My wife and I watched several episodes of Black Mirror last year. We enjoyed them. I figure we pretty much came away from each episode with a bit of the ‘wow’ factor impacting us. It made us think.
But it wasn’t our usual kind of viewing. Generally when we watch a show together it is a serial. Something with a hook at the end that makes you want to watch the next episode. Black Mirror never had that. Each episode was it’s own story, with completely new characters. But each story was fantastic. Very creative and unique.
Recently, I took it up again and made it my “treadmill show”. So now I’m burning through the shows (as well as the calories). And I’m still get wowed. Each. Episode.
And that makes me think – why are they wasting this gold on TV? Each episode is literally a brilliant movie script. Hell, many of the episodes reach an hour anyway, with some hitting 85 minutes, so why weren’t they just released in theaters? I mean…spruce up the quality and effects, occasionally the actors, and you have something that in many cases easily make $75 million in theaters at a cost of less than half that. In some cases, it’s a $250 million idea! And I mean no disrespect to the actors, a lot of them are great, known actors and obviously those aren’t the ones to replace. But the driving point here is – these are too good to be buried as a single episode in the middle of, say, Season 3, of a Netflix-streamed program.
And now these great ideas have been used up. Wasted.
Some examples (summary is via Wikipedia):
The Entire History of You (Season 1 Episode 3) With the implantation of a device called a “grain” behind their ear, users can record everything they see and hear. Using a remote, a user can perform a “re-do”, playing back their memories directly through their eye or to a video monitor. At a dinner party, Liam is suspicious of his wife Ffion’s behaviour towards a man named Jonas. Returning home, Ffion admits that she used to be in a relationship with him. The next morning, Liam drunkenly heads to Jonas’ house and forces him to delete every memory of sexual intercourse he had with Ffion. In the memories appearing on the monitor, Liam notices one which took place after he and Ffion’s relationship began. Liam, afraid that he might not be the biological father of his child, returns home and demands that Ffion show him the re-do of that specific sexual encounter, in order to prove that they had used a condom. The re-do verifies that the two of them had unprotected sex. Sometime later, having been left alone in his house, Liam goes to the bathroom and uses a razor blade to cut out the grain from behind his ear.
Tell me you can’t see this as a hit thriller starring Channing Tatum and Jennifer Lawrence?
White Bear (Season 2 Episode 2) A woman wakes up in a house with amnesia. She notices people on the street recording her on their phones, but when she speaks to them they ignore her. When a masked man opens fire at her with a shotgun, she flees and meets Jem, another woman running away from the “hunters”. Jem explains that the people recording her have been affected by a signal that appeared on their screens, while the hunters are unaffected people acting sadistically. The woman follows Jem in her plan to reach the transmitter and destroy it. When they reach the facilities, they are attacked by two more hunters. The woman manages to wrestle a shotgun away, but when she pulls the trigger it only sprays confetti, revealing that everything was staged. The woman is told that her name is Victoria Skillane and she has been found guilty for her part in the brutal killing of a young girl. She has been sentenced to undergo this psychological torture daily in the “White Bear Justice Park”, where visitors are allowed to record her daily suffering. Victoria is returned to the house where she awoke and has her memory of the day’s events wiped clean, in an extremely painful procedure.
This has the makings of a great thriller/mind-bender/horror. There is zero doubt about it that this movie would make more than your average horror flick. So why is it settling for a TV episode?
Hated in the Nation (Season 3 Episode 6) To counteract a drop in the United Kingdom’s bee population, Granular has developed robotic bees, known as “ADIs”. Detectives Karin Parke and Blue Coulson, together with the help of NCA agent Shaun Li, discover that hacked ADIs have caused the deaths of two people by getting inside their heads, causing unbearable pain. Coulson finds that the two victims had been targeted with the “#DeathTo” hashtag on social media, as part of the “Game of Consequences”, where the person that leads the hashtag tables is killed every day. After a third person is killed, the hashtag starts rapidly growing in use.
I cut off the summary of this one, due to the impact of the spoilers. But man, this episode could have easily been a hit movie complete with a pair of sequels. I loved the way this episode addressed the mob mentality of social media, and it’s “I didn’t mean anything by it” attitude given by the anonymity. And that was just the second angle. The main angle was the use of robotic bees, addressing the environmental impact of bees dying off and one way to address it – and how it can subsequently be abused. This has Denzel Washington written all over it, with the females played by – I don’t know, say – Amy Adams and Rosario Dawson. But instead of a $150-million blockbuster, it’s a Season 3, Episode 6 show on Netflix.
I can go on and on. Pretty much every episode has potential like this. They can make a movie like Downsizing (starring Matt Damon), but Arkangel (Season 4, Episode 2) has to be a TV show? The USS Callister (Season 4, Episode 1) – a game programmer using DNA to recreate actual people but trap them inside a game? Pure genius.
Honestly, these shows are great. But they’re being wasted!