On January 20, 2015, Daniel Lavery posted an article about The toast to satirize black mirror, which was new to American audiences at the time. The article entitled “Next, on black mirror‘ poked fun at the show’s preachy, anti-tech tone. One “summary” was simply “What if phones, but too much?”
Since the Netflix acquisition black mirror, the “mobile phones, but too much” ness is increasing, and there is no end in sight: Netflix is renewing the series for a sixth season. But do we really need a different twisted image of society? Here’s why society outgrew it black mirror, and what the creators should do instead.
When it first came to Netflix after a successful run across the pond on Channel 4, black mirror was unlike any other series. It was experimental, daring and above all anthologized. Anthology shows how Alfred Hitchcock gifts or The Twilight Zone were artifacts of a bygone era, but with black mirror was brought into the present by showing a distorted, dystopian future. There was no show quite like it, at least until countless series followed in its footsteps.
In the UK, there was the popular dark comedy series Inside #9and in America, there was both the now-defunct reboot of The Twilight Zone and the HBO series Room 104. Even Netflix got involved with its animated short collection Love, Death & Robots. All of these took different approaches to the anthology concept, but it seemed like the format had returned.
But with each season, the ratings for black mirror got worse. While early Netflix-era entries like USS Callister and San Junipero garnered critical acclaim, the hit-and-miss series slowly became more miss than hit. Even the interactive special “Bandersnatch” didn’t garner universal acclaim, as some viewers found the “Choose Your Own Adventure” format confusing.
By Season 5, the series had morphed into something unrecognizable. The show was named black mirror because of the perceived mirror it held up to society, but in its final execution the show itself became a dark reflection of what it used to be. Instead of cutting but humorous shots of talent shows or reactionary politics, there were tepid tales of infidelity through VR video games and Miley Cyrus singing Nine Inch Nails covers. When your show’s message is, “Technology has gone too far,” there are limited ways to say it before it gets hackneyed.
So it was not surprising that creator Charlie Brooker delayed and narrated a possible 6th season radio times in 2020 “Right now I don’t know what stomach there would be for stories about societies breaking up, so I’m not working on any of those. I’m very interested in rethinking my comic book skills, so I’ve written scripts that aim to make myself laugh.” The results of those scripts were death by 2020 and death by 2021celebrity-studded mockumentaries roughly based on his UK year in review series, Charlie Brooker’s Annual Wipe.
Both specials received unfavorable reviews as the humor lost all of its poignancy by the end of the year. Current humor now has the lifespan of a fruit fly, and a joke about buying toilet paper in March was almost crass in December. Perhaps the answer to Charlie Brooker’s woes lies in not looking to the future black mirror or to the present in these annual specials, but to the past.
In the UK, one of Brooker’s most famous creations is Philomena Cunk, a wide-eyed documentary filmmaker (played by Diane Morgan), who interviews experts on various subjects and asks them silly questions, which they answer with a frighteningly serious face. Take, for example, her brief exploration of money, in which she asks an economist, “If you have a coin, where is the money in that coin?”
Over the years, Cunk has explored existential concepts like time and evolution, but has also directed an entire series on British history. Given how much American audiences love Brooker’s writing, perhaps the answer lies in Philomena Cunk bringing her curiosity to the States. It worked for Sacha Baron Cohen and Borat. And Morgan is already collaborating with Netflix on both death dem series and Ricky Gervais’ After the liveso it is available.
But regardless of Brooker going back to his comedic roots, we’re going to get another batch of it black mirror episodes. Hopefully next season won’t be as button-y as the last two, because Black Mirrors Reputation is already tarnished enough.
black mirror Seasons 1-5 are now streaming on Netflix.