Genre: Drama
Premise: When the Princess is kidnapped, the Prime Minister of England is given a bizarre demand for her return that will change his life forever.
About: Black Mirror is a UK show that the writer, Charlie Booker, described as a sort of technology-centered mirror into our immediate future. I love how he put it to The Guardian: “If technology is a drug – and it does feel like a drug – then what, precisely, are the side-effects?” Booker is a bit of a controversial guy with a strange sense of humor. Early on in his career, he used to write cartoons for a magazine, and one of them was so offensive, it actually caused the magazine to be pulled from the shelves. The cartoon was titled “Helmut Werstler’s Cruelty Zoo” and chronicled a zoo where children could deal with their anger by beating animals. All in the name of satire of course. Though it sounds like the people didn’t get it. Robert Downey Jr. is a fan of Black Mirror and optioned one of the episodes, “The Entire History of You,” to make into a movie.
Writer: Charlie Brooker
Details: 44 minutes


I’m about to put my complaining hat on. I will wait a minute to allow you to find your complaining acceptance hat and put it on as well. That way, we can all work together in harmony. Are you finished? Good. Cause I have a question.

What the hell is up with TV?

This was supposed to be the Golden Age of the medium. I’m starting to think that that only thing “golden” about it is the paychecks Hollywood’s getting.

We’ve reached a saturation point, something we all knew was coming, but now that it’s here, it seems to have dimmed everyone’s imagination. I caught an advertisement for the new Netflix show, Marco Polo, the other day, so I decided to check it out. Within five minutes I wished I was playing the game instead. As in the game, “Marco Polo.” As in I WISHED I WAS BLIND. Not only was the production value below your average History Channel show, but the question arose: What was the point?

I’ll tell you what the point is. There are too many slots and not enough good ideas. So people are throwing shit at the wall. Kinda makes you wish Genghis Khan was in some of these meetings. I bet he’d have a thing or two to say about what gets on the air.

I mean is there a must-watch TV show out there at the moment? The Walking Dead has been borderline unwatchable this season. But at least it’s in the position of having run out of ideas. These new shows haven’t come up with an initial idea.

This probably has something to do with why I’m going back to 2011, arguably the best year of TV ever, to review today’s show. You guys across the Atlantic Ocean have already heard of Black Mirror. But we in the states are getting our first taste of it now, probably because it recently appeared on Netflix.

Black Mirror: The National Album, follows Prime Minister Michael Callow, who has just been informed that the Princess (as in THE Princess of England) has been kidnapped. A video has been uploaded to the internet showing the Princess begging for her life.

Her unseen kidnapper then gives his demands for giving the Princess back. Actually, it’s only one demand. But it’s a doozy. By 4 o’clock this afternoon, the Prime Minister will have to have sex with a pig on live television.

Naturally, Callow assumes this is a joke. But he’s quickly assured it’s real. What follows are two intercutting storylines where the government tries to locate the princess’s whereabouts, while they also prepare for the worst case scenario – the pig loving.

Talk about a ticking time bomb!

While at first, Callow refuses to even entertain the idea, the country’s love for the princess begins to sway public opinion to do the deed. Callow realizes that if he is responsible for the princess’s death, his life and his legacy will be in ruins. Which is why he desperately needs to find that kidnapper. Will he succeed? Or will he have to have sex with a pig on national television? The show’s on Netflix. Check it out for yourself.


To borrow a phrase from my brothers and sisters across the pond. This was BRILLIANT.

This is the kind of television we should be making over here, but we’re scared to because we’re too busy making snore-fests like Marco Polo. Now I know what some of you are thinking. “So, uh, wait a minute here, Carson. You’re saying that we should be aspiring to make TV shows about… pig-fucking?” It’s not necessarily the pig-fucking that we should aspire to. It’s trying something different.

What is every show out there doing right now? Every show on television. They’re giving us linear storylines, right? Whether it’s a procedural or a serialized show, the series are connected from one show to the next. Black Mirror comes at this with the opposite approach. It gives us a show with standalone episodes, each a little mini-movie. That’s the kind of thinking that allows you to stand out from the pack.

The writer takes that non-traditional approach and then applies it to the episode. If I told you about a TV episode where a Prime Minister has to fuck a pig, what’s your first reaction. “It’s got to be a comedy,” right? The genius of “The National Anthem” is that it goes in the exact opposite direction. It takes the set-up DEAD SERIOUSLY.

That’s why this episode has such an unsettling feel when you watch it – why it stays with you – it’s going against what you’re used to.

This seriousness allows us to take the question driving the episode seriously, which then allows the show to do something all great stories do – break the fourth wall. The audience is now putting themselves in the Prime Minister’s shoes. “What would I do?” they’re asking.

And the awesomeness of the episode is that it really makes a compelling argument for why the Prime Minister has to do it. This isn’t some average woman we’re trying to save. They make it clear it’s the most beloved woman in the entire country.

Not only that, but it has a brilliant structural set-up. We have a clear ticking time bomb. The stakes are sky-high (princesses dying, fucking pigs on national television). There’s a goal inherent with the problem (he must find the princess before he’s forced to do this horrifying act).

(spoiler) But what I really loved was that the writer capitalizes with a climax that would’ve never flown over here in the states, an ending that embodied the chance-taking spirit of the show. It actually happens. The Prime Minister actually has sex with the pig. And it’s the hardest thing you’ve ever had to watch.

And what makes it all the more impactful is that the writer is actually trying to say something about our society. We’ll watch anything, no matter how big of a trainwreck it is. But what’s our limit? Do we have one? Everyone in the U.K. heads out to their local pub to enjoy the party. But when it actually happens, when they actually start watching, they realize what a sickening lot they’ve become. It’s a sobering moment.

But the big point I want to make is that there were three moments where the writer made a choice that every other writer in the world would’ve made the opposite choice, and that’s why this episode stands out. The first is by creating the show in the first place. A non-linear show goes against all traditional thinking at the moment. The second was to take an absurd premise and treat it seriously. Everyone else would’ve played this as a joke. (spoiler) And the third was to actually have the Prime Minister fuck the pig. Every other writer would’ve backed off of that.  They would’ve found the kidnapper at the last second.

I’m not going to go ahead and say that Black Mirror is my new favorite show or anything (I didn’t love the second episode), but I love the spirit and the innovation of the show, and I think we ought to be doing more of that over here, lest we be stuck making more shows like Marco Polo.

