What is Black Mirror and why is it worth your time?

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Charlie Brooker’s deliciously dark anthology series remains unique in the midst of a crowded TV landscape

Black Mirror, originally home to Channel 4 but now a Netflix Original available worldwide, is a science-fiction satire anthology series from Charlie Brooker. You might know him from various other endeavours including Dead Set, the show which imagines a zombie apocalypse from the perspective of the Big Brother housemates. If you’ve ever wanted to see Davina McCall ravaged by the undead, it’s well worth a watch. Each episode of Black Mirror is its own self contained story, featuring a distinct cast and reality. It jumps from genre to genre, sometimes a political satire, other times a more hard sci-fi romp. It is, as many have accurately described it, The Twilight Zone for the 21st century.

Technology is always at the centre, with each instalment usually taking a piece of existing technology and picturing it some time in the not so distant future and wondering how it may impact our lives. Be warned though, this is difficult viewing. It is utterly brutal in its savage denouncement of humanity’s abuse of the wonderful inventions scientific advancement has allowed us to indulge in. But it’s always worth suffering through the emotional barrage because it never feels masochistic for the sake of it and you’re left with a genuinely clever and thought provoking short story. What’s most terrifying is that while so many of the episodes take current concepts and exaggerate them, the terrible effect they have is usually already happening in our society in some form and we’re part of it, whether we realise it or not.

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     “White Bear” is one of the most disturbing and shell-shocking episodes in the history of TV

What would happen if the Prime Minister of Britain had to fuck a pig live in television in order to prevent a kidnapped member of the royal family from being executed? How might insufferable TV talent shows unjustly affect the direction of people’s entire lives were they given even more power? What if your entire worth was based on the volume and quality of likes you got on social media, to the point where it affected where you could live and who you could interact with in everyday life? These are all scenarios proposed and delved into with exceptionally skilful writing, acting, and directing. That isn’t say all episodes are born equal but even when the show makes a rare swing and a miss (Season 2’s “The Waldo Moment” being the most glaring example of this) it’s still fundamentally intriguing.

What makes Black Mirror special above all else is how completely unique it is. We’re in the midst of a golden age in television, where scripted drama is of a higher quality than it’s ever been before and there’s just so much of it to consume. It’s becoming more difficult to stand out and even the best of the best are usually easily comparable to something else currently airing or in recent memory. That Black Mirror‘s closest relative is from way back in the late fifties and yet it remains a spot-on critique of modern society, says volumes. It’s simply essential.

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