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12th December 2011 16:51:00
Posted by Nick Bryan

15 Million Merits

In my first review of Black Mirror, way back last week when we were all talking about pig sex, I was surprised that Charlie Brooker had been so restrained, introducing only one over-the-top glaring satire concept and otherwise playing straight.

Well, it turned out he was saving the hammer-to-the-face for this week’s 15 Million Merits, in which we see a future beaten down by X Factor, humanity turned into a constantly cycling drone race. I can certainly sympathise with “beaten down by X Factor” after months of reviewing it for this website, but even I found this one a bit much at times.

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Reality TV has been around long enough for “future in which we all live by it” to have become a dystopian standard. Even Doctor Who has already done it, some years ago, in the episode Bad Wolf. Not that having been done before is a barrier, nearly everything has, but one reason I liked The National Anthem last week is that its tone was something a bit different.

This one, especially the opening half, had something of the generic about it. It didn’t really take off until the X Factor-aping sequence started. I note it was 50% longer than The National Anthem, and I can’t help but feel it would’ve been more effective if they’d kept it at the shorter length, and massively condensed the set-up at the start.

But let’s not deny it the latter half, which did make me feel real feelings. Daniel Kaluuya was good in Psychoville and great as main man Bing here. If this show does nothing else, it deserves to give him a big career leg-up.

Finally, the big climax. Anyone who’s seen the movie Network might recognise a few of the plot moves. Charlie Brooker has cited it as a personal favourite more than once, so I’d hope he’s realised this. As many have said on Twitter, it could also be taken as a comment on Brooker’s own career and increasing mainstream acceptance. Whether that’s true is not for me to say.

And next week, an episode written by someone other than Brooker. Hopefully that means reviewers will stop banging on about authorial intent.

Check out Black Mirror to date on Channel 4 On Demand or the official website, and let us know below how it's going for you.

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