Netflix’s original series ‘Black Mirror’ has already become one of the most popular and widely watched (or rather, binged) TV shows on the planet. And what’s not in there to like? The widespread usage of social media, latest gizmos and gadgets, have already made us more tech savvy than we were purported to be, and this anthology series aptly examines and elaborates the inexplicable consequences these technological advances could result in. All the episodes of this critically acclaimed British sci-fi drama are independent of one another and are set in the near dystopian future, where humans would be nothing but slaves to these “artificially intelligent” and superior “puppets” of technology.
It is a show that’s a mirror to the society and to the world that we have come a full circle – from the rampant, oppressive slavery of the 18th and 19th century’s America to what we’re destined to become in a few decades, or maybe even less. Interestingly, the term “Black Mirror” derives its inspiration from the reflection one sees on a blank computer screen, like a mirror, albeit unclear and darker. Being a fan of the series myself, with the episodes 3 and 6 (“Crocodile” and “Black Museum” respectively) my all-time favourites, my take on the show resonates with what is being shown of our future – bleak, scary, and imminent.
A TV Show like ‘Black Mirror’ needn’t be an anthology necessarily, but has to be either set in the dystopian future, highlighting the ill-effects of the human tendency to over-complicate the usage of technology, or misuse thereof, or has to be consisting of people who have been reduced to emotionless objects or rather materials of the civilised society. Such a series would also contain elements of time travel, technological abuse, paranormal, inexplicable happenstances, or a multi-dimensional world. With this list, we bring to you the list of TV shows similar to ‘Black Mirror’ that are our recommendations. You can watch several of the shows like Black Mirror on Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime.
12. Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams (2017)
As predictable as it sounds, with Bryan Cranston as one of its executive producers, ‘Electric Dreams’ is an anthology series based on short stories penned by Philip K. Dick. With episodes ranging from mutant telepaths who can communicate in a world of no technology, to non-existent, fictional towns where people have been commuting to, and from virtual realism to alien attacks, ‘Electric Dreams’ is the younger brother of ‘Black Mirror’ in letter and spirit. Watching ‘Electric Dreams’ is like a continuation of ‘Black Mirror’, though you would feel the subtle differences every now and then.
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11. Humans (2015-2018)
A British TV series with its focus on the robotics, AI and the futuristic robot-assistants known as “Synths”, ‘Humans’ resembles Will Smith’s ‘I, Robot’ as well as ‘Ex Machina’ in many ways. Most of the characters in the TV show are synths themselves, which have been enacted by various actors. The eeriness about this series also lies in the fact that synths are no different from humans in their behaviour, body language or psychology. And the dystopia lies in the fact that synths have risen above humans in a social setup rather than merely co-existing, thus leading a path to social unrests. ‘Humans’ is brutal, hard-hitting and honest with the fact that synths have an important part in the civil society of the future and that humans cater and enslave to what are only “computers” with artificial intelligence and physical bodies on the outset.
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10. Travelers (2016-2017)
With a slight twist in the narrative, what if humans, instead of travelling through time with their physical bodies and all the baggage, could merely send their consciousness back or forth in time, and embed it into a dying person in the present? ‘Travelers’ has made use of this niche concept and created a two-season series out of it, just for us to binge. A group of “travellers” who’re operatives from the far future have been tasked with protecting their society from being doomed by sending their consciousness back in time. As they attempt to tweak the eventualities that may lead to a catastrophe, which could also possibly destroy the world as we know it, they cover their present life using their host’s social records while they continue with their missions. The character depth and the pace is amazingly built into the series’ core, along with some stellar performances. A must visit TV show for ‘Black Mirror’ aficionados.
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9. American Horror Story (2011-2018)
Perhaps one of the most cherished anthologies in the history of TV shows, ‘American Horror Story’ has different themes for all its individual seasons, like ‘Asylum’, ‘Coven’, ‘Freak Show’ etc. and all the constituent episodes are stylised on those themes. While ‘Murder House’, which is one of my personal favourites, deals with teenage violence, sexual references, and adultery, the fifth season themed as ‘Hotel’ is centred around Hotel Cortez in downtown, California, and deals with drug and alcohol abuse. The grossly panned out gore and the murders, which are, though a bit overdone, do manage to scare the crap out of us and make us scream and jolt from time to time. The subplots in each episode for most of the episodes are an added bonus. Watch it before you regret being too late in the game.
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8. Sense8 (2016-2016)
The good news is – Sense8 is all set to return with a mega-episode in 2018. The two-season sci-fi drama surrounds the lives of eight differently abled people spread across the world who turn out to be sensates, i.e. beings who are telepathically connected, unbeknownst to each other initially. The eight can effectively share their thoughts, emotions, and know-how with each other while trying to figure out the bigger plot behind their so-called “connections”. As the series progresses, all the eight have been accustomed to each other’s thoughts, some have hooked up with each other while a few others have friction between them. The antagonist is called “Whispers”, a sensate, who has taken it upon himself to track and hunt each one of them. Although the similarities with ‘Black Mirror’ are minimal, (except for the “connected” part), the seemingly futuristic setup and the visuals are reminiscent of our beloved tv show.
