It has to be said that Black Mirror won’t be everybody’s cup of tea.
But for sheer originality, Charlie Brooker’s anthology series takes the cake.
Black Mirror is a biting satire on social media and the public, with three bold teleplays about the near future. If you were ever a fan of The Twilight Zone then this is one for you.
UK writer Brooker was the man behind Dead Set, the wildly imaginative drama about zombies running amok in the Big Brother house.
Now he turns his attention to three daring, stand-alone stories in this 2011 series.
The opening story, “The National Anthem,” lets you know straight off this is unconventional storytelling. Prime Minister Michael Callow (Rory Kinnear) is awoken from his slumber to learn that Princess Susannah has been kidnapped. A bizarre ransom video has been sent to Downing Street, not demanding money, but rather a sordid request that the PM perform a sexual act with a pig live on national television. If not the Princess will be executed.
While a shell-shocked PM grapples with the demented order, he learns that the same video has already been uploaded to YouTube, creating a media frenzy and public fascination.
It’s a race against time and against indignity, with the Princess’ life slipping away, along with his political future. While the Palace wants a resolution, the PM’s wife is also insisting he hold his nerve.
Efforts by police to track down the man behind the kidnapping prove futile, and soon the public is baying for blood, losing all sense of perspective.
Lindsay Duncan plays the key advisor to the PM, in an episode that becomes more twisted the more it goes on.
The second episode, “15 Million Merits”, sees soulless individuals spending their waking hours on cycles in front of video screens in order to gain merit points to better their lives. This sci-fi tale is set in a dystopian society that pays homage to a TV talent show (watch for Rupert Everett as the ultimate nasty judge) where lives are transformed.
There’s also only limited dialogue in this strange, hypnotic episode starring Daniel Kaluuya (Skins, Psychoville).
The third and final episode “The Final History of You” is based on the premise that people can be implanted with “grains” that record everything they see and hear.
Black Mirror taps into the reality that we are all connected, electronically, socially and philosophically without necessarily using these for good, rather than negativity. Recent social media events and campaigns could easily form the inspiration for a fourth episode, were this series set in Australia.
As drama it shocks and thrives on awkward black comedy exchanges, which in a world of cookie-cutter TV can’t be all bad.
Besides, the first episode resulted in 322 complaints to UK media watchdog Ofcom. So it must be good.
Black Mirror begins 9:30pm Monday October 8 on SBS ONE.