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Sunday, 4 December 2011

Black Mirror - The National Anthem

Charlie Brooker has given us some of the most provocative television ever. From his hilarious satire Nathan Barley (a must for those who have never seen it) to zombigbrother comedy drama Dead Set to his often acerbic Screen- and News-Wipe programs.

His latest offering, Black Mirror, is no less controversial or thought-provoking. In fact, I would personally argue that Black Mirror episode one, The National Anthem, is not only Brooker's finest fictional work but also an important piece of television that everyone should see.

The premise is this: Popular "people's princess" Susannah - a member of the Royal Family exceptionally well loved by "The Facebook Generation" thanks to her social-media-savvy relationship with the iPublic - is kidnapped by person or persons unknown. The culprits post a chilling video ransom message on Youtube demanding that, in order to secure Susannah's safe return, the Prime Minister must have full sexual intercourse with a pig live on television.

So the clock ticks. The PM has until 4pm to "do the deed" - but the public's access to the facts via Twitter and other social networks does not make the decision making process any easier than you would imagine it would be.

Along the way there is press-snooping, double-dealing subordinates with the PM's best interests at heart and an audience of millions (I think the show stated that it was about 1.4 billion actually) waiting patiently to watch a man they seem to approve of do something repulsive and illegal with a farmyard animal live on all channels.

So, is this a parable? Is this just the Schadenfreude-fuelled need for celebs eating animal anuses a la I'm A Celebrity... taken to an extreme; a warning that if we don't buck our TV ideas up we'll end up tuning in to see the PM shag a pig to save a princess in our millions? Or maybe you, like many on Twitter, didn't get that from it. Maybe you were content with simply taking the material at face value and found yourself just laughing at this bloke shagging a pig, as you would at Joe Swash eating a slug on ITV. There's another question for us all here too: Would you watch?

I really don't want to give away any particular details about this show because it is far more impacting if you just watch it yourselves. It's available on 4OD and is more than worth an hour of your time. I want to say more (indeed, I typed a far more detailed and more interesting and structured version of this blog but deleted it because I want you to WATCH IT YOURSELF!) but I shan't. I'm tired. Goodbye.

(Read more about Black Mirror RIGHT HERE after its last episode airs...)