blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Black Mirror (2011) s03e01 – Nosedive

If Nosedive is any indication, “Black Mirror” having guest writers isn’t going to help things. Rashida Jones and Michael Schur wrote the teleplay (they’d previously written “Parks and Recreation” together) from a story by “Mirror” creator Charlie Brooker. The episode also kicks off the show’s Netflix run; it had been on Channel 4, but Netflix took it over, hiring movie director Joe Wright to do a profoundly mediocre job.

Bryce Dallas Howard plays the lead, a woman obsessed with her social media score. Too low of a score, and you lose your job, your apartment, your freedom, and your ability to participate in the ratings game. It’s a similar setup to that “Orville” episode, which came out a year later; guess Seth MacFarlane watched “Black Mirror” and figured he could do better.

He’s not wrong, but let’s talk about Nosedive. Howard’s an incredibly likable lead, but it’s a mediocre script and performance. She’s an unlikable narcissist, desperate for approval from strangers, which drives a wedge in her relationship with brother James Norton. Now, “Mirror” is a very British show, except Nosedive’s pretending it’s not. Norton and co-star Alice Eve are British, while Howard and other co-star Cherry Jones are not. Norton and Eve do American accents, and the cars drive on the right side, so… is “Mirror” trying to appeal more globally? Jones and Schur are American sitcom writers, after all.

It’s a long, tedious episode about Howard getting her comeuppance and learning not everything is about what other people think about you. Michaela Coel’s cameo isn’t even good, but she’s got some personality, which the episode otherwise reviles in not delivering. “Mirror”’s rarely good at explaining the context well enough, but Nosedive takes that avoidance to a whole other level.

Jones is good. It’s not worth watching the rest of it, but she’s good.

“Mirror”’s best when it’s got great lead performances. Nosedive gives Howard a spotlight but then doesn’t give her anything to do in it. Except work her way through various sitcom beats.

Nosedive is so lackluster I was even hoping for one of those lousy “Mirror” end credits epilogues just to have something to discuss. I mean, I suppose there’s something to say about the episode’s take on social media, but there’s also not. Jones and Schur don’t even try to have flaccid observations; they just have excruciatingly dull gags.

If the Netflix episodes keep up the unnecessary length, I hope they at least build in nap time.

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