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J.A.A. Purves

Black Mirror (2011- )

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This just jumped to the very top of my to see list.  The problem is, ironically, it doesn't seem to be watchable just yet anywhere online.

 

Christianity Magazine:

‘A Future you Deserve’: one of the promotional taglines for the second series of highly acclaimed TV three-parter Black Mirror, which ran on Channel 4 in February. The alternative slogan was less opaque, more directly indicative of the writer’s withering hope. It read, simply: ‘The Future’s Broken’. That belief belongs to Charlie Brooker, increasingly regarded – by myself and many others – as one of Britain’s most talented writers. Having made his name as an acid-tongued Guardian TV columnist, he now enjoys a threepronged career: fronting satirical TV comedy shows including his Newswipe series, continuing an occasional newspaper career, and perhaps most interestingly, writing dark comedy drama for the small screen.

 

... 'White Bear’ appears to be about one thing – paranoia around technology – but is eventually revealed to be about something else entirely; something much more primal and important. This is the genius of Black Mirror as a whole – like the great satirists, Brooker isn’t just poking fun at culture but making a deadly serious point about, and for the benefit of, his fellow humans. By the end of the episode, the viewer is left with a profound image. Whether this is what the writer intended or not, that image is a vision of hell itself; of the opposite of what Christianity preaches about God’s best future for humankind. Joining the dots, then, Brooker becomes the modern-day Dante, illustrating the Inferno that awaits people if they continue on their path of self-destruction.

 

Charlie Brooker at The Guardian:

The series was inspired, indirectly, by The Twilight Zone, Rod Serling's hugely entertaining TV series of the late 50s and early 60s, sometimes incorrectly dismissed as a camp exercise in twist-in-the-tale sci-fi. It was far more than that. Serling, a brilliant writer, created The Twilight Zone because he was tired of having his provocative teleplays about contemporary issues routinely censored in order to appease corporate sponsors. If he wrote about racism in a southern town, he had to fight the network over every line. But if he wrote about racism in a metaphorical, quasi-fictional world – suddenly he could say everything he wanted.

 

... In Serling's day, the atom bomb, civil rights, McCarthyism, psychiatry and the space race were of primary concern. Today he'd be writing about terrorism, the economy, the media, privacy and our relationship with technology. Or trying to, because while present-day TV drama may be subject to less censorship, it also has fewer avenues for exploring ideas. The majority of dramas are long-running returning series or genre pieces – detective stories, period dramas and the like. It's as if there's a constant pressure to reassure a nervous viewer: to say look, it's episode 89, it's got the same faces as last week, in the same precinct, with the same woes. You know you'll like this – because you've already seen it.

 

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I watched this a few months ago, and it was one of the best things I've seen this year. The first episode of the first season is VERY disturbing though. If you are at all of delicate sensibility, I recommend to skip it.

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I made the mistake of watching that 1st episode. There is a very small handful of things I find too repulsive to view, so even reading a few warnings, I wasn't too concerned. Boy. Was I wrong. I haven't been able to bring myself to watch any of the other episodes.

 

That said, I think your analysis is on point - at least as it relates to the 1st episode. But I cannot recommend it.

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I can strongly recommend that you watch the second episode, which is the very best of the series.

 

The first is certainly very difficult and, while they don't actually show anything explicit, it is certainly enough to be far too much.  No episode during the rest of either season is as offensive as the first.  Brooker, for all his critique of sensationalism, certainly intentionally chose a shocker for episode 1.

 

Echoing Cunningham's suggestion, I would not criticize the decision, for anyone else, to just skip the first episode entirely.  Each one is a completely stand alone story, so you won't be missing any continuity in doing so.

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I'll try the second. Maybe. But wow, that first one...

 

It doesn't show anything explicit. One of the few things I have refused to watch is the Human Centipede films (which, not having seen, but read some descriptions of, do show graphic revolting images). But, for some of the reasons you touch on, and general art criticism posits, NOT showing the graphic bits leaves it up to the viewer to fill that in. It's not torture or gross-out "porn" - I can't fault it for being disgusting in the images it shows. What's so disturbing about that first episode is exactly that: what I filled in. And that circles back to your appreciation: Brooker knows that and does it very intentionally.

 

Black Mirror indeed.

 

ETA: I'm not sure what subsequent episodes could hold. As a standalone episode, it makes its point exceptionally well. It even gives us an "easy out" in that we and the characters were manipulated by the "performance artist" who orchestrated it. And it ends on a truly tragic note between the British PM character and his wife, which might lend itself to reading the story as a tragedy, but if we're honest with ourselves as viewers, the damage is already devastatingly done.

 

I'd love to hear Scott Derrickson weigh in here.

 

2nd ETA: As a kid, I had nightmares after watching two movies: Jaws, which was completely irrational, even beach trips I never waded out more than 6" deep in water, and The Amityville Horror, also largely irrational as it was the flies on the window that gave me the nightmares.

