05-26-2020, 01:11 PM
LONDON: When Greg Daniels creates a new show, the world sits up and takes note. After all, the man with credits that include “Saturday Night Live,” “The Simpsons,” “King of the Hill,” “The Office” and “Parks and Recreation” clearly knows a thing or two about comedy. And while much fanfare is being made ahead of “Space Force” (Daniels’ upcoming Netflix project which will see him reunite with “Office” star Steve Carrell) Amazon Prime has “Upload” — a satirical sci-fi comedy in which recently deceased Nathan Brown is uploaded to a virtual afterlife and must come to terms with his new, purely digital, status.
Luckily for Nathan (played with suitably earnest gusto by Robbie Amell), he has his own personal tech support to help him adjust. Nora (played by musician and actress Andy Allo in her first leading role) struggles to balance taking care of Nathan with her own, real-world problems — particularly when she begins to dig deeper into the circumstances leading up to his death.
Selling such an outlandish premise depends on strongly written characters and, thankfully, Daniels and his team prove to be more than up to the task. While “Upload” relies heavily on its visuals — the real world and Nathan’s virtual afterlife are painted as brimming with futuristic technology — it’s the snappy dialog and excellent jabs at near-future consumerism that bring the laughs. While some narrative elements are telegraphed far in advance, and the season cliffhanger seems a little obvious, it’s a smart, sophisticated ride to get there.
Much praise should be heaped upon Amell too, for bringing a great deal of humanity to a character written to be (at the outset, at least) inherently unlikeable. One of the recurring jokes in the show’s early episodes is that the photogenic Nathan is little more than a vacuous dummy — a preconception he spends the rest of the series doing his best to prove wrong. It’s a fitting analogy for “Upload.” Daniels’ new show has a lavish setting and a strong premise, but rather than simply riffing on its obvious aesthetics, it goes to great lengths to show that there’s as much substance as style.