Black Mirror creator Charlie Brooker has confronted critics who have complained that the show’s quality has gone downhill since it was acquired by Netflix.
The popular sci-fi anthology series debuted its first two seasons on Channel 4 in 2011 and 2013 respectively, before it was acquired by Netflix, where it returned with its latest four seasons in 2016, 2017, 2019 and 2023.
Following the show’s move to the streaming platform, some viewers have suggested that its quality has declined, including The Independent’s Nick Hilton, who wrote that the “quality has become more variable. Like the weather”, in his three-star review of its latest, sixth season.
During a recent panel appearance at the SXSW Sydney film festival, Brooker responded to the fault-finding, saying: “One of the criticisms we sometimes get is, ‘I prefer the show when it was British and everyone in it was miserable and everything smelled a little bit of s*** and all the stories were horrible.
“And then it’s gone to Netflix and suddenly everything’s sunny and happy and everyone has wonderful teeth, and it’s full of Hollywood stars and it’s lost that edge.”
Brooker said he accepted and understood the criticism, adding that “everyone expected me to be like the Unabomber” once he started doing business in the US.
He argued that “the happiest [episode] I’ve ever written was [season three, episode four’s] ‘San Junipero’ and I just did that off my own back”.
Starring Station Eleven’s Mackenzie Davis and Gugu Mbatha-Raw, “San Junipero” follows two women who visit San Junipero, a simulated reality available for the elderly and those who have already died to inhabit.
“I was aware we’re going on a global platform now, so we’ve got to make these stories a bit more international. And I wanted to mix it up a bit, as in not just keep doing bleak-a-thons.”
Access unlimited streaming of movies and TV shows with Amazon Prime Video
Sign up now for a 30-day free trial
Elsewhere, Brooker touched on artificial intelligence (AI), revealing that he had experimented with ChatGPT.
“I said to ChatGPT, ‘Go give me an outline for a Black Mirror story,’” he recalled. “The first couple of sentences you feel a cold spike of fear, like animal terror…like I’m being f***ing replaced. I’m not even gonna see what it does. I’m gonna jump out the f***ing window.”
Brooker said though, that as the chatbot continued, he thought: “Oh this is boring. I was frightened a sec ago, now I’m bored because this is so derivative.”