All your favorite shows are over – your Silicon Veeps, your Games of Cards, your House of Thrones – either finished for the season or done altogether. What will you do? WHAT WILL YOU DO? Thankfully, there are two new shows that could become appointment television. The bad news is, they are both on Wednesday night. Which one will you watch?
Spoiler Alert: This new show on the Sundance Channel takes place in Germany, in 1983. The show’s jumping-off point is Ronald Reagan’s “Evil Empire” speech. The East German secret police are watching on TV, and they are FREAKING THE FUCK OUT. What follow is like a John LeCarre novel, but told from the point of view of the East Germans. Convinced by Reagan’s saber-rattling that World War III is about to begin, badass spook Lenora Rauch recruits her own nephew Martin to infiltrate the West German Army. Martin would just as soon stay in his cushy border guard gig, shaking down smugglers and hanging around his cutie-pie blonde girlfriend Annett, but the Stasi recruits him – with EXTREME PREJUDICE (they kidnap him).
The plot is mostly implausible fun – a series of close calls and rescues and such – but the real pleasure of the show is the early 80’s milieu. Nena’s 99 Luftballoons is constantly playing, but also the Eurythmics, Peter Schilling and German New Wave group Ideal. The cars, the home décor, and the fashions are also true to the time period. Overall, the show does for the 80’s what the BBC show Life on Mars (and the American remake) did for the 70’s. The only downside is having to read the subtitles, as the show is entirely in Deutsch.
He’s a computer security consultant by day, and a super-hacker by night! This unpromising premise could be the plot of any number of crappy B-movies featuring John Travolta or Ryan Phillippe. Amazingly, Universal Cable Productions and USA Network actually made a good show out of it.
Actor Rami Malek, looking like a meth-binging version of Oscar Isaac, plays semi-autistic paranoid white hat hacker Elliot. Like Edward Norton’s character in Fight Club (1999), Elliot’s first-person narration is not entirely trustworthy. Did the events he described really happen, or is it a morphine-induced hallucination? Or a paranoid delusion? Tune in next week to find out…
Filmed with a palette of queasy green and nauseous yellow, Mr. Robot’s version of New York is so sleazy it makes Taxi Driver look like My Little Pony. The score by Mac Quayle, sounding like a raved-up version of Kraftwerk, is also top-notch. The show borrows liberally from the movies, most notably Fight Club and The Matrix, but writer Sam Esmail and director Niels Arden Oplev create something new and unique out of the old material. Veteran actors Gloria Reuben and Christian Slater (the title role!) show up, but the show belongs to Malek, who should win an Emmy and a handful of thorazine for this performance.
Episode One of Mr. Robot premieres tonight on the USA Network at 10PM EST, and episode two of Deutschland 83 premieres at 11PM EST on the Sundance Channel. This shouldn’t be a problem, BUT IT IS, because Mr. Robot runs an hour and five minutes, so you’ll miss the beginning of D 83. So what should you do?
Ha ha, it’s a false dilemma: you can watch Mr. Robot on your “computer machine,” at least until tomorrow. Missed the first episode of Deutschland 83? You can see that online too. Last week series creator/ writer Anna Winger showed up on Twitter at #Deutschland83, explaining details of the music and locations. It’s probably worthwhile to watch episode two live and check out Twitter for a complete multimedia experience. By the time you have watched these two new shows, you will have already forgotten about the Mad Men Theory or whatever shows you used to miss.