 

As a relatively functional adult - haha - every time I've had pork, ham or bacon since seeing this, I'm reminded of it. I respect it for having that impact, hate it and myself (part of the point) for it.

Edited by Darryl A. Armstrong

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Grantland is current running recaps/reflections of each episode. They just put up episode 4. They're worth reading if you've seen them and are interested in the writer's thoughts, but they are, of course, filled with spoilers. http://www.grantland.com/blog/hollywood-prospectus/post/_/id/94247/black-mirror-episode-4-be-right-back-death-and-the-realdoll

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Tyler   

The other episodes aren't as uncomfortable (at least not viscerally) as the first one. For around 2/3 of its running time, I thought "15 Million Merits" was a weaker story, but the developments toward the end improve it a lot. I like "The Entire History of You," as well, but I thought it didn't (maybe couldn't) advance much beyond the premise.

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DirectTV to air a special Black Mirror Christmas episode starring Jon Hamm:

"EW can exclusively reveal that The Audience Network will be airing Channel 4′s Black Mirror Christmas special, Black Mirror: White Christmas. The 90-minute special will debut on Audience at 9:30 p.m. ET on Dec. 25.  Hamm is joined by Rafe Spall and Oona Chaplin for the special. Black Mirror‘s Yuletide episode will tell three interconnected stories focusing on Christmastime technology-based paranoia."

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Tyler   

A US remake?

 

I wonder what the production schedule would be like, since there have been 7 episodes in 4 years of the original. Robert Downey, Jr. owns the rights to "The Entire History of You," which would create problems if they're planning to remake the same stories.

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MattPage   

Two quick things on this. Firstly the first episode of this has taken on a revered prophetic quality after a book by one of David Cameron's former best mates has alleged, that whilst he was a student he did something unspeakable involving a kid. Probably a smear by someone who is so almost as angry as he is rich, but still gob smacking.

Secondly that fans of the series might enjoy The Lobster which is jst out over he and stars Colin Farrelll. I has that same brand of dystopian black humour in spades.

Matt

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Season Three will consist of six episodes and will be available on Netflix starting October 21st.  This seasons stars Bryce Dallas Howard, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Mackenzie Davis, Jerome Flynn and Wyatt Russell.

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I don't enjoy this show.

It's very much in the Vonnegut mode: acerbic and numbingly bleak, exercises in miserablism. Yes, it's smart, as far as that goes, but the comparisons to Twilight Zone feel terribly wrong. Serling, like Bradbury, maintained a robust humanism that gave his social critiques potency and a sense of whimsy that buoyed his bleaker visions. 

Black Mirror often feels more like a wallow in miserablism, impotent and bitter and smug.

Edited by Ryan H.

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Tyler   

The 4th episode of the Netflix season, "San Junipero," is my favorite anything I've consumed this year. The nihilism and wallowing has grated on me in some of the other episodes, but this one doesn't go in that direction at all; it's hard for me to envision the Charlie Brooker who wrote those thud-hammering episodes also writing "San Junipero," because it's meditative and kind in some profound ways. It has some social criticism stuff, but the episode doesn't beat you over the head with it. It's the same director as "Be Right Back," Owen Harris, which was the gentlest and most resonant of the original Black Mirror episodes.

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NBooth   

Kathryn VanArendonk gets at exactly what has been keeping me from checking this show out:

The thing is, for all its conceptual complexity — for all of the surprise twists and third-act reversals, for all of the high-concept premises and alarming escalations, Black Mirror’s messages are usually pretty simple. Cell phones? Bad. Reality shows? Bad. Social media? Really bad. Politics as entertainment? Definitely bad, but not ultimately as disturbing as entertainment-style justice. Oh, sure, the setup and the execution of those ideas is impressive, but the show’s primary crutch is too often that it uses thought-provoking and fascinating foundations in order to reach the simplest, most alarmist possible conclusion about a variety of technological innovations.

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Tyler   

Sometimes the obvious message strikes hard enough to make an impact anyway ("White Bear"), but it does get tiresome, too. The episodes that manage to get beyond that, I'd say, include "San Junipero" and "Man Against Fire" from the new season, and "Be Right Back" and "The Entire History of You" from the older ones.

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NBooth   

Ok, I tried. I made it through the first episode (a darkly funny 10-minute sketch padded out to four times that length) and the first half of the second episode before I decided to give up. That second episode reminded me of nothing so much as this SNL skit:

 

It's not witty, it's not particularly intelligent, and it's not challenging. But enough people like this show, or seem to, that I must be missing something. So: where should I go if I want to see this series at its best, as opposed to what I hope is not its best? What I see above are:

 "San Junipero"

"Man Against Fire"

"Be Right Back"

"The Entire History of You"  

Edited by NBooth

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