Every few years, a new TV series is dubbed “The Twilight Zone” of its generation. Heck, even the 1980s “Twilight Zone” series was called the “Twilight Zone” of its generation. And it was really pretty good.
The designation shows the staying power of Rod Serling’s “Twilight Zone,” which began in late 1959 and ran several years into the 1960s.
But while “Black Mirror” might properly be called the “Twilight Zone” of its generation … it just might earn that title a bit more because its emphasis on technology and the way it is integrated into our lives makes it very thoroughly of our generation.
“Black Mirror,” created by Charlie Brooker, has been airing in England for a couple of years now, but its recent appearance on Netflix and online have made it widely known.
It’s a dark show. Dark. And if you don’t the title reference, it seems to me to be about that little slab of glass that most of us carry around with us every day: the smart phone. Dark until it’s activated and, as “Black Mirror” shows us, that little piece of glass and plastic and electronic innards can be mighty dark.
“Black Mirror” is set in a future that’s not very far ahead, when electronics have advanced somewhat but are still totally believable in this world of Google Glass and ever-present iPhones.
The series – two seasons of three episodes and a Christmas special – look at the way technology can be used to warp and twist us. Even by ourselves.
The opening episode, “The National Anthem,” is notorious because of its adult content, but it’s gripping and upsetting in an old-fashioned way. A beloved young British princess is kidnapped by terrorists. Their only demand? That the prime minister have sex. On live TV. With a pig.
As the clock ticks, the PM and his staff try to find a way to beat the demand and avoid the horrifying, humiliating and potentially politically disastrous ransom. Meanwhile, TV reporters scramble to find out what’s going on and the public watches, fascinated, as the drama plays out first on social media then on TV. It’s a fascinating commentary on new media and old media and how we shape them and they shape us.
I liked “The Entire History of You” but winced at its tale of obsessive love and jealousy in a world where a “grain” of technology implanted in your head makes it possible to review – and share – your memories. The Christmas episode featuring Jon Hamm of “Mad Men” seemed to bite off too many stories.
The best of the episodes I’ve seen is “Be Right Back,” with “Agent Carter’s” Hayley Atwell and Domhnall Gleeson as a young couple separated by his death in a tragic accident. But Atwell’s character learns there’s a way of being with her love again, thanks to technology. But what’s the price?
“Black Mirror” probably benefits from the cool, blue-tinged modern Brit TV atmosphere of shows like “Sherlock.”
Not to mention the pervasive feeling of technological dread each episode is infused with.