It’s a great week for new comedies and Upload is leading the pack.
The new half-hour comedy from Greg Daniels, the creator of The Office US and Parks and Recreation, is a smart, engaging and really bingeable new offering from Amazon Prime Video.
It goes down really smoothly, a light-on-its-feet story with a high chuckles-per-minute ratio. Don’t be surprised if you binge all 10 episodes in one sitting – it’s that kind of show.
Like its TV compatriots The Good Place and Forever, Upload is another high-concept series about the afterlife, but it’s very different in tone and style.
In a future not too far from now, technology has enabled humans to upload their memories and consciousness into a computer simulation, giving you, for all intents and purposes, immortality, while still being able to connect with family and friends on the physical plane.
That “digital life extension” comes in handy when 27-year-old Nathan (Robbie Amell) dies after his self-driving car crashes into a truck.
Nathan comes from a working class family but his vain girlfriend Ingrid (Allegra Edwards) is super wealthy, so she uploads him on her family’s account into Lakeview – the most elite simulation.
Lakeview, or so it’s rendered by ones and zeros, looks like paradise as imagined by an old person with a lodge fetish. It’s set among idyllic woods in a resort where you swan about in the most comfortable wool loungewear before plonking down on plush, velvet chairs.
Everything you want is there – but for a price. Not only does it cost a bucketload to be uploaded into Lakeview, it’ll also bleed you dry while you’re there, like that insane in-app purchases bill you got after your primary school-aged kid cracked your iTunes password.
You want that can of digital cola from the minibar? That’ll be $3. Miss the sensation of having a cold? You can pay for that for $1 a minute – you know, for kicks. And, hey, Taco Bell has a new burrito that Lakeview’s customer services reps are more than happy to recommend.
Yes, the afterlife looks a lot like real life with all the attendant hyper-consumerism and social inequality. Large companies have managed to corporatise “heaven” – your funeral can be sponsored by L’Oreal.
Even after death, you’re still subject to the cruel whims of capitalism, how’s that for divine justice? It’s more Black Mirror than Black Mirror.
But Upload is also a comedy, which means the horror is played for laughs – you’re supposed to laugh at the fact the second-tier afterlife simulations are owned by Disney, Facebook, Nat Geo and American bakery chain Panera.
And the show certainly doesn’t shy away from its precedents with visual or thematic gags to The Sims, The Truman Show and even Mitch Albom’s book, The Five People You Meet In Heaven.
In fact, Upload is packed full of gags. When you can make the afterlife whatever it is you want, it’s carte blanche for TV writers to run wild – from therapy dogs that can talk to farts that smell like, well, not farts.
If Upload was just a funny ha-ha TV show that relied only on its jokes, it would still be a pleasurable experience.
But Daniels has written into it two compelling subplots – the sweet, burgeoning bond between Nathan and his still-alive customer service representative Nora (Andy Allo), and the fact that Nathan’s death may not have been an accident.
While Upload is not as concerned about questions of philosophy or existentialism as The Good Place, its sharp, effective commentary on the destructive aspects of capitalism gives it significance.
That and it’s just a really funny, satisfying TV show.
Upload is streaming now on Amazon Prime Video