Black Mirror - In The Press

I didn't have to starve for too long in search of equally gamey broth, in the reliable shape of Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror: White Christmas. Mr Brooker takes few prisoners when it comes to those possessed of pygmy imaginations, which is meet and right for grown-up telly. So within 90 minutes we were introduced to the concept of "blocking" an individual as one would an ex-Facebook friend, but actually doing so in real life (thanks to everyone in the near future having chosen to implant so-called Z-Eyes, hooked up of course to the net: do keep up); the blockee appears only as a greyed-out shadow and may neither call nor approach.

Then to the concept of extracting an "egg" of consciousness, a kind of Mini-Me, purely to toil in a tiny, white, closed cyberjail at the tasks of keeping the real-life Me fed and watered and kept at the right temperature and with the toast done just so: basically, the concept of outsourcing a small twitch of one's own soul, the better to keep body and... body together. Already we'd addressed the issues of slavery, alienation, the speeding up of time (and thus, when there's absolutely nothing to do, the creation of pathological boredom), the inadvisability of taking anyone's advice on dating, and that was within about seven minutes, before we even got on to the concept of Jon Hamm and Rafe Spall stuck in Ice Station Zebra at Christmas, caning the port.

These actors, and this in its entirety, were phenomenal, but there were so many fine ideas, both uplifting and dystopian, that I can't quickly do them justice - other than to offer the obvious thought that it's not the technology: it's us. And to observe that Mr Brooker must be becoming mildly fed up at having his technological imaginings superseded every six months. Google, do be careful what you wish for: when the gods wish to punish us, first they answer our prayers.

Euan Ferguson, The Observer, 21st December 2014

I'm not sure how much of a reward the Christmas special of Black Mirror would actually be and I think you'd have to be a rather strange individual to want a rather dark present such as the one Charlie Brooker conjured up. Subtitled White Christmas; the feature-length special of Brooker's dystopian fantasy anthology saw Matt (Jon Hamm) and Sam (Rafe Spall) hauled up in a remote shack in the middle of nowhere. We are told early on that Matt and Sam have barely spoke to each other in the five years they've lived and worked together. As you would expect with Black Mirror, the Christmas element become slightly eerie and from the first time we hear it Wizard's 'I Wish It Could be Christmas Everyday' takes on an ominous tone. Hamm initially plays up to his smoothie persona in the first story in which we learn of Matt's hobby which involves helping losers-in-love get dates. However, as we discover, his most recent client didn't have the best of experiences after he gatecrashed a Christmas party and ended up a reluctant part of a suicide pact. Whilst this first third was suitably shocking the second segment of the programme; in which we saw Matt at work was rather confusing. Although it did go some way to explain the episode's final act I found it to be rather rushed and also felt that it ruined the significant talents of Oona Chaplin. The real emotional core of the episode was provided by Sam as we learnt of his turbulent relationship with girlfriend Beth (Janet Montgomery) which ended when she wanted to abort the baby she was carrying. This story brought with it one of the episode's central ideas; what if we were able to block somebody in real life like we can currently do on Twitter? The answer was incredibly memorable and also provided some really vivid images which stuck with me long after the episode had concluded.

Whilst White Christmas wasn't up there with Black Mirror's best, which I still feel is series two's White Bear, it certainly had its moments. Many of these were provided by Joe's story which I found to be the most profound thanks in no small part to the brilliant performance from Spall. I think that Spall's facial expressions were perfectly utilised as part of a story in which he had to convey emotion by saying very little. The look on his face when Joe was blocked by Beth was particularly powerful as was the expression when he discovered the truth about the daughter she'd given birth to. Black Mirror has always been based around vivid technological ideas and the legal blocking technique felt like a plausible narrative device. On the other hand I'm still not quite sure what the cookie implant story achieved other than giving us one final reveal. Whilst Spall provided the emotional depth that the episode required; Hamm appeared to be having a ball as the sleazy executive who'd overstepped the line in more ways than one. Hamm's performance as the cool Matt was great in the first voyeuristic tale which I thought went a little too far even by Black Mirror's standards. The Christmas theme of the episode wasn't overplayed but was used just enough and I thought Hamm's cooking of the Yuletide dinner was a nice touch. One thing I did find was that Brooker struggled to write a feature-length instalment and, although all the pieces fit together, the middle of the episode really dragged for me. However, I can't say that Brooker didn't provide a powerful piece of Christmas television and it's also fair to say that that no other festive special will have the same tone as Black Mirror. Ultimately I found White Christmas to be a unique special episode but I feel that the Black Mirror series works better in forty-minute episodes rather than in feature-length installments.

The Custard, 20th December 2014

The performances were all very good, although I was surprised Jon Hamm almost reprised his Don Draper role from Mad Men. It felt like Charlie Brooker either needed a Draper-type for this suave role, and luckily managed to get the real deal, or Hamm was drawn to a part that wouldn't be much of a stretch but allow him to appear in a show he loves.

Written by Dan Owen. Dan's Media Digest, 17th December 2014

Black Mirror isn't really sci-fi, it's more like now after a couple of software updates - and it's quite terrifying.

Written by Sam Wollaston. The Guardian, 17th December 2014

Jonathan Ross is your host as the nation's comics get together and royally rip the mickey. No tears. No compliments. It's their way of saying they love each other.

The nominations list shows 2014 has been an exceptional year - albeit primarily for white men, who are so glaringly dominant, it's a wonder there aren't any blokes up for best comedy actress.

The evening should belong to Matt Berry, whose riotous Toast of London is in line for six awards, the most nods since Gavin & Stacey seven years back. His fellow best actor nominee Mathew Baynton might have a better chance in the restored comedy drama category - if The Wrong Mans can edge out Rev. and the dazzling Inside No 9.

