Black Mirror – 15 Million Merits Review: Big Brother vs X Factor

BLACK MIRROR – 15 MILLION MERITS: Sunday 11th December, C4, 9pm

The second episode of Black Mirror is being shown a day after the X Factor final. Coincidence? Definitely not; the programme is a rather inflated glimpse into the future, at what our fine country would be like under an ‘I’m a Celebrity Britain’s Got the X-Factor Come Dancing On Ice’-style dystopia.

So before you flounce off to download Little Mix’s/Marcus/Amelia’s (delete as appropriate) winning single… Charlie Brooker asks you to think again.

The first episode in the series provoked a divided response. Some people loved it, calling it ‘a work of genius’ yet others failed to see the appeal, calling it ‘disturbing’ and even ‘demented’. Clearly the premise of the prime minister having sex with a pig proved all too much for some. The second episode isn’t quite as scandalous or controversial; although perhaps those lost to Brooker’s rather acquired taste of comedy might already be (sadly) resigned, and regardless, I’ve a feeling the second will still result in a Marmite-style response.

‘Fifteen Million Merits’ is a continuation of a series which takes a satirical look at concepts provoking unease in our modern society, here focusing on the insatiable fame-hungry appetite of youth, and our descent into a world whereby we communicate only via the unfeeling world of technology. (I’m a real person. Help!). Starring Daniel Kaluuya and Jessica-Brown Findlay, the premise involves a world whereby distraction is key, as life essentially involves an exhausting and mind-numbing cycle of, well… cycling. Anaesthetized by a life filled with endless ‘biking’ for money, power, food and most importantly… apps; the character of Bing stumbles across the astounding talent of pretty Abi and persuades her to enter the talent show ‘Hot Shots’ in a bid for stardom.

What happens to Bing and Abi on their quest to escape the doldrums of everyday life is essentially an argument against the vacuous world of celebrity and everything it stands for.

If you were put off with the pig-sex shock-factor of the first episode, you might be reluctant to give Brooker another chance. However – although similar in its satirical tone – the second episode is (a little) more sensitively thought through. Yes, when watching Black Mirror you do get a sense that Charlie Brooker likes to moan a lot; he does just seem very sick and tired of a lot of things, the Saturday night TV schedule undoubtedly so. But can you really blame him? The programme builds to an impressively passionate climax, whereby Bing basically socks it to the ‘judges’ and anyone who buys into their vacuous mindset, bemoaning the ‘fake fodder’ we buy into because “we’re so out of our minds with desperation, we don’t know any better.â€?

You can almost picture Brooker as he wrote the speech; staring at his Simon Cowell voodoo doll with venom.

The world depicted may be overblown, but the nods to technology are indeed humorous and at times all too scarily familiar; werewolf plug-ins, cash-bought items of clothing for your ‘doppel’, and cans of ‘Cuppliance’ for Hot Shots contestants to drink… Whether you love him or hate him, it is Brooker is at his most scathing.

The verdict? Well… it’s a yes from me.