an ad starts chatting away about washing powder. Thankfully you don't have to pay to stop it!

    Kanak did well (i didn't spot any lags!).
    They could have expanded it a bit but it was good that they left you to wonder about the circumstances of where they were. I suggest you watch 1984 - the John Hurt film version - that's the origin of the idea, i think.

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    by » Mon December 12th, 2011, 04:19

    There were 300 complaints about the first episode.

    About 15 Million Merits:

    The idea came about when my wife was watching me dumbly patting at an iPad while simultaneously checking Twitter on a phone, and remarked that I’d only be truly happy if every wall in the house functioned as some form of touchscreen. This led to a conversation about inflight entertainment: about how the addition of a small screen spooling films into your face makes the discomfort of a long-haul flight more bearable.

    How much discomfort could you bear while being entertained? Taking that as a starting point, we sketched out an idea for a world in which permanent distraction was king, a world that steadily became more and more sinister the more details we added.


    Incidentally, although the contest at the heart at the story may look familiar, the episode is not a "satire on talent shows". It’s more about the tainted surrounding air Bing and Abi have no choice but to breathe: it's about wanting something better than you currently have.
    Was Konnie's idea!

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    by » Mon December 12th, 2011, 22:54

    The show is so disturbing, especially the first episode. Great TV (instead of just good)

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    by » Mon December 12th, 2011, 23:08

    Overhyped rubbish. I thought it was terrible!

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    by » Mon December 19th, 2011, 03:46

    Really good last ep (written by Peep Show's Jesse Armstrong). Less sensationalist than the Brooker ones and i suspect the haters would like it more (if they hadn't given up already). I would never erase Jodie Whittaker from my memory no mattter what she did!

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    by » Mon December 19th, 2011, 15:22

    Yeah I enjoyed that last episode too, think I might buy the DVD when it's out. Jesse Armstrong's a talented writer, he wrote 'Fresh Meat' as well, right?

    Hope they do more of these. I think I saw somewhere that Brooker said he had more ideas for other episodes.

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    by » Mon December 19th, 2011, 17:48

    The last one was more understated but still effective, we'd drive ourselves mad if we had a hard drive!

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    by » Tue January 22nd, 2013, 14:47

    Charlie Brooker's 'Black Mirror' series two details revealed

    Hayley Atwell, Jason Flemyng and Lenora Crichlow are to star in the second series of Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror.

    The dark drama anthology will return with three new films on Channel 4 in the near future.

    'Be Right Back' involves a terrifying twist on the world of social media, with Martha (Atwell) using a new online service to 'communicate' with her dead boyfriend Ash (Domhnall Gleeson).

    'The Waldo Moment' will star Daniel Rigby as Jamie Salter, a failed comedian who becomes the voice of Waldo - an anarchic animated character on a satirical late-night topical comedy show.

    Salter's life spirals out of control as he becomes frustrated with the world of politics and blue bear Waldo becomes a very real candidate in the upcoming by-election. Jason Flemyng also stars as TV exec Jack Napier.

    Being Human actress Crichlow will play the amnesic Toni - a woman on the run from a hostile figure (Michael Smiley) - in third instalment 'White Bear'. Ian Bonar (Skyfall) and Tuppence Middleton (Spies of Warsaw) will also star in the dystopian thriller.

    Series creator Charlie Brooker previously hinted at what to expect from series two of Black Mirror.

    "Like the last series we've done three stories that are three different genres," he said in December. "We've also got all sorts of unpleasant things and also one of them is very sad."
    Source

    Really looking forward to it starting, the concepts sound very intriguing again.

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    by » Tue January 22nd, 2013, 18:18

    Yeah this was good TV last year, hope they can come up with one as good as the first episode again!

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    by » Tue February 12th, 2013, 00:09

    Be Right Back was excellent. Incredibly creepy and sad. He was like a replicant in a box!

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