Even though Upload is hitting the airwaves in 2020, it's something Greg Daniels has worked on for years. In fact, it's the first thing he started scripting in earnest after The Office wrapped up its massive nine-season run in 2014; even then, some say the concept was with him all the way back during his days on Saturday Night Live in the late 1980s. The fact of the matter is, Upload is nothing short of a personal passion project for the acclaimed writer and that much is evident the second you press "play" on the first episode.
Set in the not-so-distant future, Upload features a future where people's consciousness can continue existing even after death. It won't take too long at all for viewers to draw comparisons to The Good Place or Black Mirror's award-winning "San Junipero" episode, for better or worse, though I'm not even sure "for worse" should be an option, as the comparisons are well-deserved. What sets Upload apart from the rest, however, is how terrifyingly real the show plays out.
In the world Daniels and his team expertly crafted here, humans have their choice of "Heavens" in the afterlife. As you might expect, those families sitting on mounds of cash can afford the picturesque Heavens that rival Earth's best all-inclusive clubs and resorts. Then, in a sick twist of fate, the less fortunate have to subscribe themselves to lower-tier Heavens where they get just a few gigabytes of data to use per month or they can choose the alternative: good ol' fashioned death.
Despite this series being a Daniels comedy through and through, there's always a grounded line running through that pulls you straight back into reality. As our real world continues spiraling deeper into a digital age, the plot threads and devices of Upload seem increasingly real with each passing episode and the contents of the series most certainly aren't afraid to tackle current events head-on. You've got the class warfare, spiritual soul-searching, the effects social media has on self-infatuation, and more — the whole gamut. I wouldn't say that's necessarily a risk on the writers' part, but there was a distinct point where I sat back and wondered whether I'd accidentally pulled up a Masterclass in Philosophy rather than a big-budget television production.
On the budget front, it's pretty clear Amazon spared no expense on this show. Due to the digital afterlife of the concept, visual effects are something prominent throughout — the pilot alone has hundreds of digitally altered shots. Handled by the team at FuseFX, there's no concern about the quality of the futuristic effects here, as everything's very cinematic and worthwhile. In fact, the teams there should deserve a bit of recognition with how real the effects come across; from FaceTime-like phone screens that appear out of thin air to self-driving cars, it all feels very real and possible.
From The Simpsons to King of the Hill, The Office, and Parks and Recreation, Daniels has helped develop one ensemble hit after another and that's something that changes here. There's no denying that, when it comes to Upload, Robbie Amell and Andy Allo are the two leads, who are excellent choices as they both thrive in their respective roles. It's not that the supporting cast involved doesn't do a superb job when they're on screen — especially Kevin Bigley's Luke and Owen Daniels' Artificial Intelligence avatar — it's just that they aren't allowed an adequate amount of time to properly develop.
This leads directly to my biggest criticism of the show — it feels very much like a "Part One," with an ending that is all too unsatisfying. Luckily for fans of the show, Amazon Prime Video seems to have a pretty good track record at picking shows back up for more than a season so fingers crossed we'll get some answers to the (many) dangling plot threads. Even then, part of the frustration is rooted in the show's brisk pace and attachment to its characters as the entire season zips right by.
All things considered, Upload is a great outing from the guy that's brought you some of the biggest comedies of this generation. Even though it's packed to the brim with satire, Upload still continually reminds us of the brutal world we currently live in, serving as a constant reminder of the harsh realities that could soon befall us all. The series is a binge-worthy comedy through and through which, at the very least, will make you do some self-reflection while providing a fair share of belly laughs.0comments
Rating: 4 out of 5
Upload premieres on Amazon Prime Video May 1st.