[ ] what the hell did I just read?
[ ] wasn’t for me
[ ] worth the read
[x] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: Before you write a script, consider every angle you can tell the story from. Sometimes what would seem obvious as a comedy might end up being way more interesting as a drama. One of the best ways to shock a reader is to approach material from the least obvious angle.

  • OddScience

    “Sometimes what would seem obvious as a comedy might end up being way more interesting as a drama.”

    I’ve always thought Genre swapping was one of the best ways to come up with something new, interesting.

    My favorite example: “Harry and the Hendersons.” Bigfoot as a Comedy. That ONE movie has probably made more money than ALL the “serious” Horror/Thriller Bigfoot/Sasquatch/Abominable Snowman movies combined.

    Even a Western turned into Sci-Fi = Star Wars.

    I’ll have to check out Black Mirror, see if I can come up with any 180 choices.

    • klmn

      I’ve always thought that The Mutiny On The Bounty would make a great comedy. It would be expensive to make so it’s probably not worth pursuing.

    • carsonreeves1

      I never thought I’d be in a situation where I defended Harry and the Hendersons, but that’s a really convincing argument!

  • Brian

    The “White Bear” episode was incredible! Very different than anything else on tv. BTW– This week BBC is airing a 4 part Christmas special of brand new Black Mirror episodes called “White Christmas”:

  • klmn

    Carson, you say the Prime Minister actually has sex with the pig. But did they actually show it, or did they just refer to it or cheat with soft focus or some other gimmick?

    • carsonreeves1

      lol. Well, we don’t ever get a full-shot. But we do see him experiencing it, which in a lot of ways is way worse.

      • Rick Hester

        So does he get into it after a while, or…?

        • klmn

          According to Kinsey’s research, IIRC, something like 25% of farm boys admitted having intercourse with animals.

      • Andrew Parker

        Yeah, definitely not kosher.

  • maxi1981

    I mean is there a must-watch TV show out there at the moment? True Detective for me is it. OK so technically it is not on at the moment, but I would bet my house that there’s more people rewatching True Detective S1 again than people watching actual “new and original” shows on TV at the moment. Best show in a long time and its because the show’s writer took it to a place that was the total opposite of every other buddy cop or police procedural tv show out there in a very long time.

    • Magga

      This coming season we get Mad Men, The Americans, Girls and the possibly decent Better Call Saul, just to name a few.

  • Midnight Luck

    I was saying, or asking this, just a month or two ago:
    why don’t we have any Twilight Zone kind of shows now? With each episode being a standalone thing? Could be sci-fi or horror or? just about anything.
    Then i heard of this show and Boom! it is huge in the UK and seems to be beloved. So what is up with the US? we really don’t seem to have our shit together. Everyone knows it is this “golden age” of TV and instead of taking advantage of it, we do EXACTLY what the movies are doing, and go dredging for the same old muck. Does no one have an ounce of creativity in the U.S. anymore?
    The superhero stories (Gotham, Flash, etc), spins on Children’s stories, Fairy Tales, a million and one procedurals. Just boring, same old same old crap.
    Europe takes chances.
    And this is where America fails.
    America THINKS it is being edgy, but it is so incredibly frigid it would need a crowbar and blowtorch to pry its legs apart.
    In Europe, sex, the human (naked) body, and all manner of discussion is very open and not treated as “the most horrific thing in the world to show”.
    Europeans have less of a CALVINISTIC approach to things.
    In America, the first thing to be spewed out of the mouths of reviewers, or Fox News is about the SINNERS and our country going straight to hell, because a movie showed a boob, or full frontal nudity (for .10 of a second).

    America and its childish/repressed/unhealthy fascination with nudity and language and sin.
    I feel kind of ashamed to live in a place where an episode like THE NATIONAL ANTHEM would NEVER be made, and would NEVER play.

    • Rick Hester

      Who produces more porn than the United States? Okay Russia. But you get my point. This is the hook-up nation. It’s fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck everywhere. We’re actually pretty liberal when it comes to sex. That ‘frigid’ view of America is something you usually hear from stale-minded Europeans spewing one cliche after another when talking about Americans. But coming from someone actually living in America? That’s surprising.

      • charliesb

        I think it’s that the people who do have a problem with nudity on television are unfortunately the loudest. After all this just happened:

        But let’s be real here, no matter how “liberal” you think American’s are, there is no way they would play a show that showed the President f*cking a pig on a prime time station (NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX). HBO, sure. Starz maybe… Cinemax, probably already’s happened.

        • Rick Hester

          Or Netflix. Which is in just about every household in America. How is not showing pig fucking on prime time television illiberal? It’s just common sense. People have kids.

          • charliesb

            “How is not showing pig fucking on prime time television illiberal? It’s just common sense. People have kids.”

            Other than trying their best to not schedule adult programming in peak child watching hours, it is not the networks job to police what people show to their children. This isn’t pornography, it’s satire, it has a point, it has value (though I suppose some people could say the same of Pornography). If Netflix didn’t exist it’s unlikely that a lot of people would even have the opportunity to see a really great piece of television.

            – And actually it’s about half the homes in America that have Netflix (and those people are all watching The Blacklist and Once Upon a Time).

            But “pig f*cking aside” IMO nudity on prime time shouldn’t be an issue. Showing a boob shouldn’t be considered edgy.

          • Rick Hester

            The networks aren’t ‘policing’ anything. I think your issue is with the FCC.

          • Casper Chris

            lol, we just had a TV show here in Denmark in prime time where they fucked a cow.

          • Rick Hester

            That’s awesome. You guys are really ahead on the cow fucking on TV front.

          • Casper Chris

            Yea, bovine banging is our specialty.

            The series is called ‘1864’. It’s the second episode, should you feel inclined. Here’s a teaser picture from the set (before the action):


        • Midnight Luck

          EXACTLY my point!
          I don’t even think one of the other channels would show it.

      • Magga

        I assume the point is about American movies and TV rather than people, but one would really have to remove HBO from the equation altogether for this to be completely accurate, especially something like Tell Me You Love Me

        • Rick Hester

          American movies and TV are saturated with sex. Our whole society is sex obsessed. Reality TV? Sex, sex, sex, sex.

