Upload (2020) s01e01 – Welcome to Upload

“Upload” takes place in a mundane future dystopia where Bloomingdales runs liquor stores and Panera Bread was able to acquire Facebook. The most oddly prescient bit has a bunch of people on the packed commuter train wearing masks. Worker drones take the train it seems like. The middle class and above have self-driving cars, which are apparently super safe.

Or at least after Robbie Amell dies in a self-driving car accident, everyone is surprised because they’re supposed to be so safe.

Amell’s not dead dead, however, because in this future you get to live as long as the company who provides your digital afterlife can keep the servers running. Amell and pal Jordan Johnson-Hinds are trying to design a freeware version and they’re almost done but then he oddly and tragically dies.

Also wouldn’t you know he’s dating a woman who’s an heiress to the biggest in-app purchase version of the afterlife? So much intrigue.

The show doesn’t do well with the intrigue. It does a lot better with Amell bonding with his handler, Andy Allo; Allo’s job is to make sure Amell doesn’t reject his new reality and go jump into a giant data stream and incinerate himself or something. It also doesn’t make sense why they couldn’t re-upload him; though that one is so obvious they’re going to have to address it.

This first episode is overlong—it’s going to be a half hour or so but they stretch the pilot out to forty minutes, which seems like a perfectly good half hour pilot bulked out with the suspicious girlfriend (Allegra Edwards’s obnoxious) and the intrigue.

There are some good laughs—a lot of them considering the protagonist is dead—and pretty much everyone but Edwards is fine. Allo’s better than Amell but they’re both more likable than good. Kevin Bigley’s solid as Amell’s first fellow dead guy friend (Bigley killed himself after losing his legs in the Iran War, so “Upload”’s full of optimism for American Imperialism).

It’ll be interesting to see if the show can maintain so much product placement—you can buy all the soda brands and all the fast food in the afterlife. But not Amell because Edwards controls his in-app purchases and stalks him from the real world.

There are some weird jokes—Amell asking Allo if there’s slavery in Heaven, which writer, director, and show creator Greg Daniels doesn’t seem to know how to execute (or does and it just doesn’t fly)—but the bit about men in the afterlife being able to pee in the urinal from across the room in a steady, infinite stream is… accurate. You know the dude programmers would add that feature.

I’m far from sold on the first one but hopefully the issues are just pilot flitters.

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