Mr. Brooker, you have done it again — from Bryce Dallas Howard's pastel pinks, to the electro soundtrack of San Junipero, and the grim horror of haunted house VR, #BlackMirror departs for a third time. As we inevitably gorged on the six Netflix episodes of Charlie Brooker's tech-anthology, the season is over before it even began. If your obsession with the dark arts isn't fully quenched, here are 10 shows that can shatter the mirror in terms of the meta, obscure, or just downright wrong. Have some videos of dancing kittens on standby — things are about to get dark.
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1. Dark Net (2016)
- Seasons: 1
- Network: Showtime
Serving like a real-life Black Mirror, Showtime's American documentary looks at both the lighter and darker side of #technology. Focussing on everything from revenge porn, to 3D printing of guns and the exploitation of children online, #DarkNet follows some of the actual crimes that have been committed or those that are made and destroyed using technology. What makes Dark Net perhaps the most chilling entry on this list is the fact that it is all based in reality.
The show taps into the same morbid obsession that has us hooked on Black Mirror. As Geek Wire perfectly puts it:
"If you’re coming to Dark Net in search of the type of late-night content in which premium cable specializes – titillating, unusual, and perhaps bit squeamish – you may be perfectly satisfied."
Just as you walk away from Black Mirror with an unpleasant taste in your mouth, Dark Net will have you never looking at your tech in the same way again.
2. Dead Set (2008)
- Seasons: 1
- Network: Channel 4
If you like Charlie Brooker's satirical commentaries of "Big Brother is watching you," then immerse yourself in his actual take on Big Brother. Before #TheWalkingDead or Black Mirror took to our screens, Brooker was already monopolizing the zombie apocalypse with #DeadSet. Brooker's 2008, five-part, show takes place inside the British Big Brother house.
A compelling cast of British talent, cameos from Big Brother UK famous faces and a typically Brooker-esque ending of social commentary means that Dead Set is both horrific and hilarious. Perhaps the greatest creation of the show is the vile, misogynistic Producer Patrick Goad. Whether or not Goad is a caricature of anyone, or even Brooker himself, we will never know, but Andy Nyman plays the villain with gusto. While a Dead Set sequel would be impossible, the show still has you conjuring up your own scenarios to how Dead Set could have as many seasons as (unfortunately) the real Big Brother has. Dead Set is possibly Brooker's greatest work.
3. The Twilight Zone (1959–1964)
There have been many incarnations of #TheTwilightZone, but the original run is the template for sinister viewing. Week after week we were hooked by the show that had both a twist ending and a moral underscore. Wholesome family horror starring the likes of Burt Reynolds, Dennis Hopper, and George Takei. Some episodes may not have aged as well in a world of Brooker-tech and CGI, but classics like "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" are a timeless horror.
Owned, and presented by Rod Serling, the show is usually syndicated around the festive season in a marathon, but at 156 episodes it is no easy undertaking. One of the most parodied shows ever, The Twilight Zone has been referenced the likes of The Simpsons, 3rd Rock from the Sun, and Futurama. Not only did the main show have several revivals, and a feature film, it also inspired several other shows like The Outer Limits and Night Gallery, as well as having a Disney ride based on it. The Twilight Zone pushes even Black Mirror for WTF endings!
4. Residue (2015)
- Seasons: 1
- Network: Netflix
#Residue is painfully short at just three episodes, so plays out more like a short movie than a TV show. More like a Channel 4 show than a Netflix offering, the story of Residue follows a photo-journalist whose life is irreparably changed after a night club explosion on New Year's Eve. The government of a dystopian city try to cling to order as a quarantine zone is set up. Natalia Tena leads as Jennifer, the woman who uncovers a web of conspiracy and supernatural elements.
Called Black Mirror with a Game of Thrones cast, The Observer rightly pitch Residue as the ultimate sci-fi mashup:
"Think Black Mirror, Strange Days, Blade Runner, Prometheus, Resident Evil, 28 Days Later, Cabin in the Woods or any plot that could be described as 'ghost in the machine-y' or 'based on the work of Philip K. Dick.' "
Residue has you hooked from the very first moment and begging for more — If only it were longer.
5. Masters Of Science Fiction (2007)
- Seasons: 1
- Network: ABC
Following in the formula of the highly-successful Masters of Horror, each week a different sci-fi director took on a story in anthology format. To add to the science fiction geek level, the show is narrated by Stephen freaking Hawking! Adapting short-stories from the sci-fi genre, #MastersofScienceFiction tackled stories of an ape with human rights, a fully-automated justice system and the human race being banished from Earth. It's cast was completed with a cameo by sci-fi legend John Hurt.