      • susanrichards

        “This is the hook-up nation. It’s fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck everywhere. ”

        Americans aren’t really having sex though. Seriously. With all of the antidepressants and anti anxiety meds people that decrease libido, who has the actual ability to get it up? If people were actually having REAL sex and not masturbating to porn, there wouldn’t be a need for those meds.

        People need to be intimate again. Physically, emotionally and mentally.

        • Rick Hester

          Don’t you have like four kids? :) So someone’s uh, you know…

          I thought I read that in one of your posts.

          If not, sorry.

          • susanrichards


            I do. :)

            But I work in a doctors’ office. I see and hear the real stories.

      • Eric

        Time to drop some knowledge…

        Whoo America! We’re number one! Suck it ‘rest of the world’. Okay… now, suck it a little faster.

        • Rick Hester

          Amurica! Fuck yeah!!

          • drifting in space


      • Midnight Luck

        See my ABOVE post^^^^^^^

        we think so, but we are soooo not liberal.
        this is a very religious, calvanist country (that means, Opposite of Liberal).
        It abhors sex, in every facet.

    • LV426

      I’ve also started to worry about the movie trends hitting TV. I fear in a couple years the television landscape will be filled to the brim with superheroes. Now I like superheroes, but not all the time.

      As for a Twilight Zone/Outer Limits style show, YES! As a big fan of both the old and new TZ/OL I’ve wanted them to do another one of each classic series. I know American Horror Story is doing the seasonal anthology thing, which is a cool approach. A few more anthology shows wouldn’t hurt though. I think the SyFy Channel could use an anthology show.

      Black Mirror is one I’ve been wanting to check out. I’m glad it has hit Netflix. The Brits are definitely making some kick ass TV these days. I’m hooked on Orphan Black. Check it out you’re looking for a fun sci-fi/techno-thriller show. It isn’t as edgy as Black Mirror, but it’s well paced and fun and not “out there” spaceship sci-fi.

    • Cfrancis1

      There’s a lot of good stuff on TV right now. Creative, interesting shows. And you can’t paint all of America with the Fox News brush. It caters to a certain faction, a large faction but it’s views are hardly representative of the whole country.

      Ironically, US shows are just as popular in Britain as they are here. In fact, they play more US television there than stuff produced in their own country.

    • klmn

      You say all that but Great Britain has just slapped new regulations on internet porn. Here’s a link to a protest over it.

      For more, run a search on “face sitting.”

    • Midnight Luck

      Ok, looks like just about everyone has missed my point.

      Porn is not the same thing as being Prudish or Calvanistic about how we regard the human body, nudity on TV or in general, how we Talk about sex, etc. In fact by bringing it up, it MAKES MY POINT about how uncomfortable America is with sex, by keeping it behind closed doors, in the dark.

      Just because we have internet porn everywhere, does not mean American’s are comfortable with sex stuff, in fact it means THAT much more we are NOT.

      Everything is about keeping it in the dark, clammed up, away from the public, away from everyones eyeballs and ears, don’t talk about it, hush hush.

      I mean seriously, there are very few countries that have such apocalyptic troubles with Homosexuality, Heterosexuality, women in general, teen sex, abortion, having a choice, talking about sex with their kids, sex ed in schools, nudity in magazines, sex in books (in schools, in fiction, in non fiction, you name it), topless or nude beaches,

      DARE i go on?

      Come on, America is the stuffiest, ass backward (ok, don’t get the wrong idea, no that is NOT what I mean), prudish country around (ok, except for all the countries where women have to wear sacks over their heads and bodies and are treated like cattle, but still, compared with the European countries, America is in the Dark Ages).

      Sex on network TV is the most bland, orchestrated, ridiculous NON-sex I have ever come across. Nakedness is so forbidden in this country. Our approach to what Sex actually is, is just, lame.

      The French especially have much more of an understanding of nudity, sex, love, etc.

      I mean watch a French movie and then watch an American, almost across the board there is a night and day difference to how sex – nudity – love is approached.

      Watch MASTERS OF SEX and I can tell you, America hasn’t moved much further along in its COMFORTABLENESS as it was in the 40’s and 50’s. The ridiculous way we approach every facet of sex, be it Hetero or Homo, or the way it is discussed, approached by doctors, parents, kids, TV, book, magazine, well, we treat it like it is the scariest, sinning, and worst thing anyone can think about, talk about, or show. Yet EVERYONE thinks and talks about sex ALL the TIME!
      So why can’t we figure out that it isn’t evil, or sinful or awful to put it on TV, or even in something other than Rated R and NC-17 movies?


      This first episode of this show just really made it obvious just how uncomfortable the US is with everything Sexual. We wouldn’t even PRETEND to be OK with the idea of putting a show about a leader having sex with an animal on.

    • Mhocommenter

      Few years back, when literally it was logjam for TV slots competing for spots occupied by stalwarts: Modern Family, Two and a half men, Desp Housewives…My, how times have changed, most shows today draw less than 10 million viewers [ some half that ] and the three letter networks have lame duck sitcoms night after night… laugh track unfunnies.

      I seriously think after Big Bang Theory goes off the air, another critical paradigm shift would hit the networks in the tenders…

      Stay tuned. The world is changing — many different ways.

  • James Lion

    They would’ve tested the DNA of the severed finger, and they would’ve known it didn’t belong to the princess.

  • John Torma

    Black Mirror has been available to DirecTV subscribers on their Audience channel since last summer. It’s currently airing repeats and a Christmas episode on Dec. 25. Just an FYI for those that don’t have Netflix accounts.

  • charliesb

    Black Mirror is great, not all episodes as fantastic as NATIONAL ANTHEM, but Booker makes sure that they all push the envelope in new and interesting ways. ENTIRE HISTORY OF YOU, BE RIGHT BACK and NATIONAL ANTHEM are my fave episodes.

    Thank you for acknowledging that we are not in a Golden Age of television. Yes BREAKING BAD was great, yes GAME OF THRONES is mostly on point, sometimes MAD MEN is really good. But a real golden age would mean that there were more good shows on than bad, and that shows were not being cancelled at record numbers (and after airing only 3-4 episodes). TV execs seem to be applying a let’s throw it at the wall and see what sticks method these days, and the list someone posted a few weeks ago about all the shows that are being adapted from movies doesn’t give me confidence going forward.

