Black Mirror is a British television anthology series created by Charlie Brooker that features speculative fiction with dark and at times satirical themes that examine modern society, particularly with regard to the unanticipated consequences of new technologies.[2] The series is produced by Zeppotron for Endemol.

Regarding the programme's content and structure, Brooker noted, "each episode has a different cast, a different setting, even a different reality. But they're all about the way we live now – and the way we might be living in 10 minutes' time if we're clumsy."[3] The series has received critical acclaim, and has seen an increase in interest internationally (particularly in the United States) after being added to Netflix.[4] Stephen King, in particular, has noted his interest in the series.[4][5]

In 2013, Robert Downey, Jr. optioned the episode "The Entire History of You" (written by Jesse Armstrong) to potentially be made into a film by Warner Bros. and his own production company Team Downey.[6]

In September 2015, Netflix commissioned a third season to consist of 12 episodes.[7] Gugu Mbatha-Raw,[8] Mackenzie Davis,[8] Bryce Dallas Howard,[9] Alice Eve,[9] Malachi Kirby,[10] Michaela Coel,[11] and Kelly Macdonald[12] will all appear in the third season. Directors for the third season include Joe Wright,[9] Jakob Verbruggen,[10] James Hawes,[12] and Dan Trachtenberg.[13]

Netflix subsequently outbid Channel 4 for the Series 3 UK first broadcast rights, leading to strong condemnation from C4 executive Jay Hunt when the broadcaster wasn't given the option of re-bidding: "Black Mirror couldn't be a more Channel 4 show. We grew it from a dangerous idea to a brand that resonated globally. Of course it's disappointing that the first broadcast window in the UK is then sold to the highest bidder, ignoring the risk a publicly owned channel like 4 took backing it."[14]

 

 

Production

Title

Charlie Brooker explained the series' title to The Guardian, noting: "If technology is a drug – and it does feel like a drug – then what, precisely, are the side effects? This area – between delight and discomfort – is where Black Mirror, my new drama series, is set. The 'black mirror' of the title is the one you'll find on every wall, on every desk, in the palm of every hand: the cold, shiny screen of a TV, a monitor, a smartphone."[3]

Conception and development

An Endemol press release described the series as "a hybrid of The Twilight Zone and Tales of the Unexpected which taps into our contemporary unease about our modern world", with the storeys having a "techno-paranoia" feel.[15] Channel 4 describes the first episode as "a twisted parable for the Twitter age".[16] Black Mirror series 1 had a limited DVD release for PAL / Region 2 on 27 February 2012.[17] This was followed by a DVD release of series 2, additionally PAL for region 2 only.

According to Brooker (speaking to SFX) the production team considered giving the series a few kind of linking theme or presenter, but ultimately it was decided not to do so: "There were discussions. Do we set them all in the same street? Do we have a few characters who appear in each episode, a bit Three Colours: Blue/White/Red style? We did think about having a character who introduces them, Tales from the Crypt style, or like Rod Serling or Alfred Hitchcock or Roald Dahl, because most anthology shows did have that... but the more we thought about it, we thought it was a bit weird."[18]

Episodes

SeasonEpisodesOriginally aired
First airedLast airedDistributor
 134 December 2011 (2011-12-04)18 December 2011 (2011-12-18)Channel 4
 2311 February 2013 (2013-02-11)25 February 2013 (2013-02-25)
 Special116 December 2014 (2014-12-16)
 3621 October 2016Netflix
 4629 December 2017Netflix

Reception

Critical reception

The first series has been acclaimed as being innovative and shocking with twists-in-the-tale reminiscent of The Twilight Zone.[19] Michael Hogan of The Daily Telegraph described the first episode, "The National Anthem," as "a shocking but ballsy, blackly comic study of the modern media". He went on to say that "This was a dementedly brilliant idea. The satire was so audacious, it left me open-mouthed and squealing. Rather like that poor pig." The series was taken up across much of the world, including Australia, Israel, Sweden, Spain, Poland, Hungary and China.[20] The series has become popular and been well received in China, fitting one of the most discussed series in early 2012.[21] User ratings on Douban reach 9.3,[22] higher than most popular American dramas.[23] Many viewers and critics praised the depth of the series.[21][22][24] A reporter from The Beijing News thought the programme was "an apocalypse of modern world", "desperate but profound".[24] An Additional article from the same newspaper thought each storey criticised television from different aspects.[25] Xu Wen at The Epoch Times thought the storeys reveal modernity's moral turpitude.[26]

In its second series, Black Mirror continued to receive acclaim. In his review of the episode "Be Right Back", Sameer Rahim of The Telegraph wrote, "The show touched on important ideas – the false way we at times present ourselves online, and our growing addiction to virtual lives – but it was additionally a touching exploration of grief. To my mind it’s the best thing Brooker has done". Jane Simon of The Daily Mirror newspaper website, said that the second episode of the second series, "White Bear", lacked the "instant emotional tug" of the series opener, "Be Right Back".[27] She went on to say that, a third of the way through the second episode, she had lost hope of it concluding well, "[...] the acting was unbelievable, the script was riddled with horror-film cliches, the violence was a bit over the top [...]", but that by the end, "I turned out to be absolutely dead wrong on every single count." She ended the piece with: "It’s another work of dark and twisted genius from Mr Brooker." The second series is popular in China. Wen Bai at Information Times thought the second series was still "cannily made", and "near perfection".[28]

"White Christmas", the show's Christmas special, received critical acclaim. Ben Beaumont-Thomas of The Guardian praised the comic satire of the episode and noted that "sentimentality is offset with wicked wit, and Brooker’s brio and imagination paper over any gaps in logic".[29] The Daily Telegraph reviewer Mark Monahan gave the episode 4/5 stars, noting that the drama was "thrilling stuff: escapist entertainment with a quite real-world sting in its tail". Monahan equated the episode with the stronger of the previous Black Mirror episodes, stating that "it exaggerated present-day technology and obsessions to subtle but infernal effect, a nightmare-before-Christmas reminder that to revere our digital gizmos is to become their pathetic slave."[30]

Awards and nominations

In November 2012, Black Mirror won Best TV Movie/Miniseries at the International Emmy Awards.[31] International Emmys are for TV series "produced and initially aired outside the US."[32]

After both series aired in the US, The A.V. Club placed it on its Best of 2013 list (along with Borgen, The Fall, Moone Boy and Please Like Me).[33]

US adaptation

In January 2015, Endemol Shine North America confirmed that Cris Abrego and Charlie Corwin were planning to produce a US version of the series, planned to start airing in 2016.[34][35]