About the Show
From Emmy-winning Greg Daniels (The Office and Parks & Rec) comes a hilarious new sci-fi comedy. In the future people can upload their consciousness to a luxurious digital afterlife. When party boy Nathan gets uploaded to a virtual resort he meets the down-to-earth Nora who starts as his customer service “angel”, but becomes so much more as she helps him find friendship, love and purpose.
This is a first for this website. I’ve never reviewed a TV show or movie before, but we just finished the first season last night and I figured, what the hell.
Set in the near future, this show tells the story of a handful of people who are thrust into a situation that none of them really wanted or anticipated. You see, in this near future, a person’s consciousness can get downloaded and they can live in these special “heavens”, these places that are virtual, where they are still alive, but only here.
What interested me about this show is how really interesting issues are dealt with. Like, what makes a person “alive”? Is Nathan alive, even though his physical body is dead? And more, human rights are touched a bit as well, through a protest on the streets of NYC where people are claiming that everyone has a right to upload, despite their income. And Nora, the “angel” who is responsible for Nathan’s happy afterlife in Lakeview (think of her as a sort of IT Tech/concierge), has a very ill father who she wants to upload into Lakeview, but he has decided to die the natural way. No uploading.
The play of these particular ideas is subtle and never directly addressed, save for Nora’s father, and I really found that I enjoyed this quite a bit. The gentle probing of these ideas kept the show from ever crossing any lines into preachy or pointed. It was just there, and it added a very interesting dynamic to the show. What is consciousness? And what makes a person alive?
The first season is ten episodes along, and some episodes I enjoyed more than others (which is pretty normal). It took some time for Andy Allo’s acting to really impact me much, and I think maybe it was less her and more the role she was playing as a person who is a kind of concierge in this elite afterlife. There had to be a certain amount of distance between her and Lakeview throughout the show, though the line does blur eventually. It wasn’t really until that line blurred that I started liking her.
As you’d expect, not everything is the way you’d expect it to be. There’s a bit of an unsolved mystery, which I’m assuming will be (necessarily) built on in season two. Some side characters will likely become bigger players in the next season. Things are starting to get really convoluted by the end of the season, and I found myself really anxious to watch the next season, which, as far as I’m aware, has not been released yet.
Relationships form, and relationships end… and some relationships are just weird (which I loved). I never quite did manage to understand the relationship between Nathan and his living, very rich girlfriend. She was an interesting character, as I almost instantly didn’t like her at all, but then throughout the season you get these peeks at her that show her as a HUMAN under all her veneer. There were points where this woman I really didn’t like managed to make me feel really sorry for her.
One thing I want to touch on before I end this review is the really interesting near-future technology, which is largely what the show is built on, from these custom-built heavens, where a family can pay for consciousness to continue, to these apps that allow people to hook up for a night and then rate their uh… coital experience. I really ended up loving the technology as much as the show itself. It’s easy to see where the producers of the show took the technology we see around us every day, and used it as a foundation for whatever comes next. The true mark of good social SciFi is whether or not you can picture the stuff being discussed becoming real, and I could, and I loved it. Furthermore, as a show that is based on an aspect of this technology, they did a great job at balancing the plot, characters, and tech in such a way where one didn’t ever outweigh or overpower any of the others, rather they all worked really well together.
This show is really entertaining. There are characters you’ll love, and characters you’ll love to hate, and a few mixed in that might surprise you. The episodes move along at a steady clip. We were so addicted, we watched the entire series in two nights, which is really something when you consider we rarely get time to actually watch TV. (I should note, it’s not a show you’d want to watch with small children, as there are sexual references and scenes, and when someone is uploaded, they literally lose their heads.)
Perhaps my favorite part of the entire series, is the idea of life and death, and how fluid it is and how fluid technology can allow them to become. By the end of the show, I was having mental discourses with myself over whether or not Nathan is really dead, or if he’s alive, despite the fact that he has no physical body. It was interesting to see how this technology can impact things like funerals, and even family. If someone is still “alive” and visible, able to talk to, despite being in a virtual world, then is their death really… death? There’s an episode which focuses on Nathan’s funeral and it really drove that home.
I’m making it sound like this isn’t a funny show, and it is. The director of this show also directed The Office and Parks & Rec, but the humor here might be a little more understated, though you will have laugh out loud moments.
Was this show perfect? No. Like I said, it took me some time to feel much one way or the other about Nora, and there are some stunningly obvious plot arcs I smelled coming within the first twenty minutes of episode one, but ultimately, this show is a whole lot of fun, and thought provoking in ways I didn’t expect.