    I’d call it a Silver Age, and not simply because of the shows that are being made, but because we have unprecedented access to shows coming from all over the globe, that has never existed before. Thanks to Netflix, Amazon, and torrenting (I know I know, but I get impatient) I am able to watch shows that 5-10 years ago I wouldn’t even know exist.

    As for MARCO POLO, I watched all 10 episodes this weekend. Considering the cost of this show, and their desire to mimic the success of GoT, I am very surprised they didn’t try to get more established people to run and produce this show (Weinsteins aside). I suppose Benioff and Weiss didn’t have a lot of credits to their names either, but they at least had the source material to back them up.

    MARCO POLO is a good looking show. The locations are beautiful and a lot (not all) of the cinematography is great. But the storytelling and the acting are extremely uneven. They introduce a ton of characters every few minutes and don’t even give us the time to decide whether or not we like them or what their stake in the story is before they kill them off.

    All of the elements for a great story are there. And yet nothing is fully formed or allowed to properly play out. I have no one to root for (besides Hundred Eyes), and no one to really hate. Characters sacrifice themselves in long drawn out scenes, but I don’t care, because we’ve spent no time with the character in the 7 episodes before.

    I will say that the fight between Hundred eyes and another character in the last episode was spectacular. But is anyone gonna get that far to see it? Unlike HOUSE OF CARDS, and ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK, this show feels unfocused. Marco is a passive character with no real ambition or goals, he’s reactive instead of proactive which makes him a bore to follow around.

    TV I’m enjoying (have enjoyed) this year :

    Happy Valley – a little slow, and depressing but great character work
    Secrets & Lies – slow with a few questionable actions by the main character but amazing pay off (unlike Broadchurch/Gracepoint)
    Hannibal – I can’t stress enough how much I love this show, beautiful to look at, really dark subject matter
    You’re the Worst – I haven’t laughed out loud at a tv show in forever, terrible people being terrible
    The Fall – slow, disturbing, second season not as strong as the first
    Peaky Blinders – Everything I wanted Boardwalk Empire to be
    Vikings – Second season of this show really took off, I know it’s blasphemous to say but i enjoy it more than GoT
    Penny Dreadful Slow beginning, but love the subject matter, not for everyone, but I love it
    Outlander romance, period piece, well done

    • Bifferspice

      ” But a real golden age would mean that there were more good shows on than bad”

      i don’t get this point of view at all. it will never ever be the case. measuring contribution to art is where you look at the peaks and ignore the troughs. the golden age of television would be where there is more quality tv than at any other period. not whether the ratio of good to bad is more than 50%. who cares how much bad there is? you ignore that and focus on the good.

      • charliesb

        You know what, you’re right. It’s unrealistic to imagine that with the number of shows airing we could be in a situation where most are really good.

        I will say that I agree with Carson that there is very little must see TV on right now. And with show after show getting cancelled after so few episodes have aired, that doesn’t show very much confidence in the work that’s being produced.

  • gazrow

    I have submitted two scripts to the BBC’s Writer’s Room and failed miserably on both occasions. After watching Black Mirror: National Anthem I’m not surprised. If this is what passes for entertainment these days then I sincerely hope I continue to fail spectacularly.

    This particular episode took British TV to a whole new level… the gutter.

    • sotiris5000

      I’m pretty certain if you put pig-fucking in your script it still wouldn’t have been picked by the writers’ room.

  • Rick Hester

    In the real world, a Prime Minister or President would never allow a precedent like that to be established.

    • Magga

      Like in the U.S., politicians in Europe will do anything the public wants them to, and if you look at someone like, say, Ted Cruz, fucking a pig is pretty much what he does every day on a metaphorical level

      • Rick Hester


    • klmn

      Yeah. Both the US and Great Britain have policies that forbid paying a ransom for hostages. I think this would fit.

  • Scott Chamberlain

    I wonder if fucking the pig is the new jumping the shark…

    • Magga

      It’s the opposite

      • Scott Chamberlain

        Ha! I predict a new addition to the lexicon: “this screenplay needs some amping” up: Let’s get <>. She really knows how to fuck a pig.”

  • leitskev

    Great topic because I suspect people are going to be really divided on this. I watched this yesterday and I have to say this is what I believe happens when writers become too determined to do something that’s never been done before: you end up with something totally preposterous.

    And preposterous is what I found the entire scenario to be. If it was done as a comedy it might have worked. But as it was that didn’t work for me.

    I am told the 2nd episode is MUCH better though, so I will give that a shot.

    • Magga

      I think it’s possibly the best TV episode not called Mad Men, but you have to accept that satire and comedy can be two different things. (EDITED because I responded to the wrong comment wight the last part)

      • leitskev

        Satire is definitely the hardest form of writing and has to have a very particular audience. For me, satire works in one of two ways. In the first, it comes with a strong dose of comedy. In the second, where there is little or no comedy, the story must work well on its own apart from the satire. Metaphors or messaging are not enough to carry a story on their own. If the satire is clever but the story is weak the whole thing fails.

        • Magga

          You weren’t riveted by the horrible inevitability of the thing? I feel like this episode is pretty much of a piece with the Mad Men episode where the company starts debating whether or not their female employee should sleep with a client. There’s no way for it not to end in horror and it really illuminates the powerless situation of people in certain positions in life. Except here the powerless person is supposed to be the most powerful man in the country

          • leitskev

            I will make two admissions. First, I only got about half way through the first episode of Black Mirror. I just wan’t buying into the scenario. I don’t believe the British government would react that way, no matter how much they love the royals. I couldn’t buy it, so I checked out.

            My second admission: I also could not get through the first episode of Mad Men. Now you might be quick to conclude I am just an unsophisticated viewer who doesn’t “get it”…ok, fine. There was just nothing in that story line to earn my interest. And I like period pieces. The world of advertising is not that interesting, though, and the unlikable main character was not compelling. Compare to House of Cards, where the protagonist is playing a power game in the highest halls of power, much more interesting, much higher stakes, and where the flawed hero also has appealing moments of humanity. No doubt the hero has that in Mad Men…eventually. In House of Cards it is on display in the first 4 minutes!