The directing talent was superb, while the episode "The Discarded" was even directed by Star Trek: The Next Generation alumni Jonathan Frakes. Despite its popular premise, Masters of Science Fiction only managed one season, and a shortened one at that. Two episodes were pulled from ABC's schedule with no explanation ever given.
6. The Returned (2013)
- Seasons: 2
- Network: Canal+
Adapted from France, Les Revenants (better known as #TheReturned) is the supernatural thriller set in misty mountain town. For unexplained reasons the recently dead begin to return to the town, where we meet a suicidal bride, the victim of a school bus crash, and a small boy who was murdered by burglars — Home Alone gone wrong!
The Returned won a well deserved International Emmy for Best Drama Series, but with a similar premise to other show #The4400, you could say we have all seen it before. Frankly The Returned has a much spookier vibe than what had come before, mixing in elements of gothic horror and religion with a picturesque back drop. Expertly combining mystery and suspense, it is perhaps the isolated setting which gives The Returned a Black Mirror meets #TwinPeaks vibe, as each season builds towards an uncomfortable climax. Make sure you watch the subtitled French version and not Carlton Cuse's american adaptation, that one painfully limped to a single season finale.
7. Mr. Robot (2015)
- Seasons: 2
- Network: USA Network
Making a star out of Rami Malek as Elliot Alderson, #MrRobot is the tale of a cybersecurity engineer who is recruited by a group of "hacktivists" to take down the monstrous E Corp — which Elliot dubs Evil Corp. #TheMatrix meets #RobinHood, Mr. Robot is a social commentary on capitalism in the 21st Century.
Complex characters include Malek's the lead, the boy who suffers with social anxiety disorder, dissociative identity disorder and clinical depression — it is not a great cocktail of traits to be honest, but handled superbly. It is unsurprising then that Malek won an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, while the show was nominated for a further five. Mr. Robot also set the record for being Rotten Tomatoes's only show to score perfect episode scores across the entirety of its first run. We clearly can't get enough of Mr. Robot and a third season has been commissioned for 2017.
8. Utopia (2013)
- Seasons: 2
- Network: Channel 4
Another dip into the sci-fi psyche, #Utopia is the quirky British answer for your standard USA thriller. Quite literally everything is splashed daffodil yellow as two seasons try and unravel a wild conspiracy. A small group find themselves in possession of a graphic novel which depicts the worst disasters of the past century. With the manuscript in their hand, the group are themselves hunted by your stereotypical evil corporation, known only as The Network.
Capitalizing on gratuitous violence, The Guardian called utopia:
"A work of brilliant imagination, a murky labyrinth of a conspiracy thriller that traps you from the opening scene...It's also ingenious, and does – or could – all kind of make sense of sorts. This labyrinth may be dark, there will be wrong turns and dead ends, but there will be a way through."
The show received numerous complaints over one scene that depicted a school shooting with child actors, but controversy aside, Utopia is quintessential British wackiness at its best.
9. Orphan Black (2013)
- Seasons: 4
- Network: BBC America
Dealing with identity theft, cloning, and dodgy accents, #OrphanBlack stars Tatiana Maslany in the titular role of Sarah Manning. A chance encounter at a subway station leads to Sarah adopt the identity her doppelgänger and embark on a new life. Beneath the surface of the Canadian thriller Maslany has a hard task of playing the majority of the roles. It is like revisiting The Parent Trap as the actress plays herself and all the clones.
The show deals with the usual Brooker moral themes of cloning and personal identity, but with much more action than your usual Black Mirror. Ellen Page was due to take on the role of Sarah, but it is now hard to imagine anyone other that Maslany in the role. A fifth and final season will air in 2017
10. Inside No.9 (2014)
- Seasons: 2
- Network: BBC
From the men behind the insanely dark League of Gentlemen comes Inside No.9, a witty and gritty anthology show that is insanely dark. The only link between each episode is that all take place inside No.9, whether it be a flat, mansion, or dressing room.
Either one (or both) of writers Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton appear in every episode, but the rest of the cast is unique each week — this allows a number of notable guest stars including Timothy West, Gemma Arterton, and Jane Horrocks to get their own slice of the pie. Some episodes have virtually no dialogue, but the mystery of Inside No.9 still keeps you hooked until its half-hour conclusion.
End transmission — hopefully you have found something suitably sickening to quench your blood-lust until the fourth season of Black Mirror uploads to our screens. With news that Hollywood A-lister Jodie Foster is on board to direct, it looks like Black Mirror will keep on jabbing its shards of futuristic horror into our nightmares.
Check out the official trailer for Black Mirror Season 3, and don't forget to take part in our poll below!