Upload is a Let Down (a Review)

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Greg Daniels is an undisputed comedy TV genius. He’s created masterful sitcoms like King of the Hill, The Office, and Parks and Rec. Each of those rightfully received tons of awards and accolades for their well written character, great jokes, and strong stories. This time he is taking that talent directly to streaming with the satirical take on the tech world, modern day consumer culture, and the afterlife with Upload.

The series, set in the not too distant future, follows Nathan, someone who dies, but instead of just dying his conscience is uploaded to a virtual heaven called Lake View on request from his girlfriend. While there he comes to term with life after death, makes friends with the deceased, and guardian angel, Nora. Only, more is going on than anyone expected with conspiracies and drama abound, death had never been such a hassle (Except for the Good Place).

Season One’s main focus is on the world and it’s very blatant satire of the gig economy, constant drive to get 5-Star ratings, in-app purchases, and every other single thing a tech startup has ever suggested. All of that is absolutely spot on, and totally believable. The show feels like it has its finger on the pulse of what the future of our world could be like.

The same cannot be said for the characters. Greg Daniels has created many, many very well formed, driven, and hysterical characters that redefined archetypes and tropes. None of those characters are in the show. Everyone, though they do feel fleshed out, and everyone feels like a person, there doesn’t not seem to be a spark that really sets them apart or make them stand out. The acting feels very safe, samey, and bland. There just is not anything too them since it has to constantly juggle different plots.

On top of that, not all of the effects used look all that great. It might come from using so much and trying to put all the money on screen, but it doesn’t fully work.

In fact most of the show does not fully work. It has great satire and themes, but with no characters to really latch onto, and plot that is too all over the place and not fully explored. It is also not a full fledged comedy. It is a satire, but played really straight. It has some fun with visuals and some good lines, but is mostly a drama that does not have anything to carry it.

This show will most likely get compared to the Good Place. I did so myself. Whether that is fair or not is aside from the point. What is the point, is that what makes the Good Place fresh was not just the concept, and how far they pushed that with the plot. No, those characters are just so alive and compelling. They are characters you want to see grow and change, and that starts in season one. This show, for many good ideas, does not feel like a heaven at all, but the Bad Place.

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