            I give a series a half hour to grab my attention. Mad Men, Black Mirror, Orange is the New Black…those shows just didn’t succeed for me. True Detective, House of Cards, Game of Thrones, Peaky Blinders, Boardwalk Empire, Ray Donovan, Hell on Wheels…those did succeed.

            I finally made myself watch the first episode of the Newsroom. I had avoided it because I don’t like ideology pushed in my face and I suspected that would be the case. I watched it just because I’m a writer and it’s Sorkin. I am glad I did. Yes, the politics and ideology pushing is obnoxious. I had to suffer through it. But the story telling is superb. There are the famous Sorkin dialogue riffs, but also the story structuring is spot on, and the story builds momentum all the way through, not easy to do in a drama like that.

          • Magga

            Mad Men pitches it’s hero as a mystery rather than a regular protagonist, so we’re basically still getting to know him seven seasons in.
            My admission: I made three attempts to watch the first Game of Thrones episode before forcing myself through it, then, over about a year and a half, I’ve managed to get through six episodes. I know I’m supposed to be watching it, but there’s nothing in it to grab my attention, and every time a movie or series hints at things like dragons or the supernatural I just can’t stand it. So yeah, people have different tastes (I find nothing sympathetic about Spacey in House of Cards and nothing believable about the show, I watch The Newsroom the way I watch The Room, but I liked most of True Detectives)

          • leitskev

            I’ve posted here in the past about the “bad” hero protag in the past. They are very common nowadays, whether it’s Breaking Bad, House of Cards, Sons of Anarchy. In some shows, the hero is shown to be decent but one who has a dark side. But even more interesting is the shows where the hero is mostly dark. How do we get audiences to like a character like that? There are some tricks. One thing audiences like is to see that spark of humanity or goodness that shows potential to change. It also can help of the dark hero is amusing or clever, so he/she is just plain fun to watch. Another thing is that hero have a special talent. In Newsroom, the anchor is the best at what he does, though he has become cynical and his staff hates him.

            The bottom line is we need to have a reason to want to spend time with these characters. Whatever it takes to achieve that works. And this has to be achieved as quickly in the story as possible. I’m not going to watch a season in hopes that I might eventually become attached to the characters. There are too many other options.

          • Magga

            What early Mad Men has going for it is theme, in my opinion the strongest thematic exploration in American media this century. Basically it’s showing you an era that most people have a very nostalgic misunderstanding of through the eyes of the people whose job it was to create the myth. Guessing you’re not worried about Mad Men spoilers, so I can say that the entire character of Don Draper is a construct, fake name, fake backstory, a walking commercial for what a man’s man in the era is supposed to be. They show us the reality of living through those times while showing us the constructions of myths that many people still believe, and the reasons why society decided to change. We see all this from the perspective of the people who were kings of the old order, the ones who stand to lose something by society changing, which makes revisiting the sixties a new experience, even as we live through the major events of the decade again. There are so many great characters on the show, and the more we know about them, the more any event in the show functions on several levels of character drama, until it almost doesn’t matter what time period the show exists in. The style also reflects the changing styles in pop culture at the time, becoming more experimental and psychedelic in the mid sixties and darker as 68 arrives. It really is a marvel of television storytelling, and the first three episodes are by far the weakest. It’s even gotten to the point where our sympathies lie with characters we were conditioned to loathe in the beginning. I can’t recommend it highly enough, but of course one could list all the virtues of GOT and I’d still find it hard to engage because of the damned zombies and dragon eggs. But boy is Don Draper good at his job, and we’re talking about a field where the writer has to show his ad genius by actually coming up with genius ads. It’s the greatest exploration of the creative process I’ve seen (though again, in the weaker pilot he comes up with an already existing real-life ad, which they would never do later, and on the spot, too) which I have trouble imagining a writer not falling in love with. Some of the episodes are basically like reading these scriptshadow boards, as they gradually use their life experiences to craft Stories That Sell.

          • LV426

            Mad Men is great. I never saw the “boring” or “too slow” arguments as having much merit. The show is suspenseful. Draper not only has his mysterious past, but is always keeping a mistress on the side.

            This show is also underrated in terms of how it drops in bizarre bits of humor or WTF moments (Sterling’s vomit, the lawnmower). The best part is these bits of (shocking) humor don’t pull the audience out of the moment, but completely work and enhance the show.

  • BoSoxBoy

    Never would have been possible without the unheralded1965 protest of Arnold Ziffel . Arnold had the courage to risk everything, including a summer stock role in Charlotte’s Web, to stand up to Hollywood producers, who originally wanted to cast his Green Acres role to a sheep. “Enough!”, said Arnold. “Anything a sheep can do, so can a pig.” When you watch the Prime Minister have relations with the pig, please remember the sacrifices made by Arnold, and “Thank the pig.”

  • brenkilco

    First heard about Black Mirror on this site. Thought National Anthem very impressive. Sharp and daring rather than brilliant. But the sort of cut to the bone black satire you seldom see. And kudos to actor Rory Kinnear. How many up and coming American TV actors would be willing to play that part. That said, isn’t every successful British show reworked for American consumption by somebody. I’m sure a Showtime version is coming.

  • Zadora

    I wasn’t crazy about the pilot episode with the pig. I just didn’t buy into the premise, but the second episode blew me away. It was excellent on many levels. I was glued to the TV.

  • Magga

    Whohoo, I’ve been recommending this episode on this board a few times, glad you liked it! The feeling that this kind of thing would never be made in the U.S. is why I went back to writing in my native language, though check out episode 3 of Review from Comedy Channel to see an equally genius American half hour. I always got a chuckle out of imagining this episode appearing out of nowhere on The West Wing, but only Mad Men is up for that kind of crazy. Would you recommend writing with as much purpose as this or do we have to just think about giving people the same but different and thinking about what studio heads want?

    • Nicholas J

      “…or perhaps I simply understood, from the darkest corner of my soul, that these pancakes couldn’t kill me, because I was already dead.”

  • ximan

    Well said, C. Vulture was recommending this show like crazy last week, so I checked it out. And I too was impressed. This writer is BRAVE with a capital B. In addition to all the things you mentioned, I also loved the ENDING he wrote. Any other writer would’ve made it where the Prime Minister at least gets a HUGE boost in approval ratings after doing-the-deed. Instead, he only enjoys a “3 percent bump.” Meanwhile, his family life is ruined, and the princess he boinked the pig to save becomes even more popular, as if she was the one who had done something virtuous. There was a lot in there, a lot of subversive nods and winks to our obsession with celebrity/royal culture and the vapid things we consider valuable. Just brills all the way through.

