Tabitha Burnett reviews the latest comedy series from Amazon Prime, Upload
As we continue to inhabit a world where coming within two metres of another human being is largely frowned upon, there’s something rather appealing about Upload, the latest show from Greg Daniels (creator of both Parks and Recreation and The Office US).
Upload is a timely, whacky comedy affair that manages to navigate some complex ideas with zany visuals and satiric flair. Set in the not too distant future, those that die may choose to ‘upload’ to a virtual heaven; there are a number on offer, each as homogeneous in their consumerist drive as the next. The more money the uploaded individual has – or, indeed, their remaining family have – the greater the coded perks (we’re talking grandiose estates, all-you-can-eat buffets and a personalised customer service team to boot). Those that die may even attend their own funerals, broadcast in via giant screens. The living are also free to roam these virtual worlds by way of avatar, VR and motion capture suits. Relationships between the living and the dead are made possible, though the possibility of such a venture doesn’t prevent it from being really freaking weird.
Upload follows Nathan Brown (Robbie Amell) on his afterlife journey, following his sudden and unexpected death. His girlfriend, Ingrid (Allegra Edwards), makes the decision to send him to Horizon’s Lakeview – a virtual heaven that resembles old-rural North America. Nathan and a friend had been developing an app that allowed individuals to construct their own virtual heavens for free – a significant threat to the burgeoning upload industry, an industry that will charge your dead boyfriend $1.99 in real money to have a virtual espresso. Go figure.
It occupies that beautiful middle-ground that is immersive precisely because it mirrors the world we inhabit
Though there’s a lot of wonderful political subtext at play, from the future of ‘safe sex’ to the prolongation of class disparities into death, there’s still an awful lot of fun to be had here. There are post-death guidance counsellors to comfort the guests when they’re stressed, technological glitches that pave the way to spare breakfast buns, and AI lobby boys that clone and disperse as needed. There’s also a welcome smattering of pop-culture references and some genuinely hilarious set pieces.
A lot of what it pulls off is only made possible by the great core cast and the repartee the characters develop. Andy Allo, Zainab Johnson, Kevin Bigley and Allegra Edwards each have their moments, alongside Robbie Amell, who really finds his comedy chops here. This is a show that will only improve in further seasons and I’m genuinely excited to see where the next will take it (season one’s finale being the perfect setup for further exploration). It fully embraces the world it has created, as cleverly conceived and thought-provoking as some of the very best Black Mirror episodes.
At only 10 episodes, it’s a pretty quick binge, and it finds its feet surprisingly quickly. It has no qualms with diving head-first into both moral and ethical quandaries, whether in life, death or somewhere in-between. It’s a welcoming breath of fresh air amid a milieu of medias tackling AI and future technologies – it’s a world that doesn’t feel overwhelmingly bleak, nor overwhelmingly optimistic. It occupies that beautiful middle-ground that is immersive precisely because it mirrors the world we inhabit. Though the problems have changed in scope, they remain the same in essence: life and death, love and hate, generosity and greed.