Binge Guide

Weekly Binge: Black Mirror

by | January 15, 2015 | Comments

In the wake of rumors that Netflix may discontinue streaming all BBC series on Jan. 31 if contract negotiations fall through, it’s somewhat comforting to know that there will still be some quality British programming left for Anglophiles to devour. The Channel 4 production Black Mirror has largely flown under the radar, but it’s fascinating, sometimes brilliant, and certainly worth a look if you’re in the mood for some twisted social satire. Here’s why:

Black Mirror

Black Mirror

What’s the premise? Black Mirror is an anthology series of standalone episodes that explores the tricky relationship between society and technology, often depicting either a heightened reality in contemporary times or the ominous possibilities of a not-so-distant future.

What’s it like? If SyFy and the Discovery Channel decided to collaborate on a scripted program and called upon Rod Serling, Kurt Vonnegut, and Roald Dahl — short story Roald Dahl, not Chocolate Factory Roald Dahl — to co-write every episode, you might end up with something like Black Mirror. In fact, the show has most notably drawn comparisons to Serling’s own iconic anthology series, The Twilight Zone, and it certainly fits that mold both structurally and thematically. What differentiates Black Mirror, however, is its specific focus on technology and the ways in which our darkest human impulses can be enabled or amplified by our reliance upon it. So, yes, you can think of it as a Twilight Zone for the digital era, a scathing critique of modern society delivered in twisty, eerily prescient single-serving installments.

Where can I see it? Currently, the only way US residents can watch Black Mirror is on Netflix, where you can stream every episode with the exception of the Christmas special starring Jon Hamm, which aired just last month in the UK.

How long will it take? Aside from season one’s hourlong second episode, each installment of Black Mirror runs about 45 minutes, so you could conceivably run through everything in a little less than five hours. But we don’t recommend that; the show is so grim at times that we’d suggest you take a break between episodes and do something pleasant. Maybe take a walk, practice some yoga, or visit a petting zoo.

What do the critics think? Though only a handful of critics weighed in on Black Mirror and season two didn’t receive enough reviews to generate a Tomatometer score, the first season stands at 100 percent. Alan Sepinwall of HitFix wrote, “What makes the series so powerful is that it doesn’t just present another collection of stories where technology turns on us, but where we use technology to turn on — or tune out — each other,” and writing about the series as a whole for AV Club, Todd VanDerWerff stated, “There are times throughout all six episodes when it’s easy to fear that Brooker’s satire is only skin deep. But he and his collaborators have something to say about so many subjects besides technology.”

Why should I watch this? Look, we’re going to be honest. This is not feelgood television. If you’re in the mood for something light and uplifting, you may want to look elsewhere. On the other hand, if you’re in need of a calculated jolt of bleak cynicism with a dash of sinister paranoia, Black Mirror would be a pretty good way to get your fix. The individual episodes vary somewhat in quality, but they’re all provocative, smartly written, and superbly acted — you’ll see folks like Jessica Brown Findlay (Downton Abbey), Hayley Atwell (Marvel’s Agent Carter), and Domnhall Gleeson (Unbroken) show up in major roles. And while technology does serve as a unifying theme for the series, each episode is cloaked in several layers of satire, whether dressing down contemporary voyeurism, critiquing the culture of celebrity worship, or exploring the dangers of obsessive grieving. If this all sounds a bit heady, don’t worry; the storytelling isn’t dry by any means, and there should be enough sweeping tension and pitch-black humor to keep you engaged and properly disturbed.

What’s my next step? The most obvious post-Black Mirror recommendations would be some of the other anthology series that preceded it, like The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, and Tales of the Unexpected, which was inspired by the short stories of Roald Dahl. Social satire is a popular theme in science fiction, but a few relevant selections from the big screen would include Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report, Paul Verhoeven’s RoboCop, or Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange.

Are you ready to look into the Black Mirror? Tell us why!


Tag Cloud

target sopranos new york directors transformers Paramount Pictures Music Logo IFC Films godzilla zombie Marvel Studios Paramount summer TV preview adaptation Pixar ViacomCBS Set visit interviews football NBC chucky documentary international MGM The Walking Dead PBS universal monsters Netflix Tubi Best Actor Family vs. SDCC DGA Syfy hispanic heritage month ITV Discovery Channel WarnerMedia kids TCA Marathons Cartoon Network crime thriller MSNBC Disney Freeform harry potter children's TV slashers science fiction worst Instagram Live 21st Century Fox Oscars Warner Bros. Elton John spanish Fargo Apple Nat Geo saw Vudu Tumblr christmas movies breaking bad mutant free movies Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt scene in color Sundance HBO Hallmark talk show Pop die hard President Box Office Black History Month crime drama Mary Tyler Moore TCA Awards Indigenous Character Guide OWN GIFs El Rey 94th Oscars Ellie Kemper wonder woman Red Carpet Apple TV Plus AMC true crime spinoff VOD MCU Fox News Emmy Nominations theme song halloween king arthur debate Walt Disney Pictures USA Network CMT Food Network travel indie APB DirecTV comedies ABC Family richard e. Grant Epix 99% HBO Go Lionsgate X-Men BAFTA Martial Arts comic royal family NYCC cats stop motion TV movies doctor who TBS supernatural worst movies Disney Channel archives Turner Classic Movies Exclusive Video Christmas Chernobyl E! 93rd Oscars History Emmys parents game show See It Skip It Dark Horse Comics Best Actress cartoon Turner Trailer TruTV summer TV Rock Drama movie obituary scary USA Teen Tomatazos Opinion screen actors guild WGN Sony BBC One reboot Horror Native book video on demand 2021 scene in color film series Animation broadcast Toys screenings Neflix scene in color series razzies target scene in color kaiju Sci-Fi Masterpiece diversity Fantasy sequel boxoffice Mystery Best Picture TV The Arrangement canceled Rom-Com Best and Worst FOX cooking BBC America nbcuniversal Heroines art house witnail comic books versus feel good asian-american TCA Winter 2020 spy thriller dramedy medical drama IFC sequels Amazon dceu Year in Review ID toronto The Purge obi wan Brie Larson Kids & Family FXX Comedy Central Photos The Witch Fall TV Election Pirates dark deadpool basketball YouTube cops classics dc new star wars movies police drama rt labs critics edition Acorn TV franchise HFPA movies Black Mirror name the review spanish language Star Trek ratings 2015 robots leaderboard Sundance TV jurassic park Shudder video Winners rt labs YouTube Red 90s Columbia Pictures serial killer cancelled TV series legend remakes Lifetime Christmas movies TV renewals Valentine's Day Trivia werewolf posters SXSW RT21 composers CBS Crunchyroll Image Comics South by Southwest Film Festival SXSW 2022 spider-verse space latino singing competition trophy what to watch fresh cancelled 71st Emmy Awards action-comedy biopic Thanksgiving cancelled TV shows Adult Swim Britbox Film telelvision Mary poppins lord of the rings genre venice french Rocky comics Country PaleyFest Hear Us Out Super Bowl crime Lucasfilm comiccon GoT italian comic book movies Amazon Prime kong dogs TCA 2017 1990s Bravo streamig docudrama crossover VH1 LGBT marvel cinematic universe DC Universe dreamworks Comedy cults slasher Star Wars BET Starz Podcast Tags: Comedy TNT Musicals Sundance Now historical drama laika CW Seed quibi based on movie Premiere Dates E3 Pride Month mob rotten movies we love Watching Series best series Quiz Ovation marvel comics Summer Wes Anderson award winner films james bond Prime Video superhero Musical New York Comic Con game of thrones cars BET Awards Winter TV hidden camera Spike streaming movies biography jamie lee curtis IMDb TV emmy awards DC streaming service Countdown japan technology toy story Action Showtime mission: impossible nfl OneApp Biopics television period drama social media LGBTQ new zealand Women's History Month 20th Century Fox teaser satire all-time Hollywood Foreign Press Association Interview Arrowverse prank Superheroes rotten FX on Hulu Stephen King Cosplay Star Wars Celebration critics suspense 45 Hallmark Christmas movies king kong mcc Amazon Prime Video Trophy Talk scorecard revenge dexter Best Director The Walt Disney Company facebook war MTV halloween tv festival Paramount Network stand-up comedy Infographic Mudbound Pet Sematary Mindy Kaling black DC Comics 007 justice league critic resources VICE Extras high school Disney streaming service Disney+ Disney Plus trailers renewed TV shows 2017 Captain marvel spider-man a nightmare on elm street Apple TV+ Cannes concert Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Peacock Tokyo Olympics Fox Searchlight cancelled television Creative Arts Emmys Hulu scary movies heist movie natural history Baby Yoda YA adventure ESPN Calendar batman strong female leads AMC Plus Marvel Television SundanceTV blaxploitation TIFF documentaries 79th Golden Globes Awards tv talk First Reviews Television Critics Association sitcom 2019 BBC miniseries Paramount Plus 72 Emmy Awards A24 Disney Plus Nominations political drama Travel Channel disaster Netflix Christmas movies ABC Signature popular Esquire Video Games TCM adenture Geeked Week twilight The Academy Holidays child's play live action foreign mockumentary anthology FX Schedule TV Land blockbuster 2016 Tarantino comic book movie thriller black comedy australia animated Comics on TV boxing women stoner sag awards binge CNN know your critic elevated horror south america zero dark thirty docuseries PlayStation Classic Film Pop TV Certified Fresh HBO Max cinemax Shondaland 2020 Polls and Games zombies live event 24 frames Universal Pictures reviews CBS All Access spain olympics dragons summer preview 4/20 Spectrum Originals blockbusters YouTube Premium Broadway Binge Guide pirates of the caribbean Nickelodeon National Geographic unscripted finale Sony Pictures hist Funimation Spring TV green book 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards Ghostbusters San Diego Comic-Con Legendary ABC Grammys Lifetime Song of Ice and Fire romantic comedy indiana jones news rom-coms sports ghosts TLC The CW Focus Features discovery Oscar Pacific Islander Western Awards hispanic nature Alien Universal hollywood streaming joker golden globes superman independent aliens Awards Tour Film Festival golden globe awards canceled TV shows fast and furious Avengers Marvel psycho 2018 Sneak Peek vampires GLAAD criterion NBA rt archives Superheroe Rocketman gangster Mary Poppins Returns aapi young adult Crackle politics Reality Comic Book japanese 73rd Emmy Awards Anna Paquin A&E psychological thriller TV One Amazon Studios casting monster movies anime Academy Awards book adaptation Comic-Con@Home 2021 Writers Guild of America Holiday romance First Look festivals American Society of Cinematographers Television Academy Endgame RT History Reality Competition