    PS: Also with you on the second episode. Although I must admit it does a solid job of continuing the series’ theme and deepening it to include our desire for success at the expense of our souls. Also, the forced pornography aspect was beyond brilliant. It was pure GENIUS! Especially when you consider the fact that today most pornography is FREE, so for him to suggest the only place it can go in the future is that we will have to pay NOT to see it?? My jaw dropped! This guy knows what he’s doing!

  • Logline_Villain

    American Horror Story does the whole different story by season (rather than episode) thing, anthology-style: What’s amazing, for better or worse, is how many sub-genres and themes get packed like sardines into a single season. Ryan Murphy is no stranger to pushing the envelope (Nip/Tuck) – and I’m glad that a “horror” based series was able to attract a myriad of acting talent (Kathy Bates, Jessica Lange, Angela Bassett, Zachary Quinto, et al.)

    • ArabyChic

      I would say this sardine-izing is what did the second season in: Alien conspiracies, Demon possession, Nazi doctors performing deranged experiments , etc., all within an insane asylum felt like they were just throwing crap at the wall and hoping SOMETHING stuck. What they got was a wall covered in crap.

  • Scott Strybos

    I tried watching Marco Polo last night and I only lasted five minutes as well. I know I should give new TV shows more of a chance, usually I try to watch two episodes, because there have been instances where I gave up after a pilot only to come back later, watch a few episodes, and enjoy it. But Polo did not grab me at all—not the characters, plot, setting, or tone. There is a place for slow burn storytelling but the Cold Open for a pilot is not one of them. But maybe I should keep watching…(?)

    • pmlove

      I watched the whole pilot. Pretty pedestrian. They have a whole flashback where they re-show you the deserts he talks about in the opening. A few hints at the war, all of which has nothing to do with MP.

      I’ll probably try episode two at some point, just to give it a fair shot. But the first episode wasn’t great.

  • ElectricDreamer

    I can’t wait for this to air on BBC 4 tomorrow night.
    Jon Hamm stars in the first Black Mirror feature, WHITE CHRISTMAS:

  • Scott Strybos

    Off-topic: are there any Doctor Who fans on this board? I started watching the show this weekend—not the original from the 60s, but the Billy Piper one.

  • Altius

    I just binged on this show last week! It’s brilliant. Like a Twilight Zone for the technological era. Bold, innovative television. Can’t wait for the Christmas special.

  • Eddie Panta

    I think we have a real BLACK MIRROR scenario playing out right now with all the published emails from the SONY HACK.
    (btw the Cleopatra script is 700 pages apparently… eek!)

    In the article here, SS says: ….The Black Mirror writers made unique choices, they took an absurd premise and treated it seriously. Everyone else would’ve played this as a joke.

    This is exactly right…

    On this side of the pond, social commentary exists only in comedies like South Park, Family Guy, John Stewart, SNL, and Corbert Report. Where the audience accepts it only if it’s been properly sugar coated.

    We are not allowed to ask that much of the audience, to leave them with something to think about. It has to be treated like a joke. When was the last time was saw a DRAMA like the film CRASH that deals with social issues of racism.

    Who wants to see that FRACKING movie with the title no one can remember, starring Matt Damon, and that guy from The Office, no one does. Because it deals with issues too directly, too obviously, for a contemporary audience It scares them, they might have to think. We need subject matter suitable for water cooler debates.

    If a film has social commentary it’s simply a marketing angle, or used as a layer of edgy realism. Blockbuster movies, that touch on social issues are usually BIOS like WOLF of WALL STREET which are more about the characters making a farcical spectacle out of themselves. Which is what the Prime Minster is forced into doing in the first episode of Black Mirror, on a world-wide scale. Thereby achieving popularity and success.

    Indie films on the festival circuit are not much different. Films are trending towards a loose suggestive reality. One that steers clear of statements on social structure in a realistic, thought provoking manner. Critics hated SPRING BREAKERS, but really, when you think about it, it’s ahead of its time with its pink and neon dream like landscape filled with ungrounded characters.

    BLACK MIRROR has encouraged me to go ahead with my absurd concept about a man who becomes a test candidate for a special pair of computerized glasses. When he wears them he no longer sees anything other than his likes and favorites. He goes blind to all distractions. Only visual elements relevant to his immediate concerns are visible. Everything else is just white space.


    • Magga

      If they were doing Black Mirror in the US I would have someone kidnap the family, friends and running mates of two presidential candidates with the threat of killing the losing candidacy. The whole campaign becomes about having the largest families with the most wonderful people, the best personal morals, the best chance of our marriage succeeding etc, with attack ads showing why the opponent’s loved ones are less worthy of saving that the candidate. The debates could be tense and funny, but the convention speeches would be very similar to how they are now

  • Nicholas J

    Oh man, I love this episode! Really great writing.

    The thing that stood out to me most in this episode is how Brooker writes really great scenes for actors. Princess Susannah, having been kidnapped, has to read the ransom note from her captors to the Prime Minister while being videotaped. It’s the first time she’s read the letter, so it’s the first time she’s hearing any of this, that if the Prime Minister doesn’t have sex with a pig she will be killed. So her emotions combined with her shock of the demand (and the Prime Minister’s shock along with ours as an audience) and her realization that there’s no way in hell the Prime Minister would do such a thing… whoa. That’s drama.

    I also love how much Brooker puts the Prime Minister’s back to the wall. His obvious resistance to give in to the demand vs. the need to get the Princess back. There are so many reasons for him to NOT have sex with a pig, but there are even more reasons for him TO have sex with a pig. If there’s anything that ALWAYS works, it’s having a character stuck between a rock and a hard place and seeing how they get out.

    And it’s that level of writing, combined with the real attempt to come up with something creative and edgy and controversial and original, while giving it depth and weight and emotion, all while making a strong effort to say something relevant with such an absurdly dark story. Wow.

    • susanrichards

      I would like to see/read this. If I was the writer, I would have had the Prime Minister say “bring me two pigs”.

      But maybe that wouldn’t suit his character.

