Like a 21st Century “Twilight Zone” whose anthology of chilling stories look at the drawbacks of technology, the British “Black Mirror” (Netflix, streaming) is back after a nearly two year absence with six new stories, bigger budgets and better known stars.
Kelly MacDonald is a London detective looking into a killer online campaign in “Hated in the Nation.” Rashida Jones and Michael Schur co wrote “Nosedive,” which stars Bryce Dallas Howard as someone obsessed with her social media standing. And one shocking episode goes back to pre-cellphone 1987.
“These new episodes are certainly more ambitious, ambitious in scale, ambitious in terms of the talent we are working with, ambitious in some of the worlds, as well, that we have created,” executive producer Annabel Jones told reporters at the summer press tour of the TV Critics Association. “But I hope that they still feel very grounded and at the heart there’s a human story and a human dilemma that we’re exploring. So we try to sort of create entertaining ultimately entertaining but thought provoking dramas, but that also have a human element, a real human story.
Said the other executive producer, Charlie Brooker, “Technology is never the villain in this show. It’s always kind of there. It’s always about human failings and human messes, basically, that technology has helped facilitate.”
“I think we’re trying to dramatize very contemporary concerns,” Jones said. “With the technological advancement in the last few decades, I think we’re in a sort of place that feels very new and alien, and I think we’re evolving as a species, and we don’t quite know how or what the ramifications are yet. So a lot of the stories have that at their heart, a sort general unease that we haven’t yet explored or come to terms with.”
But Booker added, “We’re not trying to put across a message or a point of view particularly in the show. Primarily we’re hoping to entertain and to there’s a certain frisson I used to get from watching particularly unsettling and challenging programs that I think we’re trying to evoke.
“We’re not really about trying to hammer a message into people’s brains,” he said.
But they are striving for some variety in their field.
“We’ve got kind of like a police procedural story, for instance, this time around. We’ve got a romance. We’ve got a thriller. We’re got a horror romp episode. We’ve got a military story. So we’ve got sort of a variety, and the running times are quite different. One of them is feature length, so you wouldn’t necessarily want to binge-watch that and another one.”
The varying times are allowed through their platform, Jones says.
“One of the great things about being on Netflix is obviously the story can dictate its length and duration, so one of the episodes, you know, is a 90 minuter because it had to be, and it felt this way, so there’s a lot of creative freedom and a sense of a lot of liberty. Feels quite liberating being on the platform whether you want to and you can watch them however frequently you want.”