Opening Credits Sunday: Darkroom (1981)
Until recently, the TV series Black Mirror wasn’t easy to see. Originating from the UK, other than a Christmas special that aired a few years ago on DirecTV, the six episode first and second seasons never officially aired anywhere here in the US. In fact, until Netflix picked up the series the only way for anyone on this side of the Atlantic to have seen any Black Mirror was via less than legal means.
But luckily Netflix began streaming all existing episodes a few years back and even better last Friday debuted six new episodes for a third season of Black Mirror, the first of which is titled “Nosedive.”
“Nosedive” focuses on Lacie Pound (Bryce Dallas Howard) who lives near-future in a place where how many “likes” each person gets determines their worth and status in life. Think how someone like one of the Kardashians lives their lives online and that’s essentially how everyone in “Nosedive” lives.
If you’re one of the popular people with lots of likes you get all sorts of free perks, if you’re less than popular doors literally remain closed for you and you’re barred from even going certain places. And because everyone’s trying to get the most likes Lacie’s world is a place where everyone dresses their best, looks like they’re ready for a photoshoot which they have to be since they’re all constant shooting selfies and is super-nice to everyone else lest they upset them and get down-voted.
Of course just under their veneer people still can’t stand other people, the food, though gorgeous looking is practically inedible and there’s constant discrimination based this underlying algorithm.
What struck me was at one point Lacie says something about how their society is structured, “That’s just the way it is.” Which people say today with a lot of things too like with FICO scores.
In “Nosedive,” Lacie has enough likes that she’s just on the cusp of becoming a tastemaker and sees her friend Naomi (Alice Eve) who’s got it all and more importantly loads of likes as the way to get there. But as Lacie tries to get to Naomi’s wedding her world begins to crumble as a cancelled flight sends her online rating to a nosedive.
Black Mirror is the first 21st century sci-fi series that actually gets what it’s like be swept up in all the technology of the 21st century and not know where it’s taking us. Sure, things like cell phones and computers and laptops and AI are great, but what’s the downside? And that’s where Black Mirror excels. Series creator Charlie Brooker has created a show that takes things we all have today and asks what happens if that technology doesn’t go wrong, but goes to a slightly bad place? What happens if things like “likes” become the new currency of discrimination or like in another episode criminal justice becomes so twisted and bent that by the end of one episode we’re actively rooting for the criminals?
That’s when sci-fi and specifically Black Mirror works so well whereas other modern sci-fi series does not. A lot of regular sci-fi series are all about exploring tropes of the past that were once relevant but are now not. Or are still relevant but don’t resemble anything like they used to in the past. Black Mirror on the other hand is so relevant and so now that I wonder if the series will be as connected with viewers in 10 years as it has to the jugular of viewers today?
And yes, it does strike me as ironic that I’m rating the episode much in the same way people in Lacie’s life “like” her. Then again it’s the times that we live in.
If anyone were ever to try and pin me down I’d have to say that my favorite book is The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (HHGG) by the late, great Douglas Adams. I first read that book in a gigantic collection of all of Adams’ HHGG stories and tore through them as fast as I could. I think it’s Adams absurdist humor that appealed to me so much.
Even with all of my love for all things HHGG and Adams non-fiction work as well I’ve so far never read Adams other book series based on detective Dirk Gently. However, when a new TV series was announced based on this character with Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency on BBC America my interest was piqued.
So I’m not sure what was taken from the Gently novels in this new series which means that I’m going into Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency without a lot of preconceptions as to how it should be.
Here, Todd (Elijah Wood) is a sad-sack, down on his luck bellboy when he stumbles upon a murder at the hotel he works at. And investigating the murder is “holistic” detective Dirk Gently (Samuel Barnett) who quickly puts himself upon Todd and tries to recruit him to be his assistant. And the Todd/Gently stuff/story is actually pretty interesting. Todd is mostly normal while Gently is this weird eye of calm in this crazy storm of weirdness that constantly swirls around him.
Unfortunately there’s so many other things going on in the first episode of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency that all this extra stuff overwhelms the Todd/Gently story. There’s a “holistic” assassin driving around killing people, a missing woman, a group of skinheads who may be involved in the murder, a group of crazed guys who go around smashing things up, a CIA team surveying Gently, a police team surveying Todd and Todd’s sister suffering from a disease all introduced very quickly without a lot of time for story development. All this seems like elements that will be important over the eight episode season but right now feels really weird and very confusing. Especially since after having watched the first episode I really don’t know what the overall story of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency is or what it will be?
From the commercials it seems like the first season will be the examination of the murder Gently was investigating and Todd becoming his assistant. But I feel like if Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency would have taken a page from the Doctor Who manual and gone with more self-contained episodes even if there’s a season-long story/mystery running throughout the stories it may have been better for the show.
OR — was Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency designed to be a series people can watch over the course of a weekend in one long eight hour bing? Maybe that would work better for the series? Except here in the US it’s being shown as a weekly show where there’s a 167 hour wait between episodes.
Still, I’ll be sticking with Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency for the short term at least. I think Douglas Adams would have wanted it that way. 😉
“…the world is not the same as it once was.”
It’ll be interesting to see just how this movie fits in with the overall X-Men universe as a whole, especially since the events of Days of Future Past seemed to have made this bleak future impossible.
“What does it say?”
Out this week is the loooooooooong awaited The Art of Atari book that collects many of the gorgeous illustrations that graced the packaging of Atari game cartridges of the 1970s and 1980s. In many ways those illustrations were better than the actual games since they were selling what those games could be, or what those games might be in the player’s imaginations rather than what the game would actually be like when played.
To usher in the new era of electronic entertainment, (Atari) hired an array of talented illustrators to emblazon game cartridges, boxes, magazine advertisements, and more with mind-blowing visions of fantasy and sports thrills, science fiction and adventure, that elevated pixelated gaming to the realm of high art. Art of Atari is the first official retrospective of the company’s illustrative accomplishments, spanning over four decades and cultivated from museums and private collections worldwide.