Or will it be a night for codgers? Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse's labour of love Story of the Twos is justly recognised, and there are two noms for a gang of plucky UKTV debutants called Monty Python...

Jack Seale, Radio Times, 17th December 2014

Charlie Brooker's festive special shows a dark side to our digital obsession.

Written by Mark Monahan. The Telegraph, 16th December 2014

White Christmas' nightmarish tales of isolation might be dark, but they show sage concern about the kind of world we're building for ourselves. They ask us to consider the humanity of how we treat people online and in the real world. An extreme reflection it might be, but underneath it all, Black Mirror may well have the most charitable heart of any of this year's seasonal specials.

Written by Louisa Mellor. Den of Geek, 16th December 2014

"There's nothing in this that's as bleak as whatever the fuck EastEnders is going to do" claims Charlie Brooker in the casually scornful manner in which only he can. Speaking at the preview screening of White Christmas, last night's 'festive special' of his dystopian Channel 4 anthology Black Mirror, I have to disagree with Brooker. The ninety minute feature length special of his disconcerting dystopian drama was markedly more gloomy and disturbing than your average shouty, death-strewn festive soap instalment. But an incomparably more insightful, entertaining piece of television.

Written by Craig Heathcote. The Custard, 16th December 2014

This Christmas special of Charlie Brooker's techno-horror show manages to compact the show's usual three-part run into one, feature-length, portmanteau episode.

Written by Andrew Blair. Cult Box, 16th December 2014

Call me old fashioned, but I like my Christmas specials to have a bit of festive cheer. I only knew Black Mirror by its reputation as a dark satire of modern life, so I sat down to watch expecting to be both horrified and depressed.

Written by Vicky Prior. Metro, 16th December 2014

Black Mirror is great on our technology culture, but also just great.

Written by Ellen E. Jones. The Independent, 16th December 2014

Charlie Brooker's digital dystopia delivers a festive mystery in anthology form, with three connected stories about dark things in a twisted near-future. Jon Hamm and Rafe Spall lead the cast as two men sharing a Christmas meal somewhere remote and snowy. Where are they? And who are they, really? As the companions exchange stories, we see Oona Chaplin as a woman bedevilled by "smart" gadgets, and Hamm himself offering unconventional romantic advice.

Plus, in the sort of flip between virtual and tangible worlds that's the trademark of the series, the question is asked: what would happen if you could "block" people and never see or hear from them again in real life, as you can on Twitter and Facebook?

Jack Seale, The Radio Times, 16th December 2014

A triptych of tech-tinged tales, just in time for Christmas. Jon Hamm and Rafe Spallp] star as Matt and Potter, two men sharing a turkey dinner in the middle of nowhere, who start to divulge stories from their past: Matt's time as a relationship guru with a twist, Potter's encounter with a social media-style blocker, and a woman's (Oona Chaplin) unfortunate encounter with some invasive "smart! technology. Of course, this being Black Mirror, there are some unforeseen twists along the way.

Gwilym Mumford, The Guardian, 16th December 2014

Black Mirror - Channel 4's mind-bending series of cautionary tales about our addiction to digital technology - is returning for a big-name Christmas special starring Rafe Spall, Oona Chaplin and Mad Men's Jon Hamm. Bryony Gordon asks them and the programme's creator Charlie Brooker what's in store.

Written by Bryony Gordon. The Telegraph, 13th December 2014

The Mad Men actor said there had been nothing like it on TV since the Fifties.

Written by Adam Sherwin. The Independent, 12th December 2014

Sentimentality offset with wicked wit. Charlie Brooker repeats Black Mirror trick, with feature-length festive special starring Rafe Spall and Mad Men's Jon Hamm.

The Guardian, 12th December 2014

The feature-length Back Mirror: White Christmas special is possibly the bleakest thing ever made for Channel 4's comedy department.

Chortle, 12th December 2014

The new episode of Charlie Brooker's satire stars Jon Hamm, Rafe Spall and Oona Chaplin and tells a chilling story about "blocking" people in real life - just as we do on Facebook and Twitter.

Written by Ben Dowell. The Radio Times, 24th November 2014

The Black Mirror holiday special will be aired in the US on Christmas Day.

Written by Justin Harp. Digital Spy, 16th November 2014

The Mad Men actor's role in Charlie Brooker's satire may surprise us...

Written by Huw Fullerton. Radio Times, 7th October 2014

Jon Hamm, Rafe Spall and Oona Chaplin are confirmed to co-star in the Black Mirror feature-length special due on Channel 4 this Christmas.

Channel 4 Press, 29th September 2014

Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror to return for a Christmas special on Channel 4 The one-off special, called Yuletide, is billed as "the most mind-bending Black Mirror yet".

Channel 4 press, 21st August 2014

Channel 4 head of comedy Phil Clarke tells RadioTimes.com that there could be one episode of the dystopian anthology series this year.... with three more planned for 2015.

Written by Ben Dowell. The Radio Times, 5th February 2014

Sci-Fi is at its scariest though, not when it transports us to faraway lands and presents us with the frightening or grotesque, but when it presents us with the frighteningly possible and realistic. That's the world presented by Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror, a series which presents a skewed version of our own reality in a set of cautionary tales that are both terrifying and frighteningly realistic.

Written by Oli Dowdeswell. So So Gay, 2nd February 2014

Charlie Brooker has promised more Black Mirror, saying that two 'helpings' of the Channel 4 drama are on the way.

Written by Christopher Hooton. Metro, 10th January 2014

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