TV Writer Greg Daniels On Amazon Video’s “Upload”
Upload is the latest offering on Amazon Video from Emmy Award-Winning TV writer Greg Daniels (The Office, King Of The Hill, Parks and Recreation). It can be loosely summed up Total Recall meets The Good Place with a side of Black Mirror. Science fiction in the not too distant future meets technology.
Despite Upload having an incubation time of over thirty years when Daniels was still writing sketches for Saturday Night Live, the TV writer describes his show as having “weird timeliness.” Inspirations for new television shows can come from the most unlikely places. Greg Daniels confessed to first coming up with the idea for Upload as a sketch when he saw an advertising poster in an electronics store for virtual reality goggles and imagined people uploading their consciousness into the digital world.
The writer has considered several iterations of the story over the years. “In 2008, I tried to make it into a book during the WGA strike,” he said. As the concept further ruminated in his mind, Daniels wanted to explore the idea of the possibility of humans programming their own heaven. As the years progressed, Daniels expressed concern over the increasing intrusion of big technology into our lives. This led the writer to give his TV series a sightly satirical tilt. Upload became, “a virtual world in a virtual world.” Daniels gives Upload more than a few meta winks – annoying pop-up ads, in-app purchases, and subscriptions.
The joy of creating television shows for the streamers meant that Greg Daniels could neatly straddle his project over the film / TV divide. “Amazon told me to think of the series as a five-hour movie,” he said.
Upload tells the story of bad boy tech bro Nathan Brown (Robbie Amell) who gets uploaded into a five-star digital afterlife called Lake View after his suspicious death when his self-driving car rams into a wall.
Daniels was determined to overlook judgment on the concept of heaven by declaring it as either a utopia or a dystopia. Lake View (Nathan’s chosen luxury heaven) was a “Middletopia” according to the show’s creator. There he meets Nora Antony (Andy Ailo), his dedicated customer satisfaction agent (or Angel) who helps him transition into immortality and enjoy his new (after)life even when he’s tempted to jump into the “stream” to return to Earth. The heat between them is undeniable, but Nora cannot fraternize with the guests. Besides, Nathan has Ingrid (Allegra Edwards), his doting girlfriend back home who can miraculously video chat with him. Nathan also meets Luke (Kevin Bigley) his “labrador” sidekick who teaches Nathan what is possible in this new Middletopia. Immortality ain’t so bad.
There’s a lot going on in Upload and to simply classify it was a comedy would be a grave disservice to its dense cleverness. Daniels succinctly defines it as, “A philosophical-romantic comedy-science fiction-murder mystery mashup.” You may be tempted to dismiss this take as a cop-out, but Daniels insists his show is so layered, that each of these genres is warranted. The show has familiar comedic elements dealing with similar subject matter – life, death, and technology. But Daniels’ infused it with some truly unique sociological elements.
Upload has rich thematic content and effortlessly glides between light comedy and dark dramatic moments to elevate its entertainment value.
Dangers Of Technology
Despite its sometimes deceptively comical premise, Upload invites audiences to question some of the unintended consequences of technology on journalism and the democratic process. It makes more social comments than technological or philosophical ones to make the show unique. It not only asks the big existential questions of the nature of consciousness.
“Upload is set in Lake View, a for-profit heaven. There are ‘have-everythings’ and ‘have-nothings’. Only a small selection of people benefit from these technological advances. What does this say about level of income inequality and unfairness in today’s society?‘ asserts Daniels. This is the beating heart of Daniels’ TV show. Lake View is run by a faceless, insidious parent company called “Horizen.”
Nora Antony’s family can’t afford a luxury upload for her father, so she works for Lake View and lives her preferred life through VR. She wants to reunite with her dead father and upload his consciousness somewhere nice – somewhere like Lake View. He thinks the notion of digitizing one’s consciousness is an abomination.
Despite the trillions of neural connections in the human brain, it still contains a finite amount of information. With the advent of new supercomputers, there may be a way to scan and upload all this information into a digital world.
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