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7. Stranger Things (2016-2017)
The antagonistic of ‘Black Mirror’, yet not regressive in its style, ‘Stranger Things’ went on to become one of the most popular TV shows ever watched after ‘Game of Thrones’ and had forever been a hot topic of discussions and debates. The series’ first season, set in the 80’s in rural Indiana, revolves around the mysterious disappearance of a boy named Will and the ensuing boy-hunt by cops, relatives, and friends alike. With other inexplicable phenomena undergoing in the town, everyone, especially the kids are riled from a surprise visit by a weird-looking girl with telekinetic abilities, who also helps them look out for their missing friend. The second season picks a year later after the end of season one, wherein everyone’s trying to cope with the shock while constantly in fear for the Upside Down. ‘Stranger Things’ is a must watch for its realism, coupled with the elements of alternate dimensions, paranormal, human experiments et al which could very well be the areas of binge-interest for the ‘Black Mirror’ fans.
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6. Altered Carbon (2018)
Not just any other Netflix series, ‘Altered Carbon’, which is also the most recent addition to the tv shows on this list, has hit all the right notes with an unwavering plot and some over-the-top CGI. Set 350 years into the future, where consciousness and memories can be stored in disc-shaped units known as the cortical stack, humans use the physical or engineered bodies only as a medium, and call them “sleeves”. A soldier named Takeshi, who wakes up 250 years in a new “sleeve” has to answer for his own crimes committed by his previous “bodies” and also help Laurens Bancroft, an affluent settler, in solving his own murder. The overwhelmingly advanced technologies and the relatively darker rendering makes it an intense and captivating watch.
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5. Orphan Black (2013-2017)
Imagine the shock one has to go through when one comes to know that s/he is a clone, and that many such clones exist in the world as we know it as a part of the larger plot. When Sarah Manning, a con artist comes to know of her real identity, of being Beth Childs, a police detective, the world comes crashing upon her as she uncovers the clones’ origin, the political-corporate nexus, the secret surveillance, and the antagonistic religious factions who are on a killing spree to eliminate all such clones. The series progresses with Sarah’s last-ditch efforts to avoid any possible abduction either by the clone killers or creators and also to protect her daughter – the only clone child to date. This thought-provoking series has its ample dose of twists, and revelations, along with some multi-layered performances which will take you for a ride.
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4. Mr Robot (2015-2017)
The acclaimed TV show which revolves around a socially awkward loner and a cybersecurity engineer by the day Elliot, who is also a hacker by night, is mostly a one-man show amidst his fight against the corrupt financial conglomerates by partnering with a hacktivist group called the “fsociety”. The delusional hacker often hacks into social media or personal accounts of people to know of their whereabouts, what they eat, where they go and what their likes and dislikes are. In more of a Sherlock Holmes’ way, his way of deducing and arriving at a particular password or a PIN number is a fun watch. In the first season, Elliot, who is now recruited by “Mr Robot” works among his hactivist group to bring a pandemic anarchy by attempting to cancel all the debts. The suspense, build-up, and the delusion oozes off the screen and sinks inside you, and the tv show also highlights the ill-effects associated with the internet and social media in a ‘Black Mirror’ kinda way.
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3. Dark (2017)
This one-season Netflix Original series which is filmed entirely in the German language is my personal favourite on this list. The background score and the never-ending list of characters stay with you for days and months and just when you think you’ve seen enough, you’ll witness another revelation that will whack your brains out. Set in Winden, a German town which has a nuclear power plant and the mysterious Winden caves, a teenager named Jonas is trying to cope with his father’s suicide and his mother’s adultery with a cop Ulrich Nielsen. Mysterious disappearances, time-travel, with references to Einstein-Rosen bridge, wormholes, and complicated relationships due to branches in the timeline thus created by time travellers makes the entire story a spellbinding affair. Perhaps one of the brainiest series on Netflix, ‘Dark’ will implore you to think out of your league and set new benchmarks on tv shows themed around time-travel. P.S. – the theme song is as catchy and complicated as it could get.
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2. The Twilight Zone (1959-1964)
Before I begin, I urge you to look at the timeline when this series was released. Calling it merely way ahead of its time would be like doing a grave injustice to this masterpiece which is made but once in a lifetime. An anthology series at the outset, ‘The Twilight Zone’, just like ‘Black Mirror’ tries to explore new, uncharted areas of futurism, paranormal, or metaphysical events, which could disrupt or destroy the world as we know it. Of course, most of it could appear outdated now, but if one steps into their shoes and really thinks from the filmmaker’s perspective, ‘The Twilight Zone’ is really coming of age and it could’ve shaped many of our existing technological advances in a direct or indirect manner. It is not every day that a series is labelled as one of the top 10 tv shows of all the freaking time.
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1. Westworld (2016, 2018)
Imagine the amount of brains that went into a series which was penned by Michael Crichton (The Andromeda Strain, Jurassic Park) back in 1973, more than 4 decades ago, which is now being created for television by none other than Jonathan Nolan, Lisa Joy, and with J J Abrams as one of the executive producers. The series is built around an amusement park called “Westworld” which is populated by human-like androids and one could go into the park as a human to have their way at the wild west, for the androids are theoretically forbidden to harm humans in any manner whatsoever. With two parties in the contract, the hosts, who are in-charge of the activities within the park and also monitor, repair the androids as and when necessary, and the guests who can choose to do anything they want to, violent or otherwise, the conflicts arising, as a result, are extremely satisfying. An overwhelming, difficult to comprehend Tv show in its first go, yet the ensuing addiction that follows cannot be experienced with any other tv shows out there. Go experience it, today!
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