‘The Office’ creator Greg Daniels goes virtual with his new show
By Jonathan Pabico, Contributor
Greg Daniels graced our TV screens with the always beloved antics from The Office. He now leaves the cubicles for his newest adventure in Upload. The premiere of this wacky sci-fi satire looks at where we could easily be with virtual reality (VR) technology. After getting injured in a car accident, Nathan (Robbie Amell) is placed in a VR afterlife program to save his mind. He soon discovers that the virtual world he now lives in is not as perfect as it seems to be.
Amell delivers hilarious humour through his character’s silly and strange experiences in VR. His performance balances comedy with more serious tones as he explores how Nathan adjusts to the maddening routines, rules, and isolation of his virtual surroundings.
The story sets up a decent dynamic so far between Amell and newcomer Andy Allo who plays Nora, Nathan’s customer representative of his VR afterlife. Their chemistry brings meaning to the friendship of these characters, and together they relay how important it is to support each other during difficult times. However, more screen time could have pushed their dynamic further (even though the series has just started). The premiere instead rushes to unpack the disjointed facets of Nora’s personal life.
The episode presents a blissfully absurd future ruled by VR technology. It parodies the hype for VR, while being whimsically fresh with its social satire about how quickly virtual reality can become our strange new normal. The ironies from Nathan’s digital utopia not only elevates the story’s levity, but also makes viewers more appreciative of the world we already have.
Upload’s premiere also offers commentary on VR’s role in making video games more immersive. Amell’s character lives like an avatar when he is thrown into his virtual world. His annoyance with having to pay digital currency he doesn’t have for certain resources is a running gag that drives the weird humour even more. The show uses this absurdity also to examine our social anxieties about what VR gaming technology could mean for future youth.
However, the story’s eerie undertone could have had more depth for a stronger balance with the strange comedy. Even philosophical themes about consciousness, life, and death are made ridiculously obvious through dialogue. The story is sometimes bland as a result, but luckily, the talented cast make the plot watchable.
The premiere also doesn’t reveal how VR became a successful industry and could have better explored the technology’s complicated history. Hopefully, though, subsequent episodes may provide surprising answers.
Overall, the show so far has an original premise and bold satire that will not disappoint viewers. The series is audaciously different from The Office, but if Upload can keep up its momentum for the rest of the season, it may just be worthwhile to check out.