      See, if she was his own daughter, there would be no hesitation. Parents are SUPPOSED to, EXPECTED to, jump in front of a bus for their children. It’s the “parents call”.

      But she is not his daughter. That is where the real drama comes from. He has a moment to make his choice.

  • RyanKirkpatrick

    Caught this episode and “The Entire History of You” this weekend. WOW. Really good, TWILIGHT ZONE level viewing/writing.

  • mulesandmud

    That’s a hell of a premise. Was already curious about BLACK MIRROR before this; now I can’t wait to take a look. Meanwhile, I’m having fun rolling the concept around in my head, thinking of how I’d plot it out, and what might be the trickiest beats to pull off.

    Seems like the toughest sell of the whole thing is a classic question of any ransom story: how does the PM know that the Princess will be released, even if he fucks that pig?

    Ideally it’s something that the story clears up early and without too much plot machinery, to maximize the character’s dilemma and keep things moving. If there’s a 100% guarantee that she’ll be let go (but how could there be?), then all of the narrative focus gets placed on the strange and humiliating decision he has to make, which is great.

    Without any certainty that she’d go free, though, the underlying doubt about whether the PM is doing it all for nothing would be distracting, and undercut both the logic and the suspense of his decision. Unless there’s a version of this I haven’t considered…

    Anyway, one more reason to watch it ASAP. Always interesting to see how a writer tackles the basic story mechanics of his/her premise, especially a gutsy one like this.

    • Bifferspice

      i don’t think he gives a shit about the princess. he’s trying to save his career. it’s all about whether he will be ruined forever if he refuses. what would his life be worth then?

      • mulesandmud

        Still, no point in him doing it if they’re going to kill her anyway; his career will likely be over regardless if she dies.

        Just watched the episode, and while I admire the layers of commentary, it’s frustrating that the dramatic situation feels so unearned. If the same story were played as a farce, they could get away with ignoring logic, but playing this absurd material as seriously as they do means that they’re obliged to follow the rules of realism.

        There’s no reason to take the kidnapper’s demand seriously, or to believe that whoever made this lunatic request could be trusted to keep a bargain. It’s the elephant in the room from the very beginning, and the PM only addresses it once toward the end in a throwaway line. Not good enough.

        Also, I didn’t love the melodrama between the PM and his wife, particularly how it ends. Why is she so angry at him? He’s in an impossible position, and he’s the one who had to do something horrific, not her.

        • Bifferspice

          I get your point but I’m not sure someone’s partner being illogically angry is unrealistic, no matter the situation. Especially when it comes to having sex with a farmyard animal! :)

  • ScriptChick

    In defense of TV, I am completely in love with this season of Homeland. Whereas the last season was a bit lacking for me, this year has really returned to form. Can not wait for the season finale.

  • craktactor

    Firstly, the show IS brilliant. It’s the British sort-of-version of American Horror Story, except the episodes are one offs. Each series, or as they’re called here, seasons, are 3 epi mini-series. This particular series had 2 “seasons” and out, I believe, or 6 epis in total.

    Secondly, it’s Channel 4 in the UK. It’s like FX or HBO/Showtime/Cinemax here. They get away with a hell of a lot more than they do say, BBC 1, BBC 2, BBC 3, or even ITV. It’s all relative.

    I find British television (their cop shows and comedy) lightyears ahead of here. Aside from the rare one here, of course (Breaking Bad, True Detective).

    You want to see absolutely brilliant television, watch “Peaky Blinders”. Best period Show period Right Now exclamation point. :)

    • Eddie Panta

      I was just having a conversation with a friend regarding the creativity coming out of Britain, and not just film/tv. Art, Music, and Fashion as well. There is something about the social structure in the UK that fosters a more realistic creative expression.
      Perhaps BBC shows have characters that are more direct, not as illusive as Mad Men or True Detective which in away seems refreshing.

      I gotta take another look at Peaky Blinders.

    • Fistacuffs

      I’d say more of a modern, british Twilight Zone than American Horror Story.

  • charliesb

    The 2014 Black List is out.

    • susanrichards

      Is there a way to get the actual scripts on there?

      • drifting in space

        I think it’s best to wait until someone (as it happened last year) creates a dropbox folder that we all swarm and pass around. There will be a link for it here soon, I’m sure.

        • susanrichards

          Great, I’ll keep my eyes open :) Thanks.

    • klmn

      Does anyone have the script for MENA?

      kenklmn AT yahoo dot com

      Thanks in advance.

    • Eddie Panta

      Looking for HUNSTVILLE and ECHO
      anyone… anyone?

    • hickeyyy

      Top of Page 17 is I Am Ryan Reynolds. Wasn’t this an AOW competitor? I recall really enjoying it.

      • Eddie Panta


      • susanrichards

        would you still have that script?

        susanrichards63 at geeemail dot com

        • hickeyyy

          Susan, I am at work. When I get home later tonight I’ll see if I still have it.

        • hickeyyy

          Okay. I am home and checked. I deleted it. I usually do after reading them for AOW but was hoping I didn’t. Seems Nicholas J might not have it either.

          • susanrichards

            hickeyyy thank you for checking! what is your email? A kind soul has sent it to me. Would you like it?

          • Rick McGovern

            Could you send it? Want to compare it to another draft. Thanks.

      • drifting in space

        Snap, link taken down.

        • Nicholas J

          You’ll probably never find it now. I doubt it’s going to magically find its way into your inbox.

      • Rick McGovern

        That wasn’t that long ago. Only 4 months. Wonder if he was already with UTA at that point. Probably not. Which leads me to wonder after not getting picked for AOW, what exactly he did with the script to get it in the hands of UTA and enough “important” people to get votes. I suppose he could have submitted it to Black List and got an 8 or higher.

    • crazedwritr

      Hope Carson in planning a Black List breakdown article for tomorrow! :-)

  • drifting in space

    This is insane. I can’t believe someone thought of it.

    That being said… will check it out.

  • klmn

    Of course, years ago Joe Eszterhas wrote Sacred Cows…

  • scriptfeels

    I gotta say this show definitely sounds different, but I don’t really want to see a prime minister screw a pig…

    • scriptfeels

      But after a little research “The Entire History of You” was written by the creator of Peep show, so I’ll definitely give that episode a watch.

  • gazrow

    My bad. Apologies to the BBC and the BBC’s Writer’s Room. I should have known that they wouldn’t stoop so low.

