Technology changes our lives day by day, offering us capabilities that were unimaginable just yesterday, but also complex challenges and potentially frightening conflicts. In other words: the perfect raw material for the best TV comedy and drama, which has found fertile ground in anti-establishment hackers, genius programmers, start-ups in distress, indolent IT guys or dystopian visions that seem a little too much like the world we live in.
Whether in the form of an absurd comedy, nightmarish science fiction or serious drama, here are seven examples of series in which technology plays a starring role.
1. ‘Silicon Valley’ (2014-?): The Revenge of the Nerds
Created by Mike Judge, author of hooligan icons such as ‘Beavis and Butt-Head‘ and acerbic comedies such as ‘Office Space‘ (1999) or ‘Idiocracy ‘(2006), ‘Silicon Valley’ has captured the crazy and frenetic pace of California’s digital mecca to perfection.
‘Silicon Valley‘ follows, in broad strokes, the format of ‘Entourage’, except that instead of a beautiful movie star as the protagonist, it’s an insecure and talented programmer, and instead of having his headquarters in a Hollywood mansion, it’s about a humble house shared by startup Pied Piper’s workers in that real estate hell known as Silicon Valley. But the best thing about this comedy is that the technological part fits as well as a blockchain; the data compression algorithm that differentiates Pied Piper from the competition is actually feasible (and has already been designed) and their concept of a new, decentralized internet is close to being realized.
The opening sequence deserves special attention, as a time-lapse animation that changes with each series, and includes real companies (Google gets bigger over time, while MySpace shrinks) as well as fictitious ones (like Hooli, the megacorporation that plays the role of villain).
2. ‘Mr. Robot’ (2015-?): Hackers Against Evil
A hacker with depressive tendencies, played with chilling realism by Rami Malek, finds his life’s purpose in the fight against the evil conglomerate E Corp through a group of hacktivists called fsociety led by Mr. Robot, brought to life by Christian Slater.
Apart from the somber tone and spot-on interpretations, Mr. Robot’s greatest asset is how precisely it portrays the world of hackers. For example, the lines of code that characters write are authentic: the show’s creator – who was also a programmer – Sam Esmail knows that many hackers are going to freeze the image in real life to examine whether what is displayed is true to life. Additionally, the almost clairvoyant scripts have described situations that in fact occurred shortly afterward.
Where to watch: Movistar+
3. ‘Black Mirror’ (2011-?): Technological Abysses
No one has captured the unsettling disruption that technology exerts on our lives the way that Charlie Brooker does with ‘Black Mirror‘. Raising dystopian situations that are terrifyingly realistic and close, this British series portrays how many of the characteristics that make us human end up swirling down the drain of progress, embodied in the form of omnipresent social networks, paradisiacal virtual realities that hide nightmares, or dating applications that avoid romantic love like the plague.
Each episode encapsulates a different story, but each one guarantees an intelligent and well-crafted script, extraordinary design production… and an ultimate sensation of infinite restlessness. The uneasy feeling that remains won’t, however, keep you from pressing play to enjoy/suffer through Brooker’s next big idea.
Where to watch: Netflix
4. ‘The IT Crowd’ (2006-2013): Catastrophic IT Department
“Have you tried turning it off and on again?” That’s the phrase every IT technician has pronounced dozens of times as the first step in solving a problem for a computer illiterate, and it’s the motto for Roy and Moss, the protagonists in this absurd and intelligent British comedy that hasn’t lost its charm over the years. Thanks, above all, to the insuperable comedic visages of its three main characters: Roy, more mysterious than a password of 123456; Moss, a maladapted but happy freak; and Jen, an ignorant boss who believes that the internet is a black box that she keeps in her office.
The four short seasons of ‘The IT Crowd’ (translated in Spain as ‘Los informáticos‘) ended in 2010, but in 2013 there was a special episode that closed the series on a high note.
Where to watch: Netflix
5. ‘Startup’ (2016-?): Cryptocurrency, Dirty Money and Sex
With a tone somewhere between ‘The Wire‘ and the soap opera scripts of ‘Empire, Startup’ follows the adventures of a new technology company in Miami that tries to launch GenCoin, a cryptocurrency designed by Izzy Morales (Otmara Marrero) and whose principal investor is Nick Talman (Adam Brody), a broker for less dubious money under the watchful eye of an FBI agent played by former hobbit Martin Freeman.
Cybersecurity, new financial assets and the difficulties of getting a startup off the ground are the big themes in a series that doesn’t cut out the sex scenes or police drama plotlines.
Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video
6. ‘Halt and Catch Fire’ (2014-2017): PC Cowboys
In the early 1980s IBM reigned over the nascent world of the personal computer and a handful of engineers based in Texas tried to strip down these PCs through reverse engineering to manufacture their own clones. From this idea (a real fact that gave rise to the creation of computing giant Compaq) ‘Halt and Catch Fire’ is hatched, so titled in reference to a primitive machine-code instruction.
Excellently constructed and interpreted, the series travels from that time in then little-known Texan Silicon Prairie to the beginning of the 1990s in Silicon Valley, when the characters enter the internet’s “pre-boom” in which browsers, search engines and anti-viruses were words unknown to most people.
7. ‘Westworld’ (2016-?): Do Androids Dream of Theme Parks?
Michael Crichton, who also wrote Jurassic Park, wrote and directed a science fiction western in 1973 about a theme park of peaceful androids who turn out not to be so peaceful after all. HBO, the channel that made giant strides with television drama, adds to this premise and gives it an almost Asimovian philosophical depth. Do robots feel and think? Can human beings do what they want with these silicon beings who display artificial but superior intelligence? The answers that ‘Westworld’ offers lead to, of necessity, more questions about the possible near future.
Where to watch: HBO
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