96% Rotten Tomatoes
Created by Charlie Brooker
Original language(s) English
No. of episodes 13 (list of episodes)
Writers Charlie Brooker
Country of origin United Kingdom
No. of seasons 3
Program creator Charlie Brooker
|Executive producer(s) Charlie Brooker
Genres Science Fiction, Satire, Psychological novel
Cast Hayley Atwell, Rafe Spall, Jon Hamm, Hannah John‑Kamen, Bryony Neylan‑Francis
Black mirror trailer
Black Mirror is a British science fiction television anthology series created by Charlie Brooker and centred around dark and satirical themes that examine modern society, particularly with regard to the unanticipated consequences of new technologies. Episodes are standalone works, usually set in an alternative present or the near future. The show was first broadcast on the British Channel 4, in 2011. In September 2015, Netflix commissioned a third season of 12 episodes. The commissioned episodes were later divided into two seasons of six episodes; the third season was released on Netflix worldwide on 21 October 2016.
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." The series has received critical acclaim and has seen an increase in interest internationally (particularly in the US) after being added to Netflix.
The first two series of the programme were produced by Zeppotron, for Endemol. 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 stories having a "techno-paranoia" feel. Channel 4 describes the first episode as "a twisted parable for the Twitter age". Black Mirror series 1 had a limited DVD release for PAL / Region 2 on 27 February 2012. This was followed by a DVD release of series 2, also PAL for region 2 only.
According to Brooker (speaking to SFX), the production team considered giving the series a 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 some 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."
Charlie Brooker explained the series' title to The Guardian: "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."
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.
In September 2015, Netflix commissioned a third season of 12 episodes, which was later divided into two seasons of six episodes. The third-season cast includes Bryce Dallas Howard, Alice Eve, James Norton, Cherry Jones, Wyatt Russell, Alex Lawther, Jerome Flynn, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Mackenzie Davis, Michael Kelly, Malachi Kirby, Kelly Macdonald, and Faye Marsay. The directors for the third season include Joe Wright, Jakob Verbruggen, James Hawes, and Dan Trachtenberg. The third season was released on Netflix worldwide on 21 October 2016. Channel 4 will not air the third season after Netflix outbid them for the rights, spending $40 million. A trailer for the third season was released in October 2016. In October 2016, it was announced that Jodie Foster will direct an episode of the fourth season starring Rosemarie DeWitt.
In October 2016, Brooker revealed that he had ideas of where sequels to both "White Bear" and "Be Right Back" would go, but it was unlikely that either would be made. He also revealed that actors had been approached to return to the series, but were not available, although Hannah John-Kamen does appear in "Playtest" after appearing in an unrelated role in "Fifteen Million Merits". Furthermore, Brooker also stated that there were some characters in the series three episode "Hated in the Nation" who could potentially recur.
For the upcoming season, which is expected to be released in late 2017, Brooker has leaked a few details to the press. Jodie Foster will direct an episode with a mother and daughter theme, one episode is being filmed in Iceland and one episode will be overtly comedic in tone. It is expected that there will be even more variety in the episodes than in previous seasons. Brooker expressed a reluctance to make a sequel to the popular and critically acclaimed San Junipero episode.
The first series has been acclaimed as being innovative and shocking with twists-in-the-tale reminiscent of The Twilight Zone. 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. The series has become popular and been well received in China, becoming one of the most discussed series in early 2012. User ratings on Douban reach 9.3, higher than most popular American dramas. Many viewers and critics praised the depth of the series. A reporter from The Beijing News thought the programme was "an apocalypse of modern world", "desperate but profound". Another article from the same newspaper thought each story criticised television from different aspects. Xu Wen at The Epoch Times thought the stories reveal modernity's moral turpitude.
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 sometimes present ourselves online, and our growing addiction to virtual lives – but it was also 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". 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." Several news reports, including one by Chris Cillizza, political reporter for The Washington Post, compared the 2016 Donald Trump political campaign to "The Waldo Moment", a 2013 episode in the second series; later, in September 2016, episode writer Charlie Brooker also compared the Trump campaign to the episode and predicted Trump would win the 2016 election. The second series is popular in China. Wen Bai at Information Times thought the second series was still "cannily made", and "near perfection".
In December 2014, Stephen King noted his admiration in the series. The show's Christmas special that year, "White Christmas" 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". The Daily Telegraph reviewer Mark Monahan gave the episode 4/5 stars, noting that the drama was "thrilling stuff: escapist entertainment with a very 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."
The third series received positive reviews from critics and has a Metacritic rating of 82 out of 100, based on 23 reviews.
In November 2012, Black Mirror won Best TV Movie/Miniseries at the International Emmy Awards. International Emmys are for TV series "produced and initially aired outside the US." 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). Bryce Dallas Howard received a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination for her performance in the episode "Nosedive".