    The BBC have two excellent shows at the moment. The Missing and The Fall. Both are dark, somewhat disturbing and very gripping.

  • Midnight Luck

    I enjoyed episode one, and it was great to see a show really take chances.
    The thought of it, and the actuality of what happened were definitely cringe inducing.

    I actually liked episode TWO Better though.
    The way they were parodying the fascination people seem to have over the IDOL shows (the British one, American Idol, The Voice, etc) was just fantastic.
    I also liked how people were constantly having to build up points so they could score their trial in front of the judges, in yet most people just spent their points (money) on frivolities like clothing and gadgets (sound familiar? much like people in todays society) and never really got close to having enough in store to pay for their spot on the show.

    Everyone busy pedaling away on their bikes 24/7, eating their “food” from a vending machine, having little real interaction with people.

    And I really loved how the people were FORCED into watching the porn channels or they automatically LOST money. That watching those channels was a Requirement to continue on. That things were constantly Popping Up in their field of vision. That they had to always keep their EYES OPEN or again, they were deducted points ($).

    It was fascinating, and it made so many statements about the way we are going and honestly, where we already are right now.

    I thought it was fantastic.

    Not as “Action” oriented as the first episode, but much more intriguing and thought provoking I felt.

  • jaehkim
    • pmlove

      Thanks – been wanting to read Yellowstone Falls for a while.

      What’s Carson’s Christmas present going to be now?

    • Trent11

      God bless u sir!!

    • msmithee

      Thank you so much.

    • Midnight Luck

      Wow. that is so awesome of you.
      Thanks a million!

    • Mhocommenter

      Dammn… thumbed thru a few of these just now… not exactly keeping me awake. ZZZZzzzzz… #I’llkeeptryin’.

      • Mhocommenter

        But thank you DEARLY for sharing.

    • Alexander Plamper

      thank you very much

  • Mhocommenter

    Off the blacklist revealed, would someone please send me MATRIACH by Eric Koenig.

    If you have zip file why not send me as many script as possible. Thanks! MAY1MSG AT GMAIL DOT COM.

  • John Bradley

    Great grendl rant. Couldn’t agree more!

  • Eric

    “You built the monster. Now deal with the repercussions.”

    Hollywood didn’t create North Korean cyber-terrorists and it didn’t invite an attack on itself by making shi**y movies. You’re lumping in Aaron Sorkin with reality TV. Really? You don’t think Aaron Sorkin might, I don’t know, HATE reality TV just as much as you. You seem to think Hollywood created this whole gossip tabloid culture when it’s actually an aspect of the NEWS MEDIA. You know, the same news media that Aaron Sorkin is railing against because instead of reporting that Sony was hit by an act of Cyber-terrorism they’re talking about Adam Sandler and the third act of Spectre. THAT’S where this tabloid culture comes from. From a news media that would rather pick through the rubble than do the harder work of trying to figure out what caused the damage.

    Hollywood has always been a business. The news media hasn’t. The news used to be allowed to lose money left and right because it was considered a public service. Now nothing can be allowed to exist that isn’t monetized.

    Shi**y Hollywood movies are just a reflection of our degrading culture. What we’ve allowed the “News” to become, is the source of it.

    • grendl

      Shitty Hollywood movies don’t have to happen.

      SONY and Amy Pascal got a little karmic revenge for funding Adam Sandlers career.

      Granted no one’s losing their job, maybe. But they gave him free reign to make his horrible movies, because that’s what they figured people wanted.

      Instead of actively trying to raise the bar and make good films, they made “Grown Ups” and a sequel because that’s what they thought the masses wanted.

      Well, the masses now want the dirt on Amy Pascal and SONY.

      That’s what I mean by they built the monster. Don’t twist my words.

      • Eric

        Shitty Hollywood movies are beside the point. A cyber-terrorist attack just occurred and you’re suggesting it’s karmic because Adam Sandler makes crap movies. It’s not.

        You’ve also missed my point. Hollywood has always been a business. It’s responsibility lies with giving people what they want, even if that’s stupid movies. The News Media, however, is vital to democracy in a way that cinema just isn’t. It should not be treated with capital concerns ruling all else. Hollywood doesn’t create this beast that needs to be fed, the News Media does by not reporting real news or holding themselves to any sort of standard. It’s the Forth Estate that is suppose to educate the public, not Hollywood. If the people are being ‘dumbed-down’, it’s the Forth Estate that has failed.

        If you want to believe that Hollywood making movies that you SUBJECTIVELY think are horrible is equivalent to the News Media reporting stories that are OBJECTIVELY unimportant to the people reading it, you are wrong.

  • Eric

    I’m coming at this from a moral standpoint. Making shitty movies doesn’t make you a legitimate target for a terrorist attack. Period.

    “I think they got what they deserved, how about that, and you’re claiming its not justice is just your opinion.”

    Like how a woman who’s been raped doesn’t deserve to be stoned to death is “just an opinion”. It is however, an opinion I find ridiculous.

    And you’ve done nothing to even address my argument that it isn’t Hollywood who built the beast in the first place. Where do you stand on the News Media being part of the problem? They just get a pass because sometimes two wrongs do make a right?

    Also you’re taking Aaron Sorkin’s essay and responding to it like he speaks for all of Hollywood. That’d be like listening to a single state governor’s speech on a specific subject and railing against the entire nation in general as response. It’s a shallow and oversimplification. Kinda like Adam Sandler movies.

    • grendl

      The media and the entertainment business aka SONY are two peas in a pod.

      I guess when its the big studio that becomes the target of scrutiny, with their privates exposed, thats when you come out to play superhero.

      You ignore SONY is a media giant, not just a movie studio with its fingers in all areas of the business.

      You give the studios a free pass.

      You know the kind of moronic mean ness promulgated in Adam Sandler movies, the kind that makes fun of people for being fat and getting old or any other manner of “fun” you think he provides is also what built the beast.

      Yes it did.

      And yes it did.

      So you can come from a moral standpoint, but the movies SONY has been making certainly don’t have a morality as bottom line, they simply have a dollar figure.

  • Rick Hester

    Sounds more like a leftist caricature of a politician than most actual politicians. Most are decent, real people trying to make their communities better places to live. And leaders influence public opinion on issues all the time. That’s what they do. They lead.