Black Mirror, Season 1 (2011)

(Netflix Streaming, October 2017) The Black Mirror series has been on my radar as a must-see for years … but considering the nature of its acclaim as a modern-day Twilight Zone, it took a while for me to muster up the right frame of mind to tackle it. It really doesn’t help that the first episode is basically a hazing ritual. Here’s one of the best SF shows of the past decade … and its first episode (“The National Anthem”) asks its audience to consider a scenario in which the British prime minister is coerced to have sex with a pig … live-streamed to a population ghoulishly eager to see it all. And rather proved prescient years later when a related story emerged about British PM David Cameron. Yup, there’s Black Mirror all right: a blend of technological speculation and old-fashioned horror at what humans are capable of doing. The horror is that the worst monsters are us. It doesn’t really get any better in the brilliant second episode (“Fifteen Million Merits”) in which the grind of daily work and the lure of celebrity are literalized in a satirical portrait of society. Fortunately, the third episode (“The Entire History of You”) is more humanistic but no less terrifying as a technological innovation exposes very human foibles. Again: no need for monsters when humans do such a good job at self-destructing and being so evil to each other. Black Mirror is not a series to watch lightly. It can be stomach-turning, eerily prescient, and implacable in its extrapolations. The quality of the scripts is high, and the production values are more than adequate. Best of all, this first season is a mere prelude to (so far) two seasons and ten other episodes of similar material. Show-runner/writer Charlie Brooker has managed to capture current anxieties about technology and give them further life is terrifying imaginative scenarios. Don’t miss Black Mirror … but be ready to feel depressed for a while after watching them all.

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