BY OLIVER SMITH
When it comes to tech and TV, bringing the two together typically ends very badly.
There have been dozens of disasters. Revolution, that 2012 post-apocalyptic sci-fi charting the plight of humanity following a permanent global electrical-power blackout and 2011’s Person of Interest, using ‘contemporary’ tech to predict crimes, are both examples of how NOT to bring tech on TV.
But this summer something changed, we actually started getting some great tech TV shows.
Channel 4’s Humans was a particular standout, and AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire also had some terrific moments during its second series.
But there’s one show I’ve been completely addicted to this summer.
Meeting Mr Robot
Mr Robot is the story of Elliot Alderson (Rami Malek) a cybersecurity engineer by day/vigilante hacker by night who takes on corporate America.
It’s 10 utterly compelling episodes that concluded last week are centered around the socially-awkward Alderson, a cold, deceptive, anxious character with an uncertain grip on reality.
Forget crummy ‘hacking’ films like Swordfish or The Net with Hugh Jackman or Sandra Bullock hammering away on keyboards like they are typewriters.
Mr Robot presents hacking as the plausible, real-world act it is and blends the in-person acts required in the most damaging attacks (like installing a Raspberry Pi to takeover an air conditioning system, or stealing a smartphone in order to overcome two-factor authentication).
Many of the storylines are so timely and relevant they appear to foreshadow actual events. An early episode sees Alderson hold his therapist’s cheating boyfriend to ransom, an Ashley Madison-esque moment broadcast mere days before the hack, that the show’s writers later tie back into the real-world story.
Moments like this led me to question whether I was actually watching fact, or merely extremely well-informed fiction.
Yes, sometimes Mr Robot does get a little tongue-in-cheek, Alderson’s hacking group is “fsociety” which battles to destroy the evil mega conglomerate “E Corp”.
But ultimately the show is a character study about disconnection from the “real” world, association with a hacking counterculture and in this Alderson is the show’s greatest creation.
His internal monologue with the audience, trying to make sense of the tumultuous world around him leads the character to ultimately lose grip on reality, explores the reasoning that might lead someone to create a decentralised hacking group like the fictitious “fsociety” or the real “Anonymous”.
It’s a compelling theme that plays on many of our worries and fears about the younger online generation, as they discover and help create the darker side of life online with limited guidance or oversight.
If any of this sounds interesting to you, I have some bad news, you’ll probably never get to see any of it.
Media madness (or why Mr Robot won’t reach UK shores)
Mr Robot premiered on 27 May through USA Network, its first episode was shown on YouTube, iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Google Play among others.
But only for US viewers.
To date Mr Robot has not been picked up by a UK broadcaster or streaming service.
Part of that might be to blame with the low-expectations that were placed on the series (a hacking show about a lowly, glum hacker…) while others might blame the show’s quite ridiculous episode titles which would have led readers to complain that the Radio Times had misprinted (seriously “eps1.1_ones-and-zer0es.mpeg”).
Either way, it’s a crying shame that this excellent, insightful drama on the way the world works today might never be seen in Britain.
Lets hope that changes soon.