Nathan Brown (Robbie Arnell) is a young tech-minded man in the prime of life, until he is killed in a car crash. Though the accident ends his existence on the physical plane, his girlfriend is able to have his head uploaded into a server. Now living in a digital afterlife facility called Lakeview, the adventure begins as the former computer programmer-turned-hot dead guy and his ragtag group of buddies (both living and dead) try to figure out the why, the how and the who behind his seemingly not-random early departure.
Amazon Prime’s Upload — which debuted earlier this month — is a simple kind of comedy with a lot brewing under the surface. Despite the unique premise, all of the facets are there for a traditional sitcom: a handsome main character, a spoiled, rich girlfriend (Allegra Edwards), a manic pixie dream girl who is as smart as she is cute (Andy Allo), a goofy best friend (Kevin Bigly), even a precocious niece. Upload has all the makings for a run-of-the-mill Wednesday night laffer on the WB.
But a foreboding tone lurks behind the bright lights and cheery sets of the single-camera setup and amid the artificial heaven that resembles a Hamptons getaway. Everything about Upload seems like a feel-good comedy, but there is a subtle, dark undertone that gently points out the massive issues that plague today’s society.
Set in the not-so-distant tomorrow where food companies and social networking sites have combined to create mega-conglomerates that dictate the cars we drive, the food we eat, and the bodies we inhabit, Upload is a chipper yet discouraging look at the near future. Great leaps in technology have done little to help the divide between the haves and the have-nots, while society’s dependence on technology and unchecked consumerism have expanded beyond death.
In one particularly dark scene, Nathan is shown the fate of people if they run out of cash in the afterlife by his guiding “Angel” Nora (Andy Allo) — they are forced to move to a 2G plan which limits movement, thought and results in the occasional removal of genitalia.
Upload is like the bastard child of Black Mirror if it were written by folks behind The Office, which is exactly what it is. Show creator Greg Daniels has been defining television comedy for the better part of 35 years, ever since he wrote his first Ronald Reagan jellybean joke for Not Necessarily the News. He has created some of the most iconic TV shows of all time (in addition to The Office), a lasting legacy that is a testament to his scribe skills. Daniel applies his gifts aptly to Upload, creating textured comedy and biting satire that often hits too close to home.
Like viewers stuck at home awaiting news on a vaccine, every horror dealt to residents in the Upload universe is taken as the new normal. Much like today’s world, people are quick to accept bleak events and policies in an effort to make it through each day. But in the end, Upload is much more than a joke about the bleak future of humanity and technology’s grip on society. It is also a commentary about what people are willing to accept before they are forced to make a change.