The Twilight Zone for the Facebook Age: Charlie Brooker's "The Black Mirror"

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The Black Mirror is a British television program that premiered last night. Charlie Brooker, creater of the series, a media critic and host of the shows Screenwipe and How Television Ruined Your Life, was inspired by The Twilight Zone. Rod Serling's "quasi-fictional world" allowed for more political and provocative television scripts to go uncensored by networks and corporate sponsers, Brooker argues in the Guardian. 

The first episode of The Black Mirror is provocative but with unambitious targets —the 24 hour newscycle, omnipresent social media— the disgusting premise is unmerited. One gets the sense it was written mostly to test television's limits; which may be a worthwhile demand itself. Nevertheless, upcoming episodes sound much more promising.

Trailer for The Black Mirror

Episode descriptions via The Guardian:

1. The National Anthem

Set slap-bang in the present, The National Anthem, starring Rory Kinnear and Lindsay Duncan, recounts what happens when fictional royal Princess Susannah is kidnapped and prime minister Michael Callow is presented with an unusual – and obscene – ransom request. The traditional media finds itself unable to even discuss what the demand is, while the Twittersphere foams with speculation and cruel jokes. As the ransom deadline nears, events start to gain a surreal momentum of their own. This was inspired partly by the kerfuffle over superinjunctions, and partly by the strange out-of-control sensation that takes grip on certain news days – such as the day Gordon Brown was virtually commanded to apologise to Gillian Duffy in front of the rolling news networks. Who was in charge that day? No one and everyone.

2. Fifteen Million Merits

In 1984, Apple ran a famous advert that implied the Mac might save mankind from a nightmarish Orwellian future. But what would a nightmarish Orwellian future that ran on Apple software actually look like? Probably a bit like this.

Fifteen Million Merits, co-written with my wife Konnie Huq and starring Daniel Kaluuya (The Fades) and Jessica Brown-Findlay (Downton Abbey), takes place in a world in which the population is apparently doomed to a life of meaningless toil enlivened only by continual entertainment and distraction courtesy of ominipresent gizmos and screens. So not really sci-fi at all, then. Your sole chance of escape or salvation from this world appears to be a talent contest called Hot Shot, where the judges are played by Julia Davis, the grime MC Bashy, and Rupert Everett.

3. The Entire History of You

Anyone who's ever nosed through the Facebook profile of a potential lover will feel right at home here. Today, most of us routinely leave a trail of personal information behind us – from emails to idle thoughts on Facebook, to images of ourselves grinning at parties. Go to a live event and instead of lighters in the air, you'll see the glow of people recording proceedings on their smartphones. This final episode, starring Toby Kebbell and Jodie Whittaker, and written by Jesse Armstrong of Peep ShowFresh Meat and The Thick of It fame, explores the logical outcome of this, something many might consider a fantasy scenario: what if you had a kind of Sky Plus system for your head, so you could rewind and replay memories at will? You'd never forget where you left your keys again, for one thing. And it would be great for winning arguments. But it might not be brilliant news for the health of your relationship. After all, how much do you